WHAT A BIT OF COLORED GLASS CAN DO

Today was a wonderful day for Underhill House.  Marcia Nelson arrived with the stained glass windows for the bathroom wall.  It’s been a long journey.

Following our Small is Beautiful motif, the bathroom is small, and its wall is small.  We wanted some high, narrow windows in the wall  to let some light flow from between the front and back of the house.  We thought we would find some beveled glass windows salvaged from a demolished or remodeled house, but had no luck with our specific size requirements.

Our next thought was to work with a stained glass artist to fill the space.

Once the idea to do stained glass was hatched, it seemed right.  We wanted some stained glass in our house, but with such wonderful views out all the windows, it seemed wrong to block any with stained glass.  So the bathroom wall seemed perfect.

I have loved – I mean LOVED – stained glass since I was a little girl.  My father was a Methodist preacher, and I spent many Sundays sitting on hard wooden pews becoming totally lost in the intense colors and patterns of the church windows.  Seeing light pass through stained glass became a spiritual experience that transcended the sermons and the hymns and made light glowing through colored glass seem like the essence of existence.

ChagallHave you ever seen Chagall’s American Windows in the Art Institute of Chicago?

What kind of stained glass was the question.

We discovered Marcia’s work one day while strolling down High Street during our sojurn in the apartment in Mineral Point after our house in town had sold but before Underhill House was ready.

We glanced into the window of a co-op gallery, and what we saw made my heart beat fast.high-street

Here was stained glass combined with glass pebbles that freed itself from the plane of the window and incorporated open air into the design.

It was love at first sight.

We got Marcia Nelson’s contact info and met at the gallery the next time it was her turn to staff the place.

Unfortunately, the open spaces in her work that so captivated me, had to be dropped from the plan almost immediately.

Doug’s practicality sounded their death knell.

The bathroom is ventilated as part of our air to air heat exchanger, which draws air from the house and exchanges it with air from the outside.  Both streams pass close through a system of fins, and the fresh but cold or hot exterior air is brought closer to room temperature in the process.  This air exchange system allows us to have the nice, air-tight house that makes it more efficient to heat and cool.

Doug had them do double duty by putting the drawing air out vents in the bathrooms.

To ventilate the bathrooms, they need to be an enclosed space.  Gaps in the stained glass right up next to the vent would pull air from the main room and less air from the bathroom.  And we all know there are times when one really does want to replace the current bathroom air – quickly!

Untitled-1We thought about just putting another pane of glass behind  the stained glass to seal the room.  But we live in the country, and flying insects do make their way inside with a wearying frequency.  I could imagine the dead flies piling up between the two panes.  It was NOT a pretty picture.

We finally settled on a modified design where the glass pebbles were affixed to clear, textured glass.

fitting-1Then we went through a lengthy period of bringing home different pieces of glass and holding them up to the space.  We fell for  a swirling, orange glass called Cat’s Paw.  It is the same kind of glass used in the restoration of the Wisconsin State Capital building.

Marcia took it from there.

It’s been months in the making.  We probably first saw Marcia’s work in October.

installMarcia  kindly brought the finished panels out this afternoon, along with a file to carefully grind away any bit of zinc edging that might be too big for the space.  That process ended up taking several hours of fitting and filing and fitting and filing.

installed-1Now that they are in, they transform the room – on both sides.

I’m thrilled to have have some of that stained glass magic in our house now.  And the abstract pattern seems to represent somehow the solar energy that warms our house and drives all life.installed-2

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8 replies

    • Thanks, Michael. Della found the shop in Santa Cruz (Om Lighting) that sells these lights. They come in pieces of flat plastic that you then put together in any one of a number of shapes. We really love them.

    • Thanks for sharing these amazing links, Gary.
      I wish I lived near this church so I could experience this stained glass in person.

      The light coming through the stained glass windows got me through many Sunday mornings in my youth. There is something about the intensity of color pouring through stained glass that I find transporting.

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