Catching Color Through Indiana Stained Glass
The reflection of bright colors through light captivates us. Children and adults stop in their tracks to enjoy the colorful views offered by a toy kaleidoscope or an unexpected rainbow.
In east-central Indiana, there’s an abundance of colorful glass that has the same enchanting effect on anyone who sees it.
“When people visit Richmond, they’re in awe of the magnificent Tiffany windows that make up the town’s Stained Glass Trail,” says Nancy Sartain, director of leisure for the Wayne County Convention & Tourism Bureau. “The views are so breathtaking that people want to sit down and just take in the experience. It really is an American art treasure.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to travel across the nation to enjoy this national treasure. In fact, you can see more than 60 stained glass windows created by Louis Comfort Tiffany within a five-block area in Richmond.
How did this town of 36,000 become home to such a collection? Sartain explains that Daniel Reid, the son of a prominent Richmond family, moved to New York to pursue a finance career. While there, he became friends with Tiffany.
“Reid never forgot his Richmond roots and continued to be generous to the community,” Sartain says. “When he decided to build a church and dedicate it to the memory of his parents, he commissioned Tiffany to design 62 stained glass windows as well as the interior of the church.”
Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church, built in 1906 at a cost of nearly $300,000, is the centerpiece of the Stained Glass Trail. Its windows were made by Tiffany in New York and shipped to Richmond.
Who Was Louis Comfort Tiffany?
Tiffany may be a well-known name in the jewelry world, but many people don’t realize the impact he had on stained glass. Son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, he became Tiffany’s first design director in 1902 and achieved worldwide fame with his beautiful designs. Along with stunning jewelry, he brightened hotel lobbies, hospitals, museums, banks, churches and more with brilliant stained glass lamps and windows. Learn more at tiffany.com.
“There are only a handful of churches that can claim to have all Tiffany windows,” Sartain says. “And that’s true for Reid. You can see the Tiffany signature on the windows there.”
But Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church wasn’t the first building in town to include Tiffany windows. The Morrisson-Reeves Library, built in 1895, included stained glass gems of their own. When the new library was built in 1975, the original Tiffany windows were put on display within the new building. Windows in two other churches, St. Paul’s Episcopal and First Presbyterian, complete the trail.
Those who tour the trail may be inspired to try their own hand at creating stained glass. And you don’t have to be Louis Tiffany to make beautiful pieces.
Works of Art
Lori Underwood has made many stained glass treasures herself, and, as owner of Classic Stained Glass in North Vernon for 20 years, she’s taught hundreds of others to do the same.
“We offer classes from beginner to advanced, teaching basic techniques, offering people a place to learn about the tools and giving them an opportunity to continually practice the art,” Underwood says. “Those who take our classes appreciate the chance to learn, practice and be creative.”
She explains that you don’t need to be an artist to successfully master the technique. “My artistic outlet was singing, until I took a stained glass class with my mom 33 years ago.”
While artistic talent isn’t needed, good tools certainly are. Some basic tools include a glass cutter, breaking pliers, running pliers, a glass grinder, solder, a soldering iron, flux, and Tiffany’s invention – copper foil tape.
The pattern is another important tool. Underwood teaches a pattern method that ensures precision: copy the pattern using carbon paper and stencil paper; number the pieces; mark the number or color and grain of the glass; cut the pattern using foil shears; and glue the pattern to the glass.
Next, she says, you score the glass, break it, grind the edges, and lay the pieces out on the original pattern to make sure everything fits. Then, wrap the edges of the glass with copper foil tape, add flux to the foil, and again use the pattern as a guide to solder the glass in place.
Underwood’s step-by-step process comes from experience.
“When I started practicing stained glass, I taught myself through trial and error, which can be especially frustrating,” Underwood says. “Over the last 33 years, I’ve learned the best ways to avoid problems, and I share those tips in my classes. As people move beyond the basics, I demonstrate additional tools to give them more ways to advance their technique.”
With the proper tools, an inspiring pattern and an experienced instructor, Underwood’s students make everything from suncatchers to clocks to lamps.
Many of them make something else as well.
“Beyond the beauty of the stained-glass project itself, there is satisfaction that comes from completing it,” Underwood says. “There is also a sense of community in working together with others who enjoy the same creative outlet.”
If You Go...
The Stained Glass Trail is a free, self-guided tour of four locations within five blocks. Some buildings have limited hours, so visitors should call in advance to arrange admittance.
Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church
Tours by advance appointment only. To schedule a tour, call 765-966-7618 Tuesday through Thursday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Call 765-962-6988 Tuesday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church
Open for viewing Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 765-966-2234.
Open for viewing Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 765-966-8291.