On Sunday, March 2nd MJ and I headed over to Sherith Israel to attend a class by Ian Berke to learn about the stained glass throughout the historic building.
I didn’t know anything about stained glass, so the first thing we got to learn was the two main types of glass that are featured throughout the building: opalescent glass and painted glass. The painted glass was often in the 20th century Gothic revival style, with more stiff looking characters and simple colors and styles. The glass is stained in the traditional “pot metal” method where different types of metal are added to create different colors, copper for green, gold for red, cobalt for blue. I’m a fan.
The majority of the windows were of opalescent glass, an American innovation from the late 1800s pioneered by Tiffany and others. It requires multiple layers of glass that are colored with bone ash and other materials to make them a bit more flowing and dynamic than the flat colored painted windows. On these windows enamel was then used to paint features like faces, which allows for precise details but fades more quickly.
I have never gotten really close to stained glass windows before, so this was an opportunity to do so and see how thick and layered they tend to be, with intentional textures that you can feel on some of the windows, particularly the opalescent ones, to lend to the design. We also learned the basics of how a window is made, starting with either a pre-designed pattern or a design created for the window by the artist (both types are in the building) and then following the pattern in a full size printout/drawing that they cut and match the glass to match.
We also learned how expensive these windows were, and still are. Restoration for the massive Moses window on the west side of the building will cost almost $400,000 and has to be done every 100 years or so as the lead in the window starts to become brittle, risking the structural integrity of the window.
This was one of my favorite classes so far. I’m really looking forward to the class about the organ with Jonathan Dimmock coming up on March 23rd.
I have uploaded photos I took during the class here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157641770774454/