Artist Series

Stained Glass


You may remember from my a previous post that my boyfriend’s grandpa is an amazing architect. He draws Kufic block calligraphy, and we have a whole book of his drawings. This makes gifting in our house super easy! I can turn those drawings into art pieces and my boyfriend will always love them, no matter how imperfect my artistry.

Since we’re in a global pandemic and I can no longer travel freely, I’ve spent a lot of time traveling in virtual reality. It’s allowed me to visit a lot of places that I can’t easily travel to in real life on a US passport, including all of the beautiful landmarks in Iran. Check it out! (If you happen to have an Oculus headset, get the Wander app. It’s basically Google Street View in VR, and you can travel all over Iran with it.)

Through these VR experiences, I realized that my boyfriend’s grandpa’s drawings were intended for tile and other common mediums utilized in these ornate architectural masterpieces. Before that epiphany, I had no idea they were more than just drawings. I can’t read Kufic calligraphy. I don’t know anything about Islamic architecture. I’m just winging it over here, inspired by love to preserve the art of my boyfriend’s beloved family that I know he must be homesick for all the time.

For his birthday gift, my boyfriend selected the art he liked most: a drawing with the tasbih (prayer beads) of Fatimah around the outside – Subhanallah (Allah is perfect); Alhamdulillah (All praise is due to Allah), and Allahu Akbar (Allah is greatest).

As we recently moved to an apartment with GIANT windows, tons of natural light, and a beautiful view of the city, it made sense to attempt stained glass for this year’s birthday gift. The only problem is that I don’t know anything about working with stained glass. I took a class on Udemy, which only taught me that I *really* know nothing about stained glass. I emailed some glass studios in town, but they’re closed because of the pandemic, so I took to the internet and look what I found! A stained glass artist, working on commission. Etsy hasn’t failed me yet.

I emailed the artist, Ian Leino of Geek Orthodox, and he accepted the project right away. What luck! We debated the best way to express the calligraphy using glass as the medium and settled on sandblasting. (He’s so creative! Who even knew this sandblastable colored glass that’s clear inside existed?) He sent me some proposals that would work well on stained glass:

We selected our colors, and he went to work. He sent us photos as each step was completed: planning and cutting the glass, sandblasting, his unique soldering method which gives crisp solder junctions, the process of glazing, cleaning, polishing, patinating and finishing the piece, and welding the reinforcement that provides extra structural stability.

It’s interesting, only getting to know someone through their art, imagining what they intended – what they hoped the viewer would take from it – and trying to do them justice. I imagine it’s a bit like the struggle of translating poetry from one language to another — no matter how well you do, you know that you haven’t captured it quite perfectly. But this piece seems to have made my boyfriend a bit more religious, so I believe his Grandpa will be quite pleased.


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