Sunday, July 18, 2004

St Cecilia by Evie Hone from Lanercost Priory in Cumbria, England. Posted by Hello
Ane excellent post by Rolf Achilles, curator of the Smith Museum of Stained Glass in Chicago:

Throughout the US urban Catholic immigrant national churches have suffered
massive losses. Most of them were wonderfully decorated. There are mural
companies whose works have been shredded, saints martyred in dumpsters,
stained glass windows punched out. Why such activity? Three obvious main
reasons: changing religious affiliations in neighborhoods, and cost of
maintaining buildings, and probably the most crucial, Catholics changing
social vision.

In Catholic immigrant cities such as Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, to name
just three, each national Catholic community wanted its own building,
decorated in its own way, more often than not in the Munich style, and
contributed diligently and generously to achieve it. Often these national
churches were built within a quick walk of each other resulting in a
picturesque, almost medieval fairy-tale romantic, collection of spires.
Though few congregations looked past their own portals and into their
neighbors church, the interiors were often magnificently appointed with
murals, statues, stained glass windows. The building echoed each community's
assurance and pride. And, all of it was totally dependent on the generosity
of the congregation.

By the 1960s, the founding communities were gone and its children mostly
moved out of the old neighborhood, returning only for special occasions, and
requiring parking lots to do so. What were the buildings, so stuck in their
time, to do? As often as not, administrators took over maintenance and paid
the bills. As clergy came and went, each wanted to leave a mark of where
they had been. Their marks, the attitude of their superiors, and the
theological winds from the Bishops Councils and the Vatican contributed to a
congregation, socially conscious but otherwise unaware of visual, emotional,
and traditional devotional literacy. Meanwhile the building survived only
because its founders built well. When the building reached a geriatric
condition, as many did in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, the 1960s and 1970s, the
Diocesan as well as the broader communal concerns are mostly elsewhere.

Meanwhile well meaning individuals, small group, and some congregations set
about to save their buildings from the ravages of age, and many
congregations have done and continue to do so with brilliant results.
Other Catholic Churches were and are sold to other denominations, some are
abandoned altogether, some are redecorated, more often than they should,
they become wards of a hemorrhaging and incompetent diocesan bureaucratic
structure. In many cities, including Chicago, religious structures stand
outside the scope of landmark ordinances nor are they necessarily subject to
their applications. While this may be of some immediate advantage, it is
cultural suicide.

Across the US there have been wonderful conversions into condos, community
centers, libraries, retail stores, limited only by imagination.

Over the years in Chicago there have been many battles fought to same
neighborhood churches, some have been triumphs, others failures.

A couple of decades ago, Father George Lane marshaled a group in Chicago to
save Holy Family and then raised several million dollars to restore it
superbly. The German and Wisconsin based Institute of Christ the King has
acquired and magnificently restored a church in Wausau, Wisconsin to its
original splendor and is starting to do the same in St. Louis and Chicago.
Religious organizations such as Opus Dei have restored buildings to their
original splendor and keep open access. Several other success can be told.
Again, all it takes is money, lots of money combined with will and

The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows at Navy Pier in Chicago, has been
open to the public since February 2000. Before the public ever saw one
window, the Museum had saved at its own expense and purchased at auction
several dozens of Catholic church windows. These windows are from churches
the Archdiocese of Chicago slated for demolition and then allowed the
windows and other desired objects to be safely removed. The Chicago
Archdiocese also established a repository for art objects its own crews
removed. Not everything worth saving was, nor did everything of interest
make it to the depository.

Through its ongoing activity, the Smith Museum has acquired several dozen
fine windows by German and American firms, including 5 18-20 foot diameter
rose windows. What to do with them? Each window will cost several hundred
thousand dollars to fully install at Navy Pier. But the Museum thinks the
money is well spent because some 3.5 million people see the Smith Museum's
collection of windows each year. And, the collection is not static. The
Museum continues to acquire significant windows, locally, nationally,

While it is most significant to display windows in their intended, original
context, saving them as art for an audience that may never see them in situ,
is also important. Especially when the stained glass window is brought to
an audience, as it is at Navy Pier. The display of stained glass windows in
this accessible context raises awareness of stained glass as an art form. It
shows people that this unique and very accessible art form was historically
designed to be understood by most every viewer.

