Conservation of Stained Glass in America
Conservation of Stained Glass in America: A Manual for Studios and Caretakers
Julie L. Sloan / Albert Lewis (Editor)
Paperback / Published 1995
$44.95 direct from the publisher's secure server, below. Publisher's home page.
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No aspect of the glass community stirs up more controversy than conservation and/or restoration. For a niche market that exists within a niche market, there are more opposing views concerning methods, philosophy and proper technique than all other disciplines combined. One of the reasons for such activity, both pro and con, can be attributed to the fact that no comprehensive treatment (read "book") of the subject has established itself as representative of accepted, tried and true practices in the field. There is no "bible" of glass restoration.
Although some common ground has been established concerning methods that have proven effective (and ineffective), much is still open for discussion. Additionally, as author Julie Sloan explains, "Restoration is not merely a handful of techniques; it embodies a philosophy and a thought process as well."

Julie Sloan's credentials are certainly impressive. She is Adjunct Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Historic Preservation. Longtime subscribers to Professional Stained Glass will recognize Julie's name as a frequent contributor of preservation and restoration articles.

Julie is past president of McKernan Satterlee Associates, conservation consultants. Her firm's project involvement included Harvard University's Memorial Hall, Boston's Trinity Church, and Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. Her new book, Conservation of Stained Glass in America - A Manual for Studios and Caretakers, is a two hundred and twenty five page warehouse of information on professional restoration and conservation.

Beginning with a brief history of restoration of stained glass in this country, Julie establishes the differences between the European and US attitudes toward aging works in glass. That concerning European glass has a history of development over a number of centuries, while conservation and restoration in the US is comparatively in its infancy. Given the shorter history of glass, fact is, that until recently, most US glass was simply not that old. As Julie states in her introduction, "Conservation as we know it today, requiring non-destructive, reversible procedures, historical research and consideration of its effect on posterity, is a very modern development, arising in Europe in the wake of the Second World War."

Julie spares little in her coverage of the subject. A definition of terms related to conservation and restoration gets the reader into the meat of the book. Following this section, Julie delves into the conservation philosophy that characterizes the rest of her text. Here, she discusses the artistic function or significance of the project in question, the importance of knowing how the window was made, the extent and causes of any deterioration, the needs and interests of the window's owner, how research should proceed, and finally, conservation technique.

Chapter 3, The Technical History of Stained Glass and Restoration, outlines and pinpoints how developments within the craft have changed over the centuries, and how these changes were influenced by or influenced popular criticism of the subject. Julie quotes from the works of Ruskin, Morris, Viollet le-Duc, Lewis Day, Christopher Whall, Charles Connick and others.

Chapter 4, Condition Analysis and Contracting: Where To Begin, takes the reader into the real world of modern conservation and restoration with a description of the preliminary and subsequent steps that should be taken in the course of a restoration/conservation project. Much-needed information on costs, proposals, contracts, specifications, boilerplate contracts and letters of intent is alone worth far more than the cover price of the book.

With Chapter 5, Julie takes us through Part II, Materials and Processes, where the hands-on practical aspects of the craft are addressed in detail and on a problem/solution basis. In order, she covers, Glass, its physical and chemical definition, how it is made, how it deteriorates and breaks, chemical deterioration from the effects of pollution and acids, devitrification and crizzling, followed by the techniques for repairing each type of damage.

Cames, Putty and Structure follows the same path. The physical makeup of the material is described, the characteristics and potential for damage and deterioration are identified, and remedies are prescribed. Window bowing, dealing with old frames, reglazing, the reglazing of zinc and hard metal cames, dismantling of windows, in addition to detailed descriptions of the fluxes, putty and types of reinforcement options available to the restoration studio/artist contribute to the wealth of information contained in this section of the book.

Chapter 7, Glass Paint, follows in the same style. The material is put under the microscope, so to speak. The ways in which it can fail over time are discussed and solutions/corrective techniques are suggested.

Chapters on Cleaning, Documentation and the critical issues of Protective Glazing top off Julie Sloan's offering.

Conservation of Stained Glass in America is well written. It contains vital information that every practitioner of stained glass should have available if needed. Julie's text follows a logical path from background, to material facts through technique. The sections on the business side of restoration/conservation are particularly, valuable. Although some of the black and white photos that accompany the text are hard to read (of poor resolution) and small, the text remains the guiding force throughout the book, rescuing it from any shortcomings.

Julie's book will not be the last word on this evolving subject, but it is by far one of the best yet. As new techniques and materials are discovered and put to use, the story of restoration will continue. But as the author states, "This book will serve then, as a record of the state of the art at the close of the twentieth century. Get your own copy of this book and keep it handy. Sooner or later you will need it. br [Joe Porcelli in PSG's Glass Artist, April/May 1995]

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