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I’m reminded of Jean Lafond’s definition: “Stained glass is a decorative composition whose effect is based in the translucency of its material ou medium (...) the main component of which is still glass.” It’s broad enough to include stained glass windows from the Middle Ages to contemporary designs. Stained glass is also often about the combination of materials: glass, metal work, and sometimes lead. There’s another definition I really like, by Vitellion, a Germanic monk: stained glass is the medium that transforms worldly light into divine light.
Each feeds into the other. When you’re restoring stained glass, you’re really at the service of the old piece, returning its legibility while respecting its authenticity. It’s a very calm, meditative experience. When you’re making your own, it’s a lot more stressful, because you’re taking a risk. Ancient stained glass is a huge source of inspiration for my designs, which are based on the techniques and iconography of the past, but from a totally new point of view. Ancient stained glass is a springboard for my own creativity.
I’m not sure there is one. I use traditional techniques in my artistic concepts. When used in contemporary designs, artwork and buildings, all of this ancient culture alters the way in which we perceive and approach things.
One of the defects of contemporary stained glass is the desire to turn it into a uniformly opaque canvas, negating the transparent medium instead of playing with it, which is the very essence of stained glass art: the confrontation between opacity, opalescence, and transparency. A medium that is transparent on both sides can be very unnerving. It can, like in the 19th century, create a veneer effect, of artwork on the windows, rather than stained glass that complements the architecture. This “complementary” aspect is forgotten, whereas its actually the very essence of stained glass. What I am interested in is light. There’s no stained glass without architecture, and it is the architectural constraints that we use to create spaces bathed in light. Something is lost if there’s no dialogue between the stained glass and the architecture.