Before Ceramics There Was Stained Glass

Cindy Lester

I have always dabbled in many creative things, I'm just artsy-fartsy that way. One of the things I really enjoyed and often miss is stained glass, or more correctly, leaded glass. 

I learned the basics when a friend of a friend was teaching a night class. Actually it didn't go well, my little window didn't fit and I was thoroughly frustrated. Swore I'd never touch glass again.

You know that saying about never saying never...Well, it still fascinated me and I saw an add for a glass cutter at a glass studio. Now it should be mentioned I have never taken a job when I knew how to do it, what fun would that be? So when I applied for the glass cutter position I felt very qualified! 

Got the job, learned how to cut and fit glass correctly, and became pretty darn good at it. Before it was all over I had become the head colorist and got to supervise the batching and rolling of the glass we used, then choose the glass we'd buy. I learned a lot!

The studio I worked for made museum quality Tiffany reproduction lamps. As the story goes a major auction house actually authenticated one of the lamps I cut as an actual Tiffany. Hmmm...they think they're so smart....

I learned all about the glass Tiffany used, how to recreate it and his techniques. Learned a lot about flowers too. I even designed the only "original" design for the studio in the Tiffany style, the Spider Mum Lamp. 

It was great fun and so very interesting to create a lamp remembering that there are two views to a lamp shade. One with the light off, reflected light on the glass, and one with the light on and passing through the glass, refracted light.

And learning how to roll glass was interesting as well.  The glass was batched in the day time and actually rolled at night when it was cool. We usually had 3 or 4 pots going, each filled with molten glass. That's why we rolled at night! And it still got very hot!

All the images are of some of the lamps I cut.

Magnificent Obsession

This is the  Floral Bouquet Lamp. I loved cutting this one because I could use any and all types of glass. The studios ended up using it on the front of their brochure.

The Spider Mum Lamp I designed. This one in earth tones.

Spider Mum

What the same lamp looks like with the light on, refracted light.

Spider Mum

Another Spider Mum in blues. This is a raw slide so it's kind of dark, but shows what the lamp looked like when it was on with light passing through the glass, refracted light.

Nasturtium Lamp

The Nasturtium Lamp. One of the first lamps I cut.

Water Lily

Water Lily Lamp.

Wisteria Lamp

The Sunset Wisteria Lamp. Lots and lots of pieces!

Koi Window

The is the Koi Window. It was a spec window that we did. It's a little dark as it's actually a transparent slide photo. We experimented with layering the glass to create depth and shadow. In several places along the flower line in the water I layered glass so that it gave the illusion that the flowers were under the water in places. I used the same technique on the fish, the lower part of his body is covered with the "water" glass to make it look like the fish is actually rising out of the water. This window was great fun to cut!

Price List 1982

The price list..for the lamp shades ONLY, dated 1982. Bases were additional. 
The lamps that had the pencil mark next to them I would palette and often cut. 

As you can imagine the market for lamps at this price, no matter how well executed, was small and the studio went out of business after a few years. I cut myself about a million times and bled several gallons of blood, but this was a job I really enjoyed!

Cindy Lester



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