Donoho prefers traditional design
By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | January 29, 2014If you've ever seen the stained glass windows in the Salem Presbyterian Church on the campus of Washington College Academy in Limestone, Tenn., then you've seen Richard Donoho's first project.
"Our first interest was in the restoration and repair of the windows in Salem Presbyterian Church. These windows were installed in 1896, and we could not find anyone to do the repair work. Mr. Jablonski, president of Washington College Academy, and I decided that we could learn the process and do the work. We did some repair work and later I restored some of the windows. I became hooked."
That restoration project in the early 1970s was the beginning of Artistry-in-Glass. Before that, Donoho worked as a photographer in the U.S. Navy. After that, he was the director of the student industries program at Washington College Academy where he taught graphic arts. He then went back to school and became a paramedic. "While in the emergency services, I established Artistry-in-Glass for something to do at retirement. I have been retired 14 years and work as a stained glass artist."
A large part of Donoho's time is dedicated to commissioned pieces, and he says his customers serve as his inspiration.
"I am inspired by our customers' being pleased with the end product and knowing that the work we have done is quality work that will last for a long time. Commission work is something I feel can't be done for a customer without discussions between both parties. I like to see where the piece will be installed, which gives me a better idea what it will look like when it is finished. I try to use all of the ideas the customer may have and design around them." After these discussions, Donoho draws a rough sketch. After it is approved, and a contract is signed, "We just play and break glass and have a good time."
While Donoho describes what he does as play, it's actually a bit more complex than that.
"In order to produce a stained glass piece you need to start with an idea, develop a pattern to work from, then cut each piece from a sheet of glass. After you have the pieces cut, they must be put together by either the traditional way, wrapping each piece of glass with a strip of lead, or the copper foil method where you wrap each piece with a strip of copper foil. After the pieces are wrapped you put them together by soldering. The soldering of the lead-wrapped piece is done at the joints, while the copper foil will have to be soldered along each line of copper."
Since he creates or restores church windows, there are sometimes challenges.
"Our first large church design and construction job was Belle Meadows Church in Bristol, Va. This was a big challenge because they wanted to rebuild and dedicate the church one year after it burned. We met the challenge and designed and completed the windows for them." At other churches he has had to build windows in sections and then assemble them in the church, and on one restoration job he had to build tables in the back of the church and restore it on site. The majority of the time, however, he says the piece can be created in sections.
"When you look closely at a large window you may find that the window has been designed including the frame. This makes a large window easier to work with because panels are smaller. Once placed into the frame the panels become one window and design."
He installs most of his creations and provides wooden or metal frames. He also works with a cabinet maker who builds custom cabinets where lighting can be installed to illuminate the piece from behind, which allows a piece to be placed almost anywhere.
Stained glass can be placed anywhere and needs minimal care. Most pieces require only dusting. If it should need more than that, it should not be cleaned with anything that contains ammonia as that can corrode the lead. It does not fade because the color is fired into the glass by adding chemicals to the sand. Different chemicals result in different colors, and you can get "almost any color you would want."
"Lettering, shadowing and color can be applied to the glass using special paint. The paint is made from a base of ground glass. This is placed in a kiln and fired, making the paint become part of the glass sheet." Donoho's studio does more than stained glass. It also etches images and text into glass using sand carving, and creates pieces made from fused glass.
All of Donoho's glass is obtained from American companies with one exception – the president's house on the campus of Johnson University, Knoxville, Tenn. "They specified handmade glass that is not made in the states." The hand blown stained glass was ordered from France and has a distinctive waviness.
Donoho says that materials haven't changed through the years. "The same techniques used by artists centuries ago are still used today, but I like to try new approaches using old techniques and materials."
He prefers a traditional stained glass design, but says there are "many modern pieces being made, and they are beautiful in their settings." He says that if you want to try your hand at stained glass, the ability to "see ahead of where you are working and knowing what the piece you are placing at the time is going to do to the overall piece" is a valuable skill. And it doesn't hurt if you are knowledgeable about woodworking or metalworking so you can create your own frames.
Donoho teaches classes at his studio in Limestone, Tenn. He offers lead and copper foil stained glass classes (also known as cold glass) and basic fusing (warm glass). Fused glass is the process of placing smaller pieces of glass together in a kiln. The kiln melts the pieces together. Classes are taught Monday and Tuesday nights and Wednesday mornings and afternoons. To learn more about classes call 423-257-5512 or visit www.artistrynglass.com.
- STAINED GLASS STEP BY STEP
"Garden Path" by Richard Donoho
"Blue Heron" by Richard Donoho
"Foyer" by Richard Donoho
A stained glass creation by Richard Donoho.