Restoration of Stained Glass
In restoring old glass, using glass of a similar colour and texture, the artist attempts to recreate as closely as possible the painted work of the original. This is the challenge: to get inside the head of the original artist and work out just how he made those brush marks or those particular scratch marks and stippling, how the drapery works, trying to capture that exact facial expression. Not an easy task by any means but so rewarding when the result is a good one. I've learnt so much about the use of glass paint in the course of restoring damaged windows.
Barmedman Catholic Church
Thanks to a couple of bored 13yr old boys this dedication panel was almost completely destroyed with the main window above it also suffering substantial damage. As is often the case I was subcontracted by another firm, in this case Dove Stained Glass of Wagga Wagga, to carry out the restoration of the glass.
St Vincent's Marian Centre, Lewisham
A refuge for mothers and their children, this beautiful 19th century building has suffered somewhat over the years and while charitable institutions such as St Vincent's have priorities other than maintaining heritage buildings, funding was set aside in 2009 for the restoration of the most damaged stained glass in the stairwell.
St Brendan's Catholic Church, Annandale
Another instance of teenage vandalism, this time by girls apparently. As often happens in such cases, all that was left of the broken glass were a few fragments to work from. Nor was there any photographic record available of the original window intact. I was subcontracted by A & R Stained Glass in Sydney to work on this project.
Baptism of Christ, St Brendan's, Annandale
Once again there was little or nothing left to work with, but making a new face of Christ presents a somewhat larger challenge than making a new knee. Fortunately I was familiar with the history of Sydney's stained glass firms. This was an Ashwin and Co. window signed by Radecke. Martin van der Toorn acquired all the goods and chattels of that firm when he purchased the name many years ago. When Martin sold up the stock passed to Spectrum Art Glass. Barry Hawkins of Spectrum invested quite a bit of time and money scanning all the old cartoons and entering the data so that I was able to specify a date, a location and a subject and come up with the actual pencil cartoon drawn in 1932 as reference for the restoration. Painting the piece was another matter: the third attempt, shown at right, was a result I was happy with.
Burwood Presbyterian Church
The impact to this small window to the vestry of Burwood Presbyterian Church was so extreme that the protective wire screen did little to prevent extensive damage to the glass. Reconstructing the inscription panel was a real jigsaw puzzle, it was so smashed up. When reconstructing a damaged glass pane I generally use melted beeswax to stick the bits together onto a glass plate: a very traditional technique.
St Albans Anglican Church, Muswellbrook
The image to the right shows the smashed up glass reassembled and tacked together with beeswax and the new inscription panel in progress. The process involves laying down a coat of glass paint, or matt, badgered as smooth and even as possible using a very soft brush made of badger hair. there is a small quantity of gum Arabic mixed with the paint so that it sets hard when dry: this enables the artist to scratch into the paint and allow light through. You can see my guide lines scratched in lightly. The second layer of matt will obscure these lines and tidy up any imperfections as well as producing a solid black background. The yellow in the initial letters is achieved in a third firing (at a lower temperature) by painting on silver nitrate, which stains the glass a golden yellow colour.