When people say “stained glass” they usually mean cathedral windows, and if not, they are usually referring to colored glass in general. But technically, not all cathedral windows or colored glass are “stained”. Sometimes designs and colors are painted on with an oxide of silver, and sometimes color is given to clear glass by adding in an extra something-something while it is still hot and molten.
The hows and whys of stained glass involve a great deal of science — optics, physics, chemistry, geology, and so forth. But I like to think of it as — magic, because cliche as it sounds, it really is more than the sum of its parts and techniques. There’s kismet involved here. Who knew that sand, when zapped with heat, would turn into clear, shiny, dazzling glass? Who knew that “impurities” could turn it into icy blues and greens, or make it ablaze with vivid reds, oranges and yellows, or that silver oxide would get some color to seep into the glass?
It is extremely serendipitous that we have glass at all, and more so stained glass. Although it has long been associated with cathedral windows and Tiffany lamps, artists and artisans have taken it, run away with it – shanghaied it to serve in other worlds, places, structures, and forms.
Take a look at these images below and see how visionaries have taken this incredibly simple substance and imparted to it such wonderful, glorious complexity and brilliance — how they endowed glass with, as one poet put it, “the eloquence of light”.
Stained glass still has and will continue to have its place in places of worship as its very nature is to be a channel for celestial light, but it can now also be found in countless other architecture.
Stained glass is a beautiful sculpture medium that lends itself to works of scales varying from colossal to minute.
This really is stained glass, but is so fabulous that it belongs in its own category. The technique for making this is also older – millennia older, as early as 3rd century B.C. in Mesopotamia. Glass artists in Murano, Venice picked up and developed the techniques in the 16th century.
The gorgeous intricate pattern is created from fusing different colored glass rods and cutting them into cross sections.