Much like every community strives to have an arts center, locally discarded
religious and church art could be set up in malls, vacant main street
stores, hotels, city halls, county buildings and other publicly accessible
places across the United States. Of course this takes money, but it also
takes a willingness in the community, and most of all, the participation of
religious leaders, architects, developers, and public officials, elected or

While everyone knows a stained glass window success story or two, hundreds
of losses occur and it's the losses that write our history more than our

Cheers, Rolf Achilles
Curator, Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows
Cooking with Yoghurt
 When the pressure to reduce the dairy products content of my diet became too great to ignore I began to try substituting fat-free or low fat yoghurt for cream, half-cream and milk in recipes.
Surprisingly it actually works quite well and introduces its own flavour to dishes, whether they be savoury or desserts.
A couple which I have found work particularly well are the dressing for marinated salmon (or lachs) which combines cream or yoghurt with grated radish and onions, sugar, salt, dijon mustard and vinegar as well as yoghurt mixed with fresh berries and other assorted fruits.
Tonight I tried a new version of potato gratinee. The traditional dish requires fresh cream (possibly milk also), gruyere cheese, nutmeg, garlic, potatoes and seasonings.  What I tried today, with some success, was to substitute plain fat-free yoghurt for the milk & cream. I did not have any gruyere cheese and so ended up using plain American Swiss but the end-result was really not at all bad and I would assume had a lot less fat than the creamier french version.


Angel detail by Tiffany Studios for Church of the Incarnation, Madison Avenue, New York. Posted by Hello

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The Tibertine Sibyl, a design by Edward Burne-Jones from a window made by William Morris Company. The window is in St Paul's Church in Irton, Cumbria in England. Posted by Hello
I participate in a newsgroup about stained glass and a discussion was started recently concerning the fate of 65 Catholic churches in the Boston Diocese which are to be closed. Here is the first posting which triggered the discussion:

"Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church in Newton, Massachusetts is one of the 65 churches proposed for
closing in the Boston Archdiocese. Since it is in a local historic
district created under State Law (Chapter 40C of the Massachusetts General
Laws), no exterior architectural features can be altered without permission
of the Newton Upper Falls Historic District Commission.

Nevertheless, the diocese's closing manual says that windows will be
offered to other churches and those windows that cannot be removed safely
(since the church was built in 1910, most would fall in this category)
will be destroyed (to prevent them from winding up on e-Bay according to
the diocesan spokesman). Does any one have any experience with other
closings and this procedure, conflicts between dioceses and civil
authorities over protected buildings, and generally stopping the
destruction of precious artifacts under Canon Law?

The windows which can be seen in a separate section of the web site are by
F.X. Zettler. Any definitive statements from general sources on the
value of Zettler windows would be of use. There's some beautiful interior
art by Professor Gonippo Raggi, who painted more than 100 churches in North
and South America and in Europe, including several basilicas and
cathedrals including the designated for closing Pro-Cathedral of
Newark, New Jersey. Statements of the value of Raggi's work by
contemporary authorities, not just the two Popes and three kings who
honored him, would be valuable as well."

Alderman Brian Yates

I will also add the post made by Tim Orwig of Boston University:

"Yes, churches have closed in other cities. But the Roman Catholic Archdiocese
of Boston is closing 65 churches all at the same time. Furthermore, the
development pressures in Boston are extraordinarily high and the
Diocese is trying to pay off its lawsuit debts, so the likelihood is
that most of these buildings will be destroyed for redevelopment. Besides that, the
churches are all run by a central authority which basically ignores most community requests. It has also repeatedly proven itself an ardent foe of preservation.

No, there is likely to be unprecedented destruction of cultural resources in

Tim Orwig
Boston University

I have no first-hand knowledge of the churches involved here. I have only visited Boston a couple of times and have never seen or entered any of these particular 65 churches. I do feel sure that some of them, at least, are of architectural merit and worthy of preservation in some form or other - religious or secular - but I cannot pass an opinion as to whether these are 'treasures' on a national scale. However, what BLOWS MY MIND is the suggestion that works of art might be destroyed "rather than have them end up on Ebay"!

What is so BAD about Ebay that makes it "a fate worse than total destruction"??

This attitude seems to me to be every bit as bad as the ravages of John Knox in the early days of the Scottish Reformation or Henry VIII's destruction of the English monasteries.

Do not misunderstand me, I am not advocating the sale of church artifacts on Ebay. For me that would have to be a last resort, though still infinitely preferable to total destruction.

What is wrong with carefully dismantling the windows (and other artwork) and carefully packing them in boxes and putting them in storage until another generation is born which better appreciates fine art and history? Whereas the Catholic Church is undoubtedly short of cash I cannot believe that there is a shortage of storage space.

