On a gray, overcast day in early February, the Burns Library Instruction Team hosted Prof. Jane Cassidy’s intermediate Digital Art: Print Based Media class for an active learning session centered on stained glass design and fabrication. A major class assignment of the semester was to create two images, incorporating design principles used in stained glass. The designs were to be printed onto clear plastic that then could be placed over the window panes two give the illusion of real stained glass. Students had the freedom to explore their own themes and content.
Students began by looking at the stained glass windows in the Francis Thompson room and telling us what design elements they noticed: color, light, shadow, shapes, lines, composition, text, pattern, and/or figures. We then moved into deeper questions: what is depicted, why it is important enough to be included, and for what audience was this designed and created? After some initial confusion stemming from their preconceived notions of stained glass window topics, we had to break it to the students that these windows weren’t religiously themed. Indeed, they were secular images from what was considered literary canon at the time the windows were installed: The Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Divine Comedy, Parsifal, the Song of Roland, El Cid, Irish epics, Beowulf, and the legend of the Holy Grail.
Students then looked at multiple stained glass examples and images from books about stained glass from the Burns and Bapst collections, comparing and contrasting them to the epic poetry windows.
We next asked the students to consider how stained glass is like other formats they might be more familiar with, like painting and sculpture, before providing an overview of stained glass creation techniques. Our goal was to convey that not only could colors not touch (lead lines and frames need to be present), but how and when detail could be added to the glass, and how 2D and 3D spaces would be used when constructing a panel.
After printing photographs of the window panes and cutting them apart, we challenged the students to reconstruct the panels with just the separate “glass” pieces. Once they completed the task (astonishingly quickly!), we sent them into Gargan Hall to review the multitude of stained glass options, select a panel, describe it, and do a quick design analysis. After this foundation in stained glass design, and a quick trip to the Bapst stacks to look at more books on stained glass, they were ready to go and create their own.
Prof. Cassidy was going to install the class’s designs in the staircase windows on the fourth floor of Devlin Hall to add some temporary visual flair, but the suspension of in-person classes and transition to online/remote instruction as a response to COVID-19 meant coming up with an alternative option. We especially regret that the seniors didn’t get to see their work displayed on campus, so therefore we present to you, stained glass panels designed by Boston College students.
If any BC faculty members are interested in using special collections materials for online teaching this semester or for planning future courses (in classroom or online), please contact me for discussions about what we can do. We’re willing to be creative!
- Katherine Fox, Head of Public Services and User Engagement
For more information about the stained glass in the Bapst Library / Burns Library Building: