My first exposure to early stained glass lighting came during my teens, the mid 1960s. By chance, while passing an antique shop window in the Chelsea district of my home town of London, a cluster of perhaps 6 or 7 blue pond lily style shades grabbed my attention. They were scattered in random locations about the window, a chaotic but wonderful display that made a big impression. At the time, I had no idea who made them, and still don't, but the experience jump-started my interest in stained glass and especially the old leaded shades.
I came to the U.S in 1976 continuing a career in computer programming. Working as a software developer in various cities around the country, Finally settling in a suburb of Rochester, New York during 1982. My interest in leaded glass lighting continued on this side of the pond, more as an observer than a participator until I took an introductory class in stained glass. It felt good to cut glass and create, however simple the project.
As time went on, it eventually dawned on me that old leaded lighting was originally derived from the opalescent stained glass in windows and, more importantly, that both were very much a uniquely American art form rooted in the work of Louis Tiffany and John LaFarge during the 1880s. It was all on my door step, ready to be enjoyed.
In the 1990s I became completely hooked after making reproduction leaded glass lamps built on Paul Crist's Odyssey line of Tiffany patterns, molds and accessories. Despite being a humble hobbyist of notably meager skill, every aspect of these little projects inspired me to find out more about the art, the craft and the conditions that made possible such a creative period in American history.
I continue to be swept along with the lingering mystery of the lamp makers and the wonderful things that happened in their workshops and studios. In recent years, I have used the internet to help find answers to the many questions about the workers and their families, many of whom came to the USA as immigrants in pursuit of a better life.
Following the creation of my own family ancestry tree that stretches back to Dorset, England in the early 1600s, the potential for other discoveries and contacts in the stained glass field was obvious. I have now created ancestry trees for Duffner & Kimberly, Chapman, John Morgan, Suess Ornamental and other lamp makers. Identifications of and contact with the surviving family descendants of the stained glass companies has been patchy at best (with two notable exceptions, Suess Ornamental of Chicago and John Morgan & Sons, Brooklyn) but I am optimistic that we will see more material surface that was long feared lost or destroyed. It may still be lurking in shoe boxes or dusty basements.
I have come to marvel at the creativity, ever changing economy, social issues and fashion trends that constantly challenged the entire art glass market. Discovery of a never seen before lamp or the rare appearance of an old workshop photo re-kindles the flame to dig more, understand more and appreciate more.
All material presented in this web site is copyright of the original owners.
I would like to thank Paul Crist for sharing his opinions on many of the shades appearing on this website. With the publishing of Mosaic Shades Volume 2, we are now much better equipped to not only make better informed attributions, but to understand the historic, artistic and economic perspectives of this fascinating area of study.
I would also like to acknowledge the mountain of knowledge, opinion and friendship of my late buddy Jim Engel shared with me. Like a one-of-a-kind lamp, he was super rare and impossible to replace.