***Below, you will find a sweet article about my mother and the work she's doing for the historical library in the little town where I grew up***
She wrote the book on stained glass
Local artist creating window for Springs library
By Ian Neligh
It will take nine months of hard work, 230 pieces of hand-cut glass, 150 feet of foil and 8 feet of zinc to create the crown jewel of the Idaho Springs library’s reception area.
Local artisan Caroline K. Jensen is nearly halfway finished building a several-foot-long stained-glass window that will be part of the library’s $1.2 million restoration project, which should be completed in May.
“It’s a beautiful piece of work for our circulation desk,” library district director Sue Lathrop said of the preliminary drawing.
Lathrop said Jensen essentially is donating most of the work, and the library is contributing a “pittance” for materials and supplies.
“We wanted a really nice circulation desk that said something about Idaho Springs, so we decided to look for a local artist to do it, and Caroline was the natural choice,” Lathrop said.
For the last 25 years, Jensen has operated the Majestic Art Gallery in Idaho Springs and has volunteered her time to building stained-glass windows at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church and Zion Lutheran Church in Idaho Springs.
|Photo by Gabriel Christus|
When working with glass, Jensen is something between a painter and a sculptor as she assembles images painted in light.
While doing research for how the window will look, Jensen studied the architecture of the library and its interior design. She describes it as a “prairie/mission, Frank Lloyd Wright style.”
She said the stained glass would reflect those aspects — essentially showing a straight-lined, direct design with green ponderosa pines, yellow aspen and columbines.
“This is us,” she said. “Our aspen trees, our ponderosa, the columbine.”
Jensen said that while many will not necessarily understand the amount of research that went into the window’s design, she hopes people looking at her work simply will see something they like. Then, if they look closer, they will make the connection between the plants and trees in the stained glass and the plants and trees they see locally.
Jensen likens making stained glass to writing a story. It’s not the many rough drafts and research that the people will read, but the final product.
In the office on the top floor of her house sealed off from her cat, Jensen checks the light that streams in from windows, allowing her to check both the light coming through the project and its reflective qualities.
“I do it so that not only does it look good when the light comes through it but … when you’re inside, and it is dark at night, it still looks good,” Jensen said.
Jensen, a former high school art teacher, said she’s so busy with commissions and projects that she never really had the time to bring a piece of stained glass to sell at her gallery.
While much of her work is voluntary, she has charged for work, and typically a simple design will cost $175 per square foot and a complicated pattern $250 per square foot.
“I don’t think I’ve ever made more than $5 an hour doing it, because I love it,” Jensen said. “If I had to rely on actually making a living just doing stained glass, I would have died of starvation about 50 years ago.”
She originally became interested in working with stained glass in high school while taking a French class.
“When you take French, you learn about gothic cathedrals, and you can’t talk gothic cathedrals without glass, and that just intrigued me,” Jensen said.
One of the things Jensen finds intriguing about working with stained glass is that her art could potentially last many hundreds of years, especially in a public building.
Like many artists, Jensen signs her work, but her artist’s mark is notoriously difficult to find.
Jensen said that, when repairing ancient stained-glass windows in Europe, artisans often find inside the lead connecting the glass little rolls of paper bearing the name of the maker. While her signature isn’t that obscure, she said that the art itself, especially in churches, is more important than the artist.
“I think I have developed a style that will be recognizable too … because I really do make them not only look good with reflected light — but when it is (with) the transmitted light,” Jensen said.
***My thanks to Ian Neligh of the Clear Creek Courant for allowing me to re-post this article!***