In any artistic endeavor, whether it be music, painting or stained glass, there is the “art” of the medium, but also the “craft” of the creation. In its history, stained glass has been elevated to the realm of fine art. It makes sense, too, because the craft was — and still is — used in the decor of churches. There are windows that date back to 675 AD that are still in existence, so durability is obvious with stained glass, as well. 

In a thousand-year history, stained glass windows, or what has been called ‘illuminated wall decorations,’ probably started to create a narrative about the religion in which the window was located, whether it be a church, mosque or temple. The glass adds beauty without clutter, and also gives a message or narrative about the structure in which the glass is placed.  In modern times, what is commonly known as ‘art glass,’ the craft has expanded to many items like lamps and sculptures. 

Glass FX, located on 103 E. Clark in Champaign, mixes both modern and traditional techniques, and has been a staple in the area since 1972. Owned by Richard Taylor, the Glass FX team creates custom stained glass for clients’ homes, businesses and churches. They also create etched glass renderings with a technique called sandblasting, including shower doors, windows, donor and recognition walls, awards, trophies and custom glassware. They repair stained glass, glass lampshades, and antique glass. 

They have a small staff, but they do big work. One of those staffers is Marilyn Pollard, who has been with Glass FX for 32 years. Taylor said she is the consummate professional and has an eye for excellence. 

Pollard pointed to a rendering that was made from repurposed wine bottles.

“Rich has repurposed glass and created many unique art items,” Pollard said from the studio. 

Taylor has a passion for restoring and repurposing glass. 

“I cut the bottles and flattened them in a kiln to give this look (photo on previous page),” Taylor said. 

They have other very unique art items for sale at the studio. One glass and metal assembly uses repurposed antique chalkboard glass, chipped chalkboard glass, vitrolite, chipped vitrolite and stainless steel. Vitrolite is the shiny and pigmented structural glass that was created in the early 1900s and used in art deco and modern furnishings. 

“Marilyn is truly an artist. She does a great deal of original work for private residences and chapels, among other creations,” Taylor said. 

Taylor takes care of the restoration end — for the most part, and Pollard concentrates on private residences and chapels. She has completed work for Carle Arbors, the Carle Chapel and The Mills Beast Cancer Meditation Room.  

“I really enjoy the chapels. Mills wanted a theme of gardening and flowers. They also wanted some birds in the design. I put into the overall design some textured glass to help with privacy,” she said. 

She also enjoys private residences. She likes to visit the customers and get a feel for their style and taste. 

“Rich takes the measurements, and I look at their decor. I then draw up a sketch, using the colors they desire, and then, with approval, I begin the work,” Pollard said. 

She uses the lead came technique. 

“I stretch the lead, put it around the glass and then solder where the pieces meet. It’s quicker and less expensive,” she said. 

To find out more about Glass FX, call them at 217-329-0048 or visit their website at glassfx.com.