Monday, November 25, 2013

Tibet: Beauty and calm of art glass windows replace the view of a porch ceiling

"Tibet," leaded art glass, aka stained glass replaces the view of the porch ceiling. Note the colorful reflection of color on the ceiling.

You may have seen this piece in progress: first the approved design and full sized cartoon followed by the pattern pieces for each window reduced down to a few thin piles of paper. Now the journey is complete, with the finished artwork installed in the Boynton’s home.
Before: A view of the porch ceiling.
During our first meeting, the Boynton’s shared many of their interests and loves with me.
It was when they shared the excitement of their experiences from a recent trip to the Himalayan region including Bhutan, that we knew we had pinned the overall design theme. They had chosen the transom windows between the dining room and porch as the location for the new art work to live. It would be a reminder of their journey.

Working from their stories and photos of their journey as a starting point, I returned to the studio to create the design with possible color combinations. Jim had been envisioning harmonic earth tones, while Marylou had a preference for strong colors. Most images of the Himalayas emulate subdued earth tones. After long deliberation, together they chose to have the majestic mountains portrayed in rich, saturated colors. The colors echo cultural elements in that part of the world while being a visual dichotomy between life in the Himalayas and life in the hills of New York’s Southern Tier.

"Tibet," detail of central mandala.

As the design began to unfold, it seemed fitting to name this piece “Tibet” after the Himalayan region. The Boynton’s were captivated by, not only the scenic beauty of the region, but also the culture. During our discussions of their travels, it was apparent that the journey to this remote part of the world was a cultural experience so close to nature that it would always be a part of them. As the design progressed, the Himalayan Mountains and mandala would be the focal points in the glass artwork. Other details would dive into the culture.
"Tibet," detail from one village wall looking to another village in the Himalayas.

Detailed photos of the leaded glass windows show the Tibetan Prayer flags, which were prevalent throughout the region. Terrain of the mountains was highlighted with subdued vitreous painting, to give the illusions that the mountains are off in the distance. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas is a monastery with turkey vultures soaring in the background, reflecting the flow of life and death within nature.
"TIbet," detail with turkey vultures.
Capturing the essence of the prayer flags proved to be a particular challenge. Brilliant transparent colors would highlight the prayer flags best. However, how could they be placed in the mountains without intrusive lead lines surrounding each flag? I needed to find glass that provided rich hues but also captured the physical properties of the flags. I decided to create the mountains using Lambert’s mouth blown flashed sheet glass – glass that has a clear base layer, with a thin, flashed color layered on the top. At each prayer flag location on the mountains, the portion of the flashed glass was removed leaving a colorless surface exposed. To ensure an accurate fit, each colored flag was meticulously cut and hand ground to minimize light shadows. Then each piece was laid on top of the mountains so the etching templates could be made as accurately as possible. This in laid approach gives the appearance that the flags are floating without the constraints of lead.

Perched high in the hills of New York’s Finger Lakes Region, with panoramic views throughout the house, the art glass windows provide a wonderful splash of color during the day with all four seasons as the backdrop. At night, all other windows in the home are untreated and unlit windows that appear as a solid sheet of darkness. With lighting, the colorful art is a treat for the residents from both inside and out. These dynamic changing views and colorful shadows remind the Boynton’s of their once in a lifetime experience by reflecting on the simplicity, beauty and cultural harmony with nature of the region.

"Tibet has become very important to me as a way of transcending the particulars of my experiences, and situating them in eternal cycles of life and death. If I get going too fast, I stop and gaze at the mandala, and slow down. The prayer flags stretch from the immediacy of the mandala to the distant mountains, and draw me out of myself.  They just flap away. I could spend the day watching the colors change with the day's light, but, as you know, one has to get the laundry done.”  – Marylou Boynton

Working on this design was a great joy as I traveled through the many images of the region. It is a region of the world with which I have a personal and spiritual connection.
To see “Tibet” in progress visit Nancy Gong, Gong Glass Work's Facebook page.

Photos and all art glass © 2013 Nancy Gong.
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