Cummins Stehn Useful Information

The Need for Restoration Skill and Resources

Gerry and Jilly's dedication to enhancing their conservation and restoration skill and knowledge was recognised with the award of the Churchill Fellowship in 2002. This enabled them to travel to leading restoration studios overseas to study the world’s best practices and procedures.

Their restorations use the best available materials, practices and procedures which conform to the principles, standards and guidelines set out in the Australian ICOMOS Burra Charter, the SGAA (Stained Glass Association of America), BSMGP (British Society of Master Glass Painters) and CVMA (Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi).

Gerry’s wide knowledge of historic and contemporary stained glass painting, staining, enamelling and manufacturing techniques is central to their restoration practices, whether it be used in the “perfect” repainting of one lost or shattered piece of historical glass, or determining the safest and best possible conservation grade cleaning techniques to use on a large stained glass heritage window.

They are deeply committed to preserving the fidelity and longevity of Australia’s outstanding stained glass heritage.

The Need for Restoration

Many Australian windows are now of an age where releading and restoration is needed, and Gerry and Jill have a long and exemplary record in stained glass restoration. Windows need to be restored for the obvious reasons – damage from storms, cyclones, fires and vandalism.

They also need to be restored because windows do wear out. It often comes as a surprise to custodians that windows that have “just been there” for a century or more “and never been touched” now need restoration. An even bigger surprise to some custodians is that works that can now be urgent could have been deferred if routine maintenance had been employed.

While the glass itself may last for millennia and the glass paints may last for centuries, the leads, solders and putties which structurally support the windows usually break down somewhere between 50 to 150 years, depending on the glass cutting skills of the original studio, the quality of the alloys in the leads, and the method of installation.

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Skill and Resources

Gerry’s outstanding painting skills have been honed over many decades, with much of his studio time spent experimenting and perfecting painting techniques to match that of past masters.

His vast knowledge of the work of individual glass painters in churches and other historic buildings in Australia is invaluable in several ways. In stained glass, painted windows are not always signed. Artists and even studios may not even be identified in building records. Therefore, Gerry’s contribution to the pool of knowledge about who painted what, where and when is invaluable, as is his and Jill’s documentation of the work of significant artists who worked in Australia’s stained glass industry in the past.

They can use their extensive collection of comprehensive photographic records of other painted pieces by the same artist or studio when confronted with a badly damaged or lost area of painting, and use this information to closely match the original work.

Church records and the resources of Australian stained glass archivists and historians can be invaluable. Their international connections are useful when identifying artists, studios and techniques in work that was brought here from overseas.

Gerry and Jill’s restoration work is now seen in many significant historical buildings all over Australia. They have been consulted to provide guidelines for conservation condition reports when work is about to be done on Australian windows of note and have matched painted work from many of the stained glass studios that have operated in Australia as well as some from Europe.

Gerry and Jill are often consulted by custodians because of their expertise in stained glass restoration in Australia.

Restoration requires an extensive range of skills that are not necessary when making new stained glass or leadlight windows. Windows age differently and account needs to be taken of each panel’s particular problems. Some diverse causes of damage to stained glass are the panel’s age, situation, weather and wind loads, vandalism, quality of original workmanship, previous unskilled restoration or cleaning, and movement or deterioration in the building, frame or reinforcing bars. Their experience as restorers takes account of the many and varied factors that have affected the panel, and they then implement a solution that will return the panel to its site in the best possible condition.

In the course of their work, Gerry and Jill have come across many examples of stained glass “restoration” where irreversible permanent damage has been done to windows. This is often due to the lack of knowledge of present day workers in the stained glass restoration industry who, trained as leadlighters, do not understand the chemistry and artistry that constitute the difference between leadlighting and stained glass. Unfortunately, because of the specialised nature of this work, custodians and even some influential advisors of heritage glass do not always realise that the valuable and irreplaceable window in their care is being or has been damaged or even destroyed until it is too late, and now ruined.

Custodians need to be sure that they are using a restorer whose overall understanding of stained glass ensures that they will select the best way to ensure the fidelity and longevity of their stained glass heritage.

As with new work, a suitable frame must be in place to hold the panel securely in the building. In a stone building, the stonemasons will have made a groove in the stone to install the panels in. Frames of timber, steel or aluminium may also be used, but they must be made to safely hold the weight and size of the leadlight panel, which will be substantially heavier and slightly thicker than one pane of glass.

If the panel is likely to be affected by weather or vandalism, it may be necessary to consider some sort of protection on the outside of the panels. Gerry and Jill have a vast knowledge of different glazing requirements and will advise their clients which protection is most suitable for their windows.

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