About half a year ago; we were contacted by Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. They had received a gift from an anonymous donor who had earmarked the funds to go towards the preservation of the building, particularly the windows. We recommended surveying all 66 art glass windows before we embarked on any work.There are two main types of windows, dalle de verre and traditional stained glass. You can see a page from our report above. It was the perfect way to acquaint ourselves with the current condition of every panel within the church – and what we recommend to every client (regardless of the project size).
The majority of the stained glass was designed and made by the studios of Charles Connick (1930-1950) or William Willet (mid-1960’s). Not surprisingly, the early Connick windows, though expertly executed, are starting to fail due to their age and positioning in the architecture. With the delivery of the 100+page survey, we decided along with the church that we should start to systematically conserve the windows according to age and condition.
This June, we began the conservation of the New Testament Window. It is a once in a generation opportunity, and one we don’t take lightly.”
It is located on the South side of the Church on California Street. Locals – keep an eye out for us as you drive by – we’ll be on site for a few more weeks. The New Testament Window, or “Window 41” according to the Cathedral’s mapping system, was created by Connick Studios and installed in 1931. 303 panels collectively coalesce into Connick’s grand vision of the seven “wayward” churches of Asia; with Christ the brother and his closest disciples Peter, James, John & Thomas below.
Those not familiar with the stages of conserving stained glass may not know that a conservator working on windows within architecture has to wear more than one hat. Some are figurative (artist, detective, archivist, historian, scientist, to name a few) and others quite literal (hard hat anyone?).
The beginning process of removing the sections of a “window” as large as this entails much planning, project management and coordination. To succeed, one must be in the mode of ensuring every panel is accurately labeled, carefully removed and stabilized for its journey down the scaffolding, into its custom-built crate for its voyage across the bridge to our studio in Oakland.
Before the removal even starts, we photograph each panel on the exterior and interior to ensure we have an accurate record of all the components like the subtle painterly nuances in the borders that these Neo-Gothic windows contain. But, keeping the budget of our client in mind, our on-site time is limited to the safe action of removal. We leave detailed examination of what the windows depict for later.
Once the panels are safely at the studio, we can allow ourselves the luxury of examining each of the 5,000 pieces as they are individually cleaned by hand. Look for future “Grace Cathedral”blog entries that do just that! We look at glass colors, paint styles and techniques (elongation of feet and faces to account for parallax – quick finger painting that “reads” as tiny jewels of light when viewed from 85 feet away), lead came profiles and any anomalies, so that we can accurately conserve the panels exactly as Connick originally created them.
Sometimes we are rewarded for our diligence, a tromp l’oeil in the corner of a depiction of a bible scene; or the holy grail, a signature of the artist himself etched into a border piece.
“Charles Connick.. BOSTON 1931 © “