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Custom Stained Glass Designs & Restoration
Custom Designs | Restoration & Repair | Church Window Restoration Article


Horse PatternCustom Designs
Here at Big Sky Stained Glass Studio we are dedicated to giving the customer what they want. Many times you may see a window that you wish was in your home. Maybe a picture in a magazine or a special stained glass project you saw on vacation. What we can make for you at our studio is only limited by your imagination.

Whatever the design, Big Sky Studio can produce it in glass. If you can draw it, we can make it. Another resource for stained glass designs are the hundreds of books and catalogs that the industry provides for this reason. Big Sky Studio has dozens of designs in stock. Are you a quilter? Quilting patterns make excellent designs for stained glass.

We will work with you to design that perfect window or door or panel.

  • We will help you decide how much light transmission is needed.
  • What kind of light and color will be transmitted inside my home?
  • What do different textures do to the glass when it is lit from behind?
  • Maybe you have a window where very little light is available. We have glass for that situation too. We have even produced windows for placement in walls in interior rooms where lighting was placed behind the project giving the appearance of an exterior window lighted by the sun. This is a great way to add art and light to that interior bath with a garden tub for example.

Tiffany LampHave you ever wanted a Tiffany lamp? Big Sky Studio can reproduce any Tiffany lamp that was ever made. We use the only company in North America licensed by Tiffany to reproduce their timeless designs. When constructing a Tiffany lamp only the finest art glass is used. From the design, to the glass, to the base and all the hardware, these lamps are an exact Tiffany reproduction. The only thing that is not the same is the price!

Panel Lamps are also made at Big Sky Studio. One common style of patternthese lamps in called the “Prairie Style” lamp. These lamps were primarily influenced by the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Another of these styles was influenced by the “Arts and Crafts” movement in American architecture.

No matter what we produce for you at Big Sky Studio we will work with you until you are sure you are getting exactly what you want with no job being too large or small. And all estimates are free!

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Did You Know?
For years and years most people have only known colored glass as Stained Glass. The truth is that for most of today’s projects we use something called Art Glass. Modern glass producers offer Art Glass made with an infinite amount of textures and mixed colors that provide a much more dramatic effect in stained glass windows. Many or most old windows used what is called cathedral glass, which is a one color glass with little or no texture. This is where the term 'stained glass' originated, although it has evolved to a higher art form over the years.


Restoration & Repair

Broken GlassRestoring and repairing any glass window is possible at Big Sky Studio and is also one of the more enjoyable parts of our services.

However, windows or doors are not the only thing that can be restored. We have also restored lamps of all sizes, small gifts, glass clock faces, etc. If it was made with glass, chances are it can be restored.

One customer came to Big Sky Studio heartbroken. She had a small jewelry box that had her 25-year-old wedding invitation encased in two pieces of glass on the top. The glass was broken and she was sure it could not be fixed without destroying the paper and would never be the same.

Broken GlassFortunately, we were able to remove and replace the broken glass without even touching the parchment. The box was cleaned and polished and we even fixed the old brass hinge. When the woman came to pick it up she almost cried and was amazed that we only charged $25. The point is that we don't want our customers to assume that a piece cannot be fixed or would be too expensive.

Special discounts are offered at Big Sky Studio for church jobs and for large jobs. Restoration projects can also be completed on site if necessary.

And as always, you will receive a firm estimate of the work to be done before agreeing to it.

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Restoring the Light

By Louis Sherman, Staff Writer
Courtesy of the Pagosa Sun

windowPagosa's Community United Methodist Church is in the planning stages of a building project that will replace the existing structure with a larger facility, reminiscent of the first church buildings of a century ago, said Pastor Don Ford.

A notable part of the construction is the restoration and display of the church's original stained-glass windows. In the current facility, most of which was completed in 1968, the majority of the windows are held in interior walls, with only electric backlighting to display their colors. In the future building, the windows will be highlighted. They will be visible from without and cast light in on the church, said Ford.

The 15 stained-glass windows are between 99 and 110 years old, said Carl Nevitt, who is responsible for the restoration project. The first windows were installed with the construction of the first church in 1897. In December 1907, the windows barely escaped a fire started during the building of an additional room in the church. They were reinstalled, with some new additions, when the church was rebuilt in the summer of 1908.

Nevitt said he has enjoyed learning about the history of the church, and its windows, while working at his craft.

Buchtel WindowOne of the windows made for the second church, after the fire, had the name "Governor Henry A. Buchtel" painted on it, in honor of the Colorado governor and methodist minister, who dedicated the new church on Oct. 18, 1908. The Buchtel window piece was broken by a vandal's pellet gun and has been replaced with a facsimile made during the restoration project, and painted by Nevitt.

Other windows have scriptural passages, memorials, names of donors or church leaders and religious symbols. One window contains the words, "Built 1897, Burned 1907, Rebuilt 1908."

The 15 windows vary in shape and size, including small rectangles, large arched rectangles, circles and semicircles. All display variegated stained glass.

