A Window into the Work of an Artist

So a few weeks ago I got the chance to interview a lady who makes stained-glass windows. Seriously, how cool is that?

The piece I wrote was never published elsewhere, and since it’s that kind of day where I spilled coffee on my skirt and got hit in the face twice before 10:30 a.m., what better time to post already-written content. Enjoy!

 

Photo/Pixabay, not designed by Sylvia Nichols

Photo/Pixabay, not designed by Sylvia Nicolas, but still pretty.

 

Stained glass is in Sylvia Nicolas’ blood.

Slight and soft-spoken, Nicolas is the fourth generation of artists in her family to specialize in stained-glass windows. On family road trips across Europe, Nicolas, who is originally from the Netherlands, said that her parents would stop in every church they passed to admire the artwork.

Nicolas spoke at St. John’s University last Wednesday about her experience designing and painting the stained-glass windows in St. Thomas More Church. The event was hosted by Campus Ministry and was planned in conjunction with the 20th annual Founder’s Week celebration and the 10th anniversary of the dedication of St. Thomas More Church.

Father James Martin speaking at St. Thomas More last year. You can see some of Nichols' work in the background.

Father James Martin speaking at St. Thomas More last year. You can see some of Nicolas’ work in the background.

 

Nicolas was first approached by St. John’s about four years before the church was built, but when she discovered that there was a competition for the design of the windows she lost interest.

“I never do competitions, because I like my colleagues much too much,” she said.

However, she had an outline on her desk of the shape of one of the windows, and she began doodling on it. Eventually, the entire outline was full, and she began to color it in.

“Finally I’d drawn the whole thing,” Nicolas said.

When she began to officially design the windows, she estimates that she spent about a year and a half working on the project, which began with the four large windows at the top of the sanctuary, which depict the four gospels, and expanded to add 15 additional windows that now ring the edge of the circular space. 

Nicolas first draws and colors a detailed design for each window. She then plans how the window will look at scale, accounting for the bars of lead that must run through the glass at intervals to add stability. If a face or another important feature falls along one of these lines, she explained, the drawing must be altered.

 When the design is finished, a full-size cartoon is created and used as a pattern for cutting the glass pieces, which are then painted. The window is assembled and fired by a studio that Nicolas works with in Mount Vernon, New York, and the glass is covered in a layer of black matte. Nicolas scrapes away the black matte to reveal the designs underneath, and uses it to create depth and shadow in her work.

“Once I start working I work very intensely and very hard,” Nicolas said. “With painting on the glass, I get so carried away it’s hard to stop. Every time things come alive.”

 Nicolas, who resides in Mount Vernon, New Hampshire, spoke to a crowd of about 250 students and others inside the church. She gave a short description of her work, which was followed by a question and answer session and a light reception.

“Seeing them again is a great pleasure,” Nicolas said. “This is wonderful.”

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How cool is that?! I love churches and looking at the windows, and I had no idea just how much went into designing one.

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#WCD2014

The World Communications Day Conference took place on Thursday in NYC, and fortuitously, I a) found out about it, b) was close to the city still, and c) it was Dad’s day off so he could come with me! Bonus!

I think the gist of the conference is best summed up in the Storify I made, below: 

For me, the main takeaways were: 
  • New technology is changing communication itself
  • Church presence in the digital world is absolutely necessary
  • There is no more passive consumption of media
  • Expression is no longer text-dependent

But the biggest thing that I realized was, religious journalism is a thing. I’ve always thought how cool it would be, but never really thought it was a niche big enough to get a job in. This is definitely a field I’ll be exploring further. 

Dad and I step-and-repeating!

Dad and I step-and-repeating!

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One Year With Papa Francesco

One year ago on a rainy night in Rome, Jorge  Mario Bergoglio was elected to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics as pope on the fifth ballot of the conclave.

In his first address to the crowds outside St. Peter’s Basilica, Bergoglio, who took the name Francis, asked Christians around the world to pray with him for his reign as pontiff and for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He then led the 100,000 observers packed into the square in reciting the Our Father, Glory Be and Hail Mary.

This humble tone has continued through the whirlwind first year of his papacy. In fact, the motto Francis chose is “miserando atque eligendo”: lowly, yet chosen, according to the Vatican website.

(Read more at the Torch)

I cannot believe that it’s been a whole year since my overly excited #popefangirl self stood outside for nine hours in the rain hoping that the cardinals would elect a pontiff.

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I prepared extensively and learned so much about the ways of the Church in the days leading up to the conclave.

I stood through the first ballot, and sighed when black smoke poured out of that tiny chimney. 

I gasped and cheered when the next smoke was white (and ahead of schedule!) and grabbed my friends by the hand and ran to the center of the square, underneath the loggia, to await the revelation of the newest successor of Peter. Reading my first post after the conclave almost made me cry today, people.

I was so excited about Francis from the start, and he has not disappointed me.

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It is sadly midterms week (coming off a week of service during which I didn’t have a computer and hardly any internet), so I don’t have too much time to be posting. 

I do have a new theme, which I’m really excited about, but I need the time to customize it (and make the text not so gray). 

Coming up I hope to write about more Pope things/the feast of St. Joseph, my week in Denver with the Vincentians, Lent, and how to navigate the stations of the cross in Rome. 

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Top Five Faith Favorites #alliteration

It’s Sunday, so that makes this appropriate!

Here’s what I’m digging about theology this week:

The divine praises (adoration is like the best, y’all):

(This video is pretty long. The Divine Praises start about 3:39. While you’re watching the first part, here’s some non-Catholic thoughts:

  • Tantum Ergo Sacramentum (the first part) is worth a listen. At SJU we sing it in Latin, which I am a huge fan of. 
  • I have always loved the old wisdom and beauty of the catholic church; isn’t it just a little bit cool to think you’re singing the words that have been chanted since at least St. Thomas Aquinas?
  • Why does the priest have to wear a scarf to hold the monstrance? I have actually asked priests this and I still do not understand.)

That there’s a feast called the Chair of Peter.

Excerpt of an email from Franciscan Media (click for link)

Excerpt of an email from Franciscan Media (click for link)

You know your organization has been around for a long time when you start celebrating the furniture.

This Buzzfeed quiz on which apostle you are.

The basilica of St. Francis (Assisi, Italy)

The basilica of St. Francis (Assisi, Italy)

That moment when you are about to take a practice GRE so you quickly look up the patron saint of exams (Joseph of Cuptertino, for all you college kids out there).

St. Thomas More Church

St. Thomas More Church

The opportunity to worship with my community multiple times each day is (to my surprise) one of my favorite things about SJU!

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St. John Lateran

Today Allie and I set off on an adventure, during which we ended up visiting the basilica of St. John Lateran (below in all its unedited photo glory), which is near the Colosseum.

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Apparently this is the actual technical parish of the Pope.

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Posin’

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“She got bedazzled!”

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I have a feeling that this painting is famous.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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This was so beautiful in the sunlight.

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The chair of the archbishop (in this case the Pope).

 

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I’m not positive who this is but it was very glowy.

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And on the way out, I got a picture of the ever-different, ever-lovely Roman sky.

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