Blog & Projects

Interview with David Lilly: Founder of Simply Stained Glass

April 2012

David Lilly is a renowned restorer, designer and manufacturer of stained glass, and the founder of Simply Stained Glass www.simply-stained.co.uk. He is an expert in the care and restoration of both historic and modern stained glass, and in this interview provides some invaluable tips regarding conservation and maintenance, as well as discussing a few of his interesting projects. 

 

 

 

VCH:

Sometimes stained glass terminology can be a little confusing. Would you mind explaining the difference between 'coloured glass' and 'stained glass'?

DL:

"Generally stained glass can refer to any glass that has been coloured, is clear, or has even been painted on the surface. But more specifically as a material, stained glass that has been coloured is done with the introduction of metallic salts during its manufacture. The coloured glass is then crafted into stained glass windows in which small pieces are arranged to form patterns or pictures.  These are then traditionally held together by lead cames which are soldered at the joints, then the glass is cemented to the cames. Additionally the term 'stained glass' can also be applied to windows in which the colours have been painted onto the glass and then 'fused' to the glass in a kiln, such as details painted by hand or silver stained as a part of the design."

 

VCH:

Naturally you deal with antique glass but do you often care for contemporary glass?

DL:

"Yes, I do. On many occasions I have worked with glass from the furniture department of Liberty's in London. In those instances I have had the pleasure of restoring very fine and beautiful Arts & Crafts stained glass windows and panels."

VCH:

For anyone who may have an antique stained glass window in their home that needs a basic clean, what recommendations can you make?

DL:

"In terms of care, of course one must be careful to avoid damaging the window by using harsh chemicals. To maintain clear stained glass windows, you should just dust them occasionally with a soft dry cloth. If previous attempts at dusting the glass surface do not achieve the desired result, and there appears that there is still residue left behind, you'll want to put water on the cloth (distilled water, to avoid streaks or spots) and maybe employ the use of a stiff brush. One must bear in mind however that excessive brushing of a painted glass surface can be harmful.  There are instances where the use a copper wire brush can be used to clean self-coloured glass where the surface is smooth and has not been hand painted. Copper will not actually scratch the glass. Again, this must be done with the understanding that the surface of the glass has not been hand painted as of course this action may destroy the surface. If you're working with severely soiled glass I always recommend seeking out the help of a professional. Also if the window is bowing or rattles when tapped, seek the advice of an expert"

  

VCH:

In addition to a window starting to bow, or glass rattling if it is tapped, what other things can one look for to determine when a stained glass window needs of repair or restoration?

DL:

"Another important thing to be aware of is the lead which holds the glass pieces together. After about 70 years the lead cement begins to degrade and can actually start falling out. At this point the window can start to become unstable and even begin to sag or buckle and therefore I would recommend immediate attention in terms of restoration."

 

VCH:

Throughout your career you must have been asked to care for some beautiful pieces of stained glass, can you tell us about one of your favorites?

DL:

"I remember working on nine stained glass panels from an oriel window in a Victorian house at a College in Oxford. The house itself was undergoing a full and complete restoration. I was brought into to work on all the stained glass that needed attention. During the restoration of these panels I remember the onsite building contractors were quite observant and complimentary of my work and were fascinated themselves at what was involved in projects such as these. Subsequently I did a full photographic documentation of that project from beginning to end and as a result I was put forward for a mention in the RIBA Year Book as an Example of Excellence. As you can imagine I am quite proud about that!"