Isn't this pretty? Serene and dramatic. Too bad there is another row of windows that you can't see below these. Hmmm. And more on the sides. And there are two more walls just like this one.
Then there are various rooms with these lovely duos. What could be the problem here?
Well, did I mention that there are over one hundred separate stained glass windows in this building?? Was I even paying attention at all when this fact was determined, or was I busying myself with dreams of where to put the art studio I had planned for myself?
How about here?
Okay, yikes. Someone kind of missed the boat on the old color-matching on these two. Close enough in a pinch, I guess. Or not. But in all fairness, these windows are 90 years old, and alot of damage has had to be reckoned with during that time.
Here's the thing. Once, in a former life, I had a small stained glass studio in Dallas. There was a partner in the beginning years, and we taught classes and sold supplies. It was a fantastic and fulfilling business.
When my daughter was born, I moved to a small college town, (also in Texas), and struck out on my own. I still taught and sold supplies, but more and more I did custom work for restaurants and churches, as well as private homes. In all, almost twelve years passed and I enjoyed every moment.
And then, one day it was just time to move back to California...to my roots, to my family. I sold the business and literally never looked back. Of all of the creative endeavors that I pursued from that time forward, none of them involved glass.
And now we fast forward 22 years. Ack! How is that even possible?
When my daughter and SIL bought this church, it was a bittersweet feeling of coming home to a place that is both familiar and beloved. Dallas is very dear to me. I spent my 20's here and my amazing daughter was born here. So the chance to spend part of my time back in north Texas was intriguing.
So now we get to the part about these windows. In the fall of 2006, I had only seen a few, grainy pictures of the outside of the church. These first pictures were taken with a cellphone, and certainly were not taken for the purposes of assessing damage to the windows. These, of course, are not those pictures.
Here is the information I should have had. The info that I really needed. This picture tells a more complete story. Click on the photo above so that you too can see the true state of affairs here. But don't even say I didn't warn you.
I was totally looking the other way, and trying to be very inconspicuous, as my SIL called several studios in the Dallas area. He was asking them to go by the property, and based solely on an outside examination, give him a bid to "fix" these windows. Of course, the bids ran the full spectrum, from trying to glue as much as possible with the windows in place, all the way to a complete removal and restoration. Two problems here. First, glue. Hello? And second, while removal and restoration is clearly the only viable option, the bid for this was close to $300,000.00. Nope, not a typo. I feel it necessary to mention here that the purchase price on this property was extremely, um, reasonable. I mean, really, what is the market for a huge-ish gothic church that is zoned residential and tightly controlled by the historic preservation committee? Anybody? Right. So, the buyer pool is very shallow, and here we come, living our lives in California and thinking "Sure, let's take this on. It'll be a challenge. It'll be fantastic!"
Look at these guys, trying to lay down all low-pro, like I won't notice them there.
Back to my story. After the absolute shell shock of the estimates, and during a November 2006 first visit to the building that was so cold I'm sure my head was half frozen, I finally asked the question that would change the very fabric of my life for who-knows-how-long. I asked, voice creaking from the cold and the fear, "Would you like me to restore these windows for you?" I had absolutely no idea at that moment just how scared I should in fact be, but it was slowly beginning to dawn on me, even as I said it. And of course the reply was "Wow, do you think you could? Really?". And me, not being quick enough on my feet to take this obvious way out, said "Yeah. I mean, they're just windows, and the design is really not that complex. It's just the sheer number that is challenging". Uh, okay. So of course, at this point there was no turning back. I'm sure I was expertly
maneuvered waltzed into that moment, but did I mention how cold it was?? I would have probably said anything to get back in the car and back to the hotel.
So in April of 2007, I began. It took that long to do all of the demo on the building and get to the point that we could have a small amount of electricity. Not to mention the time it took to find glass that matches closely to the original. Luckily, the manufacturing of glass hasn't really changed in this past century, and most of the same colors are still available if you search around enough.
Those early days were spent huddled over worktables in the basement, trying to stay in the lighted area. And if you have never worked on a construction site, let me tell you what a challenge it is to hunt down your lights (not to mention tools) every morning, because another tradesman has decided that he needs it (or them), and you aren't there anyway, so what's the big deal?
Pretty. Not too complex. Only takes about a day, day-and-a-half to assemble one of these puppies. That's if everything goes well. Of course, that doesn't include soldering, puttying, attaching the bracing bars, and final cleaning. That's about another day, day-and-a-half.
Problem here is, when this one is finished, there are fourteen more exactly like it left to do. Sigh.
Here is a different design. There are twenty-two of this exact same window. It's about 64" x 27". I finished thirteen of them before I felt the need for a change of pace. Rats, I'm going to have to go back to this one at some point.
This is the back, or actually the side that will face the interior of the building, with the bracing bars attached. Those suckers take forever to solder on. Whew. And yes, these are the original bars. Yea for recycling, and yea for the construction guy who has been helping me power sand off the accumulated 90 years of oxidation and paint so I could reuse them. I'm sorry I yelled at you for losing my pliers.
Here's a sweet little detail. Makes the piece look like a clover shape from a distance. Don't even ask how fun it is to solder on all these tiny triangles to each piece. Two pieces per window. On both sides. On about sixty-something windows. Good times.
And now it's time to get back to it.
Be sure to visit me again to find out "what happens next..."