Cutting my teeth on medieval glass

My stained glass career started in 1988 when I went to work for Chapel Studio. After having got a taste for stained glass at classes in the Hampstead Institute, London with June Standing, I was delighted. I never knew at the time how lucky I was at being taken on by a first class studio under the guidance of Alfred Fisher. I wanted to work with stained glass, I didn't care what I was doing as long as it was in a studio and I was getting a training. Alf invited me to be his second employee in his fledgling stained glass conservation department.

My first job was to clean glass from the Dean's Eye window from Lincoln Cathedral. The glass which we were working on at the time dates from 1325-1350 though it is believed some of the glass dates from as early as 1192. I was amazed at what the old glass looked like, time had taken its toll, it was barely recognisable as glass. Much of the old glass starts to pit, it literally has little holes in it that starts on the side that is exposed to the weather as though the wood worm had a glass cousin, though it never goes all the way through. In some places the glass had started to revert back to sand, it had become opaque and so thin it was wafer-like and crumbled. Only certain colours do this, leaving some of it more robust depending on the initial composition. The remainder of the glass had a crusty layer on the back and dirt on the front composed of hundreds of years of dirt and dust from the atmosphere which we removed with specialist brushes.

From the first day even as a teenager the sense of the medieval in the present always enthralled me when I was at work. I had a keen awareness of the direct link I had with the medieval masters and knew how privileged I was, believing that they were imparting a silent education to me. I marvelled how these craftsmen managed to cut glass with only a hot iron and tongs and no electricity to fire their kiln or temperature gauge to know when it was up to temperature, nor the safety of modern scaffolding. I also had that sense of heritage through the gift of education I had been given at Chapel Studio via Peter Archer and Alfred Fisher who had been trained at Whitefriars, it was a tradition they were passing down like a creative family tree. A couple of years later I was fortunate to receive my glaziers training from Steve Clare who later went on to establish Holywell Glass, he had also received a solid traditional training. It is a gift to be cherished and passed on but I am grateful too to all those people who put tips and lessons up online, for glass is a vast subject and will never be fully known in a lifetime.

I am deeply grateful to the photographer who has put his images to use online, I haven't seen any photographs of the windows since, having a camera back then was an expensive part time and I have very few images from that time.

I am dSegments H2-3, Dean's Eye Window, Lincoln Cathedral

cc-by-sa/2.0- ©Julian P

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