Before being installed in the new church, all 15 windows must undergo an extensive restoration process. Like typical stained-glass church windows, most belonging to the Methodist church are made up of multiple pieces of colored glass, cames (which hold the pieces of glass in place), supports and frames. Most of the original pieces of glass are intact and will only need to be cleaned - in order to remove soot from candles and soil from leaks. Others have broken over time and will need to be replaced by new pieces.

The remaining components of the stained-glass windows - the cames, frames and supports - have decayed during the last century, and will be replaced by modern materials.

Luckily, the Methodist church was able to enlist a local craftsman to restore the windows. Nevitt has worked with stained glass for the last 17 years, and has been in business in Pagosa for the last five. He has successfully restored four of the church's windows and is currently working on a fifth.

windowIn addition to typical signs of aging - cracks and sagging - Nevitt said he has noticed some interesting types of damage in the windows, including a makeshift piece of regular glass which was painted dark green and installed to replace a broken piece of the original colored glass.

Nevitt said he enjoys projects like the Methodist church's restoration, since it allows him to "get inside the head of the person who was making the window 100 years ago and study their techniques."

The windows were manufactured by Jacoby Art Glass Company of St. Louis, which closed its doors in 1970. The stained glass was produced by pouring molten colored glass onto a granite table, rolling the material out and then cutting the glass to size after it cooled. The granite table applied a unique texture to the stained glass. Lead cames were then placed around the glass, holding the pieces in small grooves to shape the window pane. Steel crossbars were attached to support the weight of windows, and the whole piece was framed in wood, with pegged joints.

After carefully removing the windows from their stations in the church, Nevitt painstakingly removes each piece of glass from the lead cames, numbering the fragments so he can put the pieces back together (with a waterproof paint that can be easily scrubbed off, after reassembly). He soaks the glass in water and washes it with a mild detergent. To replace broken pieces he sends samples out to be matched, in order to have accurate facsimiles reproduced, then grinds them down to the appropriate size.

Nevitt said he was lucky to find a glass maker with a similar granite "cats paw" table, that makes replacement pieces with textures similar to the originals. He even suggested that it might be the same table used to make the glass 100 years ago.

Nevitt is removing all of the lead cames, since they have bent and lost strength over the years, and will replace them with cames he will construct of copper foil (with a reinforcing copper strip) and lead solder. While putty was once necessary to stabilize the glass in the grooves of the lead cames, glass is held in the modern copper cames with adhesive, which adheres more securely after being heated by the solder. After the lead solder is melted over the copper and a black patina is applied, the cames will look like new versions of the original cames, said Nevitt.

windowAccording to Nevitt, stained-glass artisans must take special precautions when working with lead, to avoid poisoning. Nevitt solders in an open space with good ventilation.

Nevitt will replace the wooden frames with strong, modern zinc - though he admires the original wood frames and said he regretted that they could not be reproduced.

Though the restored cames and strong zinc framing would be enough to support the windows, Nevitt said he will still put in replica crossbars, made of zinc, in order to duplicate the look of the original windows, with their steel crossbars.

"The trick to this restoration is I want the windows to look like they were built yesterday, 100 years ago," Nevitt said.

In addition to being stronger, the new windows are lighter. They will be easier to install and will be less likely to sag under their own weight.

While many colored-glass pieces only need to be rebuilt into the window, other pieces will need to be painted. Some of the original pieces which included names or text were broken during the last century - some intentionally (such as the Buchtel window) and others by stress fracture. To replace these, Nevitt acquires matching glass, creates a stencil with his computer, paints the glass and then fires it to bond the paint to the glass. If heated for long enough at the right temperature, the paint cannot be removed from the glass, as Nevitt demonstrated by scratching a piece of painted glass with a key.

As Nevitt restores individual windows, they will be returned to the Methodist church, where they will be displayed (though not installed) until the construction that will give them a proud place.

Stained glass refers to glass that is colored during its manufacture, by mixing metal oxides (such as copper, cobalt and even gold) with the molten glass. Stained glass is often painted or stained to enhance design and color. Paints once included ground colored glass, metals and mediums such as wine or vinegar, but now are generally made of synthetic materials.

windowStained glass became a popular architectural device during the Medieval period, when Gothic cathedrals flourished. The windows helped light the huge, vertical buildings, while providing a separation from the outside world, by preventing a view of it. However, during the Reformation, many stained-glass windows were destroyed or removed as symbols of Roman Catholicism. The secularism of the French Revolution further threatened to make stained-glass obsolete. But the Anglo-Catholic revival in 19th century England brought colored windows back into vogue. The revival was passed to liturgical churches in America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the help of manufacturers like Louis Comfort Tiffany, John La Farge and the Jacoby Art Glass Company. Another revival, of sorts, is taking place in modern America as churches of 19th century build attempt to restore old windows across the country.

The Community United Methodist Church is a part of this revival - not only as it restores its antique windows, but as it embarks on a new construction project, which intends to return to a more traditional church architecture, while making it new.

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