If you are traveling through Paris, France, make sure to visit a tiny, yet spectacular chapel near Notre Dame, the Sainte Chapelle. Its gothic style architecture and rich past is reflected in its exquisite design. As you walk in the upper chapel on the church, you will find a high ceiling with artistic arches, candle-designed chandeliers and ceiling-to-floor, exquisitely designed stained glass painted windows. The sight of sunlight flowing in through windows and the candles reflecting from within almost gives you a surreal heavenly experience. Stained glass painting is found in many buildings around the world, especially chapels and churches and is without doubt, one of the most stunning architectural features a place can have. At the same time, stained glass is very difficult to maintain and even more tedious to restore.
Stained glass is so vulnerable that sometimes, it is better to replace the work of art rather than delve into the process of restoration. Due to variations in weather, glass windows expand and contract and overtime its lead matrix deteriorates, leading to damage of art. Stained glass restoration has to be done regularly or it will lead to irreparable damage. The main objective is to restore the original design and this involves replacement of missing, damaged or worn out pieces or removal and rebuilding of later repairs. The precision, time, effort and expertise required is tremendous and therefore, the art is considered exclusive. Some of the major points that have to be considered in case of stained glass restoration have been discussed further.
How To Restore Stained Glass Designs
Stained glass restoration is done by expert craftsmen and requires exceptional skill and technique to retain the spirit of the original piece.
This technique was used in earlier times, wherein lead pieces found from the original work of art were inserted in places that were damaged. This is a good technique, as it retains the old piece of glass, rather than replacing it with a new ‘match’. In some cases of antique works of art, this practice still holds good, but the shortcoming of this method is that the original design is broken with sporadic lead lines used during restoration.
This technique involves gluing cracked pieces with epoxy resins or glue, which results in an almost invisible line. Moreover, the resins can be tinted with pigments to match the color of the glass being restored. Though this method results in a good repair, it requires additional glazing, as UV rays from sunlight leads to deterioration. In addition, this technique is the most time consuming and reversing the process is difficult.
This restoration method uses silicone, instead of epoxy and is a good alternative when the repairs need to be flexible i.e. when the window is layered, plated or is under continuous stress. One of the advantages of this process is that it is easily reversible and can be removed with acetone and a razor blade.
Introduced by Tiffany Studios, this method uses an adhesive tape that is applied on both sides of the cracked glass, trimmed to precision and soldered. This is best used when there are only one or two pieces of cracked glass.
- Stained glass restoration is a complicated process and should be done only by experts. It is the responsibility of the craftsman to assess the damage and choose the best-suited technique to preserve exquisite works of art.