Stained Glass

 Stained glass in Canada follows a number of directions. The oldest of these, dating from the 1850s in this country, involves the production of church windows in the Gothic-revival style by companies that service the religious art industry.

Rose Window
St-Pauls Cathedral, Toronto, by Guido Nincheri (courtesy Maclean's).

Glass, Stained

  Influenced by postwar developments in stained glass design in England and Germany, and encouraged by the energy of the stained glass renaissance in the US in the late 1960s, a number of Canadian artists and craftspersons have turned to stained glass as a medium for contemporary artistic expression. Despite a number of technical developments, Canadian stained glass practitioners have continued largely with the traditional technique of hand-made glass set and soldered in a matrix of lead strips or cames. However, dalle-de-verre, or cast slab glass, silicon adhesives and epoxy resins, sandblasting devices and a range of new tools and machinery have reduced fabrication time and extended the range of technical and aesthetic possibilities.

 Stained glass in Canada follows a number of directions. The oldest of these, dating from the 1850s in this country, involves the production of church windows in the Gothic-revival style by companies that service the religious art industry. A second direction, also influenced by historical styles, includes the work of studios devoted to recreation or restoration of art nouveau, Edwardian or art deco windows for period houses, restaurants or bars. More recent developments (from the early 1970s) include the emergence of artists and craftspersons of the studio glass movement, and the stained glass hobbyist.

Artists and craftspersons have been primarily concerned with architectural applications of stained glass. Although churches continue to provide opportunities for window commissions, the secularization of the medium has led to a growing number of applications in public buildings and private residences. In recent years many artists and craftspersons also began to produce autonomous works that could be exhibited independent of an architectural setting. Thus, exhibitions of stained glass, once a rarity in Canada, now occur on a regular basis.

In 1976, Canada's first association of stained glass artists and craftspersons was founded in Toronto. Supported by members from across the country, Artists in Stained Glass encourages the development of stained glass as a contemporary art form. In 1993, the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery opened in Waterloo, Ontario. This is the first national institution to have in its mandate the collection, conservation and exhibition of stained glass.

Of particular benefit to the hobbyist has been the development of a comprehensive Canada-wide distribution network for stained glass tools and supplies. Courses, mostly at the elementary level, have become widely available through schools, colleges, youth organizations and studios. Accordingly, stained glass has become an inexpensive and accessible part-time leisure activity for thousands of Canadians.