Keeping it glassy
Stained glass studio celebrates its 110th anniversary with enthusiasm for the future and a deep respect for its past
St. John's Fairport
In 900 years, the only invention that affected the production of stained glass was that of electricity—materials, techniques, and processes for the craft have all remained the same since the twelfth century. This fall, Pike Stained Glass Studio celebrates its own sizable chunk of that timespan with its 110th anniversary.
Among the most iconic of Pike’s more than 850 works throughout Rochester are the Hermance Family Chapel at St. John Fisher College, the Third Presbyterian Church on East Avenue, and Brighton’s St. Thomas More Church. “Our ratio of original design work and restoration work is approximately fifty-fifty,” says Valerie O’Hara, the company’s current owner. “We enjoy the challenge that each job presents. The work is done completely by hand—one piece at a time.”
Pike Stained Glass Studios’s website features biographies of each of the company’s glass workers and in-depth descriptions of the first, second, and third generations of artists. “In the past, the designers and craftspeople who worked for stained glass studios were not always recognized,” says O’Hara. “But today there’s a lot more interest and scholarship on the subject.” O’Hara is particularly sensitive to the company’s history because of a studio fire in 1938 that resulted in the loss of several records. “So, the historic evidence that we do have became more precious to us,” she says.
When O’Hara’s great uncle William Pike founded his company in 1908, “It was an age of innovation and growing wealth in this country,” O’Hara says. “There were hundreds of stained glass studios in America, and the medium was incorporated into secular buildings as well as religious ones. And as buildings became more ornate, so did the window designs.” With the onset of the Great Depression and the World Wars, however, the artistic world stagnated. “In the mid-twentieth century, there was a lack of work,” says O’Hara. “But after World War II there was an opportunity for more innovation.” A 1970s renaissance boosted the world of stained glass, an ongoing celebration of religion-meets-secularism that shows no signs of stopping. “In the past, only one style of art was accepted at a time,” says O’Hara. “Unlike today, when we’re able to enjoy all of the available historic style simultaneously.” PikeStainedGlassStudios.com
John Ernst is a passionate writer, hiker, and gamer born and raised in Rochester. He is currently developing his website, johnmwrites.com.