Take four brothers, a creativity for turning glass into art, and a desire to make pieces of glass meld together into windows the size of a basketball court, and you have The Judson Studios. My girlfriends and I headed to Pasadena, California for a personal tour of The Judson Studios, where they design and manufacture hand crafted stained, leaded and architectural glass artworks for businesses, residences and houses of worship. The Judson family business has been thriving since 1897, when William Lees Judson opened the doors with his three sons.
I learned that a leaded glass window needs to have the lead replaced every 60-80 years, so Judson is busy with restorations as well as commissioned works. In the early days of their shop, they used faceted glass with epoxy instead of lead, which was much more time consuming. Here’s a sample:
Today’s designs are hand-drawn using a stylus and a computer screen maintaining the hand crafted nature of the work. The full scale drawings are then printed from these computer drawings. All of this is unlike prior traditionally produced designs which were drawn, colored, and enlarged to scale on full size paper.
Their current commission is a window for a place of worship in Kansas. The finished glass window will be the size of a basketball court!!!! Here’s the smaller printed version:
The craftsmanship that I found most fascinating was the painting room, where faces, hands, and other details are painted directly onto the glass. The paint compound is vitreous and is made up of pieces of ground glass, typically in black or brown. The employees of Judson often pose as the artists design the “people” in the windows. Our guide, Reed Bradley, modeled as Jesus for many of the window designs.
At Judson, their favorite glass manufacturers are Lambert’s glass from Germany and Kokomo glass from the USA. They have some remaining fragments left of the precious Hartley Wood glass, which is discontinued, and they use these as accent pieces in their commissioned works. For example, they would use Hartley Wood glass in the body of a small bird, or in a shining star in the sky.