That anyone could even THINK of destruction as an option is beyond my comprehension.

Two stories come to mind here. The first concerns an artifact called the Ruthwell Cross. This important and very early (5thC? 6thC?) teaching cross was outside the parish church in Ruthwell in SW Scotland. At the time of the Reformation orders came down from Knox and his followers in Edinburgh that all 'symbols of idolatory' had to be destroyed and that the Ruthwell Cross was judged to be such a symbol. At first the Minister there ignored the orders but eventually the pressure reached a point where he had to do something. What he did was to partially follow his orders - he did break up the cross but, rather than total destruction, he carefully broke it into 3 or 4 large pieces which he then buried under the floor in the church.

The cross remained buried, and forgotten, for over 200 years before it was discovered and re-assembled in a more enlightened age - the 19thC - and it is now carefully preserved in the church at Ruthwell.

The other story concerns a very fine window by Henry Holiday which was made for Drew University in 1883. In 1937 the library where it was housed was demolished and the window was put into storage and forgotten about. It was finally "rediscovered" in the 1978 and is now proudly displayed in the lobby of the new library.

The moral of both of these stories is that "times change" and at any given time the 'powers that be' have a duty to preserve things that might be valued by later generations. This standard should probably be applied to some of these churches in their entirity but if that is not possible then at least let the standard be applied to stained glass, statuary and other works of art which can so easily and inexpensively be stored.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

An angel in stained glass by Tiffany Studios from St Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. Posted by Hello

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Statues in Carrera marble from the altar of St Anthony's parish church in Jersey City, New Jersey. Posted by Hello

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Second angel in stained glass from St Joseph's parish church in Jersey City, New Jersey.  Posted by Hello

Angel detail in stained glass from St Joseph's parish church, Jersey City, New Jersey. Posted by Hello

Friday, July 09, 2004

For anyone who has not visited my StainedGlassPhotography website or has not done so recently I would like to suggest that you visit the 'buildings'sectionwhere you will find an assortment of work arranged according to where it is located and not by designer or studio.

Each folder contains a page or two of thumbnails which generally load quite quickly and then you can click on any which particularly catch your eye to see larger versions or, if you have time and are not hampered by a slow connection you can click through all of the images in the folder via navigation buttons.

At time of writing the four most recently uploaded folders contain works from churches in Jersey City, three of which are Catholic churches which are presently under possible threat of closure due to consolidation of parishes. Should the worst happen one can only hope that good homes can be found for some of the wonderful works of art which, as you will see if you visit, includes marble statuary as well as some gorgeous stained glass. However there are no guarantees that these works will be saved - just a couple of weeks ago I read an article in the news about the disposal of artwork by one or more churches in the Philadelphia Diocese and it appeared that although genuine efforts were made to house figurative works in other churches and give back windows donated as memorials to families which had donated them there was still a balance of artwork which was being sold to dealers and private collectors for relatively small sums of money. This must be heart-breaking for members of these congregations to see.
Yesterday I set up a visitor questionnaire on my website, it was more of a technical stretch than I care to admit.

Finding it was not especially difficult. Goggle came up with some options and eventually I spotted one which looked very user-friendly in terms of questionnaire design and (most importantly) had a free 2 week 'no-strings' trial.

Designing the questionnaire was a piece of cake and it is incredibly easy to go back and edit, even after it is up and running. What complicated the whole thing was that it only has two modes of operation - it can be emailed to customers or it can be clickable from a button on the website. Because I do not have the email addresses of all my visitors and am not optimistic about getting people to click on a button, especially if (as many people do) they have really arrived at the site 'by mistake' and leave straight from the home page, what I wanted to do was to adapt it as a pop-under page which would be found after the visitor had left.

This was a challenge. I did find a couple of places with HTML code to create pop-unders but the first assumed a greater degree of knowledge and proficiency than I possess and the second proved to be fine until I misinterpreted one of the bits I had to fill in with my own site info. I had wanted to have it placed on several different pages (because people who visit come in through several 'doors') but with cookies ensuring that any one person only received one questionnaire pop-under per browser session. Unfortunately it seemed that it was configured in such a way that if a visitor went to all 4 pages where the questionnaire was placed he or she would receive 4 pop-unders and so what I ended up doing is only putting it on 2 pages and selecting two where it was (realtively) unlikely that a visitor would go to both in one session.

