Traditional Stained-Glass Techniques Get New Life In This Collab

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a stained glass panel next to a stone sculpture

A stunning stained-glass work from Jeff Davis’ collection for Ateliers Loire.

While the ancient art of stained-glass windows has brightened our lives for a thousand years, its ethereal quality continues to captivate us today. Visitors still stand awestruck beneath the windows at Sainte- Chapelle in Paris, and a cornerstone of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s centennial celebration of the American Wing this fall will be a new Tiffany Studios stained-glass acquisition. But when it comes to the future, can stained-glass studios focused on historical practices pivot to support contemporary artists interested in exploring the medium’s capabilities?

For one studio in France, the answer is yes. When an important stained-glass restoration is undertaken in Europe—including the ongoing Notre-Dame de Paris—it is often the masters at family-run Ateliers Loire, located in Chartres, France, who are brought on to advise. Though the storied workroom remains committed to traditional techniques, it also has an eye on the future. “We want to appeal to emerging artistic trends so that we can be innovators in the field of glass, both technically and artistically,” explains Bruno Loire, grandson of the studio’s founder. But being asked to realize digital artworks was a first.

multi-colored stained glass

blue stained glass

stained glass illustrations

stained glass panel reflecting its pattern

In 2022, Ismail Tazi, co-founder of Trame Paris, a gallery focused on limited-edition pieces based on digital art, approached American generative artist Jeff Davis about a collaboration for a new series called, “Craft Nouveau.” His idea was to turn digital works into physical pieces by pairing up artists and artisans. “People don’t think technology and craft go together, but they always have,” Tazi explains. And he suspected Davis’s work, created by computer-generated algorithms, could translate into tangible stained-glass pieces made by Ateliers Loire.

After learning how stained-glass panels are constructed during an overseas visit, Davis developed algorithms that would determine the colorful grid patterns of a 13-paneled piece. He titled the collection “Optimism,” inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s writings about “optimistic tones” of color and the uplifting feeling evoked from the cast light. “These are the first stained glass windows designed entirely by a computer but produced with a technique that dates to the Middle Ages,” says Loire. It’s a collaboration that’s not just giving digital art a foothold in the design world but safeguarding skilled handwork. “Through projects like this,” adds Tazi,“technology can help preserve our global common heritage.”

PHOTOS: COURTESY TRAME