Monday, March 01, 2004

March 2004 - Stained Glass

How often do you re-lead your stained glass windows?

In our Blue Room is a bay window whose inner panes are decorated with brilliant red and pale gold stained glass. Several small missing panes would again let in drafts in the approaching cold winter of the Southern Bohemian Highlands. A tower's deer's head windows also needed repairing.

A Prague friend faxed us information on a firm at Novy Bor in Northern Bohemia.Bonnie, a friend visiting from New Hampshire, would make the journey with me.

First, I asked a worker to lay all the windows in my car, wrapping them carefully in blankets.
"You must stand them upright, or they will totally smash."
"There's not enough room."
" Wrap them thickly, and wedge with the styrofoam pieces."
"Can't be done." With a few more comments, he walked away.
So, Bonnie and I did it.

We set off: north to Prague, on to Melnik, and further north through hidden river gorges to Novy Bor. The town is replete with glass factories, firms, stores. Finally we parked near a store which had the correct name, and sold some stained glass windows amongst other glass objects, but the saleswoman sent us around the corner, to the main yard. Upstairs in an office we consulted with a somewhat doubtful manager (whom I had, however, telephoned). He did consent to call the head artisan, whom I will term Pan Sklo.

Downstairs we went again and across the yard to unwrap our treasure. Only a few of the cracked panes had jostled out. Pan Sklo watched with interest and assisted us. "Yes. Yes, we can do this work. But the repaired windows must remain upright."
"A truck will come," I said.
"We shall re-lead them all," stated Pan Sklo.
"Re-lead all!?!," I exclaimed. "No. Just needed repair......these pieces of broken glass......and the lead is gone there......."
Pan Sklo was firm. "Lead glass windows sag. Old lead ceases to bond to the glass. Don't you know stained glass windows must be re-leaded every One Hundred Years?"
No. No, I did not know. This fact was not part of my store of knowledge. Now I know. Every One Hundred Years: Re-lead your stained glass windows.

Pan Sklo showed us around the workrooms. We gazed at pretty things, imaginative, exquisite, striking, very modern, antique, small, large. Designers drew in one room. Special single-piece orders were in another. A third room had Obecansky Dum windows laid out, dismantled, arranged on paper patterns for re-leading. When a young apprentice spoke with us in English, we told him he would one day be as skilled as Pan Sklo.

Later we heard they'd done the beautiful blue and green windows for the mosque in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Twice. Pan Sklo said they'd told him a fork-lift had crunched the first windows. He was appalled. [Actually they had been purposely crushed - someone thought Americans were building a church!]

Leaving our windows in this fascinating firm, we returned to Novy Bor's main square for lunch and shopping. We looked at unusual art glass. I bought painted glass Christmas ornaments for gifts and China trays for guests' toiletries. Bonnie found a bowl to take to America: a globe shape with the top sliced off, slightly engraved.

When we had returned to the Bohemian Highlands we informed my husband that the windows would be finished in two weeks, but that they must be re-leaded every One Hundred Years.
"My grandfather didn't think to tell me", he said, and turned to our son: "Write it in your will. 'Re-lead stained glass every One Hundred Years'".