The real-time stats at tell me that in about 18 hours 37 questionnaires have been displayed (not too bad considering that they are placed on inside pages) but only one has been filled out. It is beginning to appear that my chances of obtaining much useful data out of this are fairly remote.

What I would really like to do is to figure out ways to increase my online sales. I am already selling Glassmasters stained glass panels, Stonemasters statues, cards and prints. All of these items are available to the 29 million folks (yes, 29 million!) who visit Amazon as well as to the 400-600 folks who show up at every day and yet the sales are disappointingly sporadic and currently almost totally non-existant.

I know that sales are happening, both on- and off-line because that is what I am hearing from Glassmasters. This is also logical from an intuitive standpoint - they are beautiful products and make great gift items for a wide range of occasions. There are people whose wives, husbands, girlfriends, sons, daughters, grandmothers, mothers, fathers etc etc are having birthdays throughout the year. Anniversaries are not seasonal, weddings and christenings happen all the time. There is some seasonality with graduations and certain holidays such as Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day and Christmas but my point is that there is the potential for constant demand for these items.

What I need to discover is why folks (or more folks) are not buying my offerings and what I can do to fix it. It could be that this is just an incredibly quiet time of year with huge numbers of people doing outdoors 'summer' stuff and being on vacation but there is still business being done and I would like to understand why at least some of it is not coming my way.

On a totally different tack I heard on the radio that Ridge has been conditioning Americans to expect terrorist attacks as the election draws closer. Whilst I do not have the slightest doubt that there is a concerted effort on the part of Bin Laden and his network to conduct further acts on the scale of 9/11 or even greater and it is possible the the election might have a bearing on their timing I am 110% sure that such an act is far more likely to lead to Bush being re-elected than not.

My reasoning is that if there is an attack on the American people this will result in a closing of ranks and a strengthening of the position of leadership. Bush's popularity was never higher than in the wake of 9/11 and that is no coincidence. If the Bin Laden camp believes that what took place in Madrid and Spain generally could happen in the USA then, in my opinion, they are mistaken. The situation in Spain was very different and the Spanish government was more out on a limb. In addition the clumsy attempt to implicate the Basques was badly misjudged.

It will be interesting to see whether history repeats itself and Bush junior goes the way of Bush senior, losing his second term following a Gulf War. Continued problems with insurgents in Iraq with further loss of American lives there is going to damage Bush far more than a terrorist incident here in the US particularly, as seems to be the case, if the situation in Iraq is a result of actions by widespread conflicting factions and not Al Quaida and terrorist groups. What Bush does not need is for things to happen which lead Americans to question whether the whole thing is worth the effort and worth the sacrifice.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Just heard on Bloomberg Radio that people are now speculating about a slow-down in the economy.

Can't say thay I'm totally surprised, there are an awful lot of negative economic factors which have built up these last few years and which, at some point, have to limit the scale of any recovery. Let's examine a few:

1. There was a whole section of the economy based on the dot-com boom which blossomed in the 90's, declined after the Millenium and has now all-but-died. This is not to say that the internet is not a thriving sub-economy or that there are not growth companies in that space but I personally believe that the days of burgeoning job growth there are behind us.

2. Whole chunks of bricks-and-mortar jobs have evaporated in the last decade. Once upon a time there was an Enron, an Arthur Andersen...and and. These entities employed vast numbers of high-paid workers who travelled, spent money and consumed. They are no more, they have ceased to be....

3. Steadily but surely jobs are being thinned out here in the US and insofar as they re-emerge it is in places such as China, India, Indonesia and the Phillipines. A couple of weeks ago I called my phone company because there was static on the line and the customer service representative I found myself speaking to was in Manilla! It is now not uncommon to have computer programming work done in India and it has long been the case that manufacturing is cheaper and just as efficiently carried out in places like China and Mexico.

4. Things are lasting longer than they used to. As technology advances so does quality and reliability. This is true for cars, computers, peripheral devices and all manner of household and industrial equipment. People get into the habit of changing cars every 3 years or so but many are waking up to the fact that things are simply not wearing out like they used to. The invention and production of new devices and technology as well as the spreading of existing technology to a wider cross-section of the population may mitigate the reduction in obsolescence but there are limits and over the longer term one can surely expect there to be a steady downward trend in jobs in the manufacturing sector in the US. Even if production of new devices offsets the decline in demand for old ones there is likely to be a continuing geographic shift. How many mobile phones are made in America?

