Portfolio Update: Recreating a Beloved Stained Glass Window for Sam Houston State University

Here at Houston Stained Glass, we are part of our parent company Scottish Stained Glass. This means we get to be a part of some pretty outstanding restorations and repairs. Recently though we did a recreation. This project was a little bit different than what we usually do but incredibly special. It was a stained glass window recreation at Sam Houston State University.

Replicating Sam Houston State’s Historic Stained Glass Windows

Texas is full of schools, one of the oldest of which is Sam Houston State University which was founded in 1879. Back in its day, the campus was something to behold. It was made up primarily of lovely arched brick buildings, one of which had an amazing stunning stained glass window. This window was a point of pride for the school but had been destroyed by a fire in 1982. SHSU decided they wanted us to recreate the original masterpiece to commemorate their school motto “The measure of a Life is its Service”. The issue was, there was only one color picture of the window. So, we would have to work from a yearbook photo from 1964! Being one of the most prolific and talented stained glass studios in the country–we were up for the challenge! and we are so glad they did. We took the restoration journey with them as we navigated some of the challenges recreating a stained glass window presents.

Modern Technology for Restoring Stained Glass

As mentioned the stained glass window at Sam Houston State University no longer existed. This presented a major challenge in design and in keeping the window true to its authentic roots. We realized quickly this charge would require innovative solutions so we turned to modern technology to start the process. We use a combo of old and new techniques all the time when restoring stained glass windows–so this was nothing new. The first thing we did was scan the original picture into the computer then print it out full size. This allowed us to carefully trace the lines of the original. Once our drawing was perfect we put it back into our CAD program to make it twice as big since the school requested we double the size of the window. This process, while time-consuming, gave us a template that was an exact replica of the original work of art to work from. In other words, time and technology, paid off in accuracy!

Restoring Sam Houston State University’s Lost Stained Glass

Finding materials used more than a century ago is difficult if not impossible. We knew this would be a challenge from the start. Color formulation with stained glass has changed drastically over the years. So rather than attempt to find the same color formulas and materials we used a top conservation specialist to find colors that were as close to the originals as possible. And, the colors were pretty darn close. However, that was not quite enough. We are one of the country’s top stained glass painting studios and we knew our artists could paint over the “close enough” hue to make them an exact match, and they did!

The Results of the Recreated Commemorative Stained Glass Window

All in all the work on the commemorative stained glass window of SHSU took us about a full year. Long restorations are common when dealing with very large detailed stained glass artwork restorations. Since this stained glass masterpiece had a lot of shadows, clothing, and faces the painting required extensive layering to get the depth needed–ten layers in some places! Also, this window ended up with a staggering 3,000- 4,000 individual pieces of glass. But we are happy to pronounce that this window is a replica down to the last detail. The university could not be happier with the aesthetics of this new school icon! In fact, it has once again become the pride and joy of campus. The entire university–from staff to students–is just delighted by this beautiful stained glass replica. And, you know what? The Scottish Stained Glass family is too! Because we love paying respect to vintage stained glass by preserving it, in one way or another, for generations yet to come.

If you have a stained glass restoration or rebuild project we would love to speak to you about it too! Contact us at Houston Stained Glass today for a free consultation.