2005, I was contacted by an architect from the U.S. Air Force. He had
come across this web site while searching for an
artist or studio to design and fabricate a large stained glass installation for a new chapel being built at Buckley Air Force Base just east
of Denver in Aurora, Colorado. It seemed that whatever "looking around" the Air Force intended to do had already been done when
they contacted me, because I met with them later that day and was told that I had the commission at the end of that meeting.
The only artistic direction I was given was  that the windows could have no religious icons as the chapel would have to be suitable
for use by all religions, and  that the incorporation of military icons was also not suitable. Ten days later, I submitted twelve designs.
The one chosen was the only design that was not totally abstract. Not only was it the only scenic design, I had decided to ignore the
constraint concerning military icons and include a symbolic rendition of jets flying in formation. They loved the design and felt that the
jets were abstract enough to be included. They also opted for the addition of a satellite, which I wasn't too sure of, so I convinced them
to make it quite small. You can see the design below. People with smaller pc monitors may have to scroll sideways to see the whole design.
the rectangular panels were seven feet high, making the whole
artwork more than 20 feet high at the tallest point.
Half of of the 44 panels would face south and half would face west, with the pulpit located in the corner of the building, centered between
the stained glass. Just below is the architect's rendering of the building, into which they have incorporated the design of the south-facing
stained glass windows.
long delay to work
out the final measurements of the windows, the
construction of the 44 stained glass panels took about 10 weeks.
I could have employed workers to help with the fabrication of the panels, but once I got started, I determined that I could make the panels
myself if I put in a lot of overtime. I averaged about 14 hours a day - six to seven days a week - for the 10 weeks it took to make the panels.
It was a great deal of work, but I was able to keep to my self-imposed schedule and finish the fabrication of the panels by the beginning of
December. The hardest part resulted from my decision to use very wide lead and zinc cames. I did this because when I see large stained
glass artworks, I often feel that the leadlines are too thin for the scope of the artwork. For this project, I decided to make all of the straight
lines in one inch and 1/2 inch zinc and all of the curved lines in one inch lead. This required developing new techniques for cutting and
shaping these large cames as I had never worked with any cames of this size (the 1" lead came had to be made specifically for this
project). In the end, I knew that the extra effort was worthwhile, as the final look was just what I wanted to achieve.
The installation took a lot of pre-planning, particularly because the bottom of the artwork was over 16 feet off the sanctuary floor. I hired two
people to help with the installation and we were able to use a lift, which allowed us to raise the seven-foot panels as much as
35 feet into the air in order to install them. The installation was completed on December 22nd, one day before my contract with the Air Force
stated that I had to be done.
The building dedication occurred in mid-February of 2006, and the Chapel Center has been open since then. The Air Force was extremely
pleased with the final result, and I have, since then, completed another (much smaller) commission at another Air Force Base.
Here are the final pictures of the stained glass. The photos are a bit skewed because I'm shooting the photos from so far below the artwork.
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always a special
thrill to be able to work on large projects. They afford the
opportunity to stretch myself as an artist and to show what
I am truly capable of. This project for the Air Force is the largest that I have done to date. Completing it and showing it here has led to other
large-scale commissions, and I hope it will lead to others yet to come. Because I usually work alone, some large-scale opportunities do not
come my way. Therefore, I wish to express my gratitude and appreciation for the trust that the Air Force placed in me when they granted me
the opportunity to do this wonderful stained glass commission. I hope that it is also a testament of my capabilities to others who may be
considering me for large-scale stained glass projects.
Update: The chapel received the Air force Top Design Award for 2006. Below is a photo of the exterior of the west wall at night.
Go directly to another Religious Stained Glass.
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