5. The organisation of work continues to be made more efficient. SAP, Peoplesoft, Oracle, Inventory Control, LEAN, Six-Sigma and, and, and.....are all making the business of making things, controlling inventories and doing business much more efficient and with much less reliance on manpower. These are not trends which can be measured from day to day but over the course of several years a clear trend will be evident. Much of the time organisations do not immediately adapt to increases in efficiency, quite often they will wait for a downturn so that the action taken in reorganising and eliminating jobs and cost can be shown as being, at least in part, externally driven.

6. People have got used to travelling less. One of the effects of the recession and of 9/11 was to cause people to travel less both for business and pleasure. Organisations devised work-arounds by making greater use of technology to improve communication without the need for physical proximity. This impacted (and continues to impact) the airlines, the hotel industry, the restaurant trade and all manner of other travel-related and service industries. Many are arguing that there is at least 25% excess capacity in the airline industry alone and that until that capacity goes away as a result of the bankruptcy of one or several airlines everyone will continue to struggle and make losses.

7. There has been and continues to be much consolidation in the banking and financial services sector which will ultimately lead to less jobs and, significantly, less high-paid jobs because the higher-paying ones are those most vulnerable to consolidation.

8. The pharmaceutical sector is almost certainly going to undergo very significant changes as pressures on drug prices continue to build up. There has already been much consolidation but the sector will be under increasing pressure to reduce its cost base and this will inevitably impact jobs and the revenues of third party suppliers to the sector.

That is probably enough for now. This whole subject is one which I have long been thinking about. I wish that I was able to quantify some of the above because I believe that the total impact is considerable and to whatever extent the economy recovers I do not see a return to previous highs in terms of growth and employment.

Just my 2 cents......

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

So, what is new since December? Well, earlier this year StainedGlassPhotography became a distributor of the Glassmasters and Stonemasters product lines and I have just added links to both of them.

Glassmasters is a long-established company in Richmond, VA, which manufactures the kind of stained glass panels which you see in gift shops at places like the Met in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian and many other fine institutions in America and around the world. I was already familiar with some of their reproductions of Tiffany and Frank Lloyd Wright works but it was not until I began talking to them and looking through their catalogue that I discovered that they also do representations of impressionist works by the likes of Van Gogh, Degas and Monet as well as contemporary works by Kinkade. They even do reproductions of works by wildlife photographers and painters.

At first the purist in me was a little uncomfortable with representing suncatchers featuring Orchard Cardinals and the Mad Bluebird and his Mate, to say nothing of Kinkade works. I thought that they might be 'cheesy' and lacked the academic credentials of reproductions of works by Tiffany, La Farge and Frank Lloyd Wright or such classics as the rose window in Notre Dame.

What finally laid my fears to rest was a visit to the Glassmasters exhibit at the New York Gift Fair. There I was able to see the entire range and I have to say that any doubts I had harboured about how well some items lent themselves to being recreated as stained glass panels or suncatchers were soon dispelled.

The Hautman family paintings of birds and other wildlife look stunning in terms of the way that the fine drawing and the beautiful colouring has been painstakingly reproduced. Similarly the works of the impressionists and Kinkade have been skillfully recreated as stained glass panels which really come alive when backlit.

All of these panels are made in Richmond which has to make this one of the few lines of gift items not being manufactured in China, SE Asia or Mexico.

In addition to the stained glass panels and suncatchers Glassmasters also make reproduction Tiffany lamps and some other decorative items such as boxes and upscale photo frames. However, I have some doubts about the online marketability of some of these items. It is extremely difficult to convey to someone the look, feel and substance of a Tiffany lamp and I think that people will generally prefer to shop for items like these in a traditional 'bricks and mortar' shop.

I very much like the access which the Glassmasters line has given me to Frank Lloyd Wright's work. Many people do not realise that he was as prolific a producer of stained glass designs as Tiffany and La Farge and all three were contemporaries even though Wright is generally thought of as more 'modern'. Despite this I have not had the opportunity to photograph any of his works and, before Glassmasters came along, all I could offer were some book recommendations and links to other websites.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Well, I tried to discipline myself to post and keep this blog up to date but failed miserably.

It could have lapsed and all evaporated into cyberspace but today I learned that Yahoo is giving prominence to something called RSS and when I did some digging around I found that RSS is basically what blogs are constructed from.

What I think this (therefore) means is that if I begin to update my blog and register it with Yahoo there is a possibility that some Yahoo users might pick it up on their radar screens and pay it a visit or more and from there begin to visit my real website where they might actually buy something or pass it along to a friend or relative who might buy something