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Report 1988: Yes, Zig Has Written About our Bavaria Trip!

By Zig and Georgia from Kentucky, Spring 2010

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Page 27 of 30: Friday June 4 - Munich: Mayer and Son’s Atelier

Blue sky. Beautiful day for a trip to Mayer and Son’s Stained Glass Studio. Woke up early and hurried down to breakfast. I swear I could get used to breakfasts of bread and cheese, yogurt and fruit and cereal. And sausage, “hard sausage,” not your Jimmy Dean sausage with milk-gravy. And when we had an egg, it was always boiled, never fried or scrambled. Always fruit juice and coffee, of course. Yes, I could get used to this.

Number 25, Seidlstrasse wasn’t hard to find, but we did have to walk a lot. It wasn’t close to a tram stop. Mayer and Son’s Atelier was begun in 1847 by Joseph Gabriel Mayer. The building was built especially for the family business. Gabriel Mayer, is the current manager. His son, Michael C. Mayer, is co-director and the fifth generation. During its peak there were 600 glass painters, and hundreds of people who assembled, cleaned, and installed the completed windows. They are now down to four painters, with virtually all the design done by freelance artists. Susanne Tarraf was our guide. She was lovely, slim and so gracious. She introduced us to Michael and his father. And she showed us the various departments. There were lovely windows leaning here and there against the walls or hung temporarily from window sashes. They obviously live with their windows a while before installing them.

Mayer and Sons now seems to concentrate on executing the designs of others. Susanne showed us pictures of three especially lovely installations for two different churches, at St Florian and St Lukas. Horst Thurheimer and Hella De Santarossa were the designers for the windows at St Florian. It was a Catholic church twinned with a Lutheran church in a very modern planned community on the outskirts of Munich. There was a very modern looking cityscape painted across the back and a spectacular yellow window across the entire front behind the altar. To do the painting, the artist had to be suspended like a gymnast over the pieces of glass laid out on the floor. Michelangelo in reverse. The side altars dedicated to Joseph and Mary were three dimensional glass rods in reds and blues. Completely indescribable, and the pictures, unfortunately don’t really show the third dimension.

At St Lukas, the old windows had been destroyed and the church wanted new windows that “suggested” the old ones. Mayer still had the cartoons for one and photographs of the other. This allowed them to paint and silkscreen ghostly images of the original figures on amazingly vibrant red and blue glass. Stunning.

So much of the modern art glass in Europe is made without lead. Like the glass I saw at the Marian Helf in Passau it is laminated where a water-clear “caulk” binds the colored glass to clear plate glass. And rather than traditional painting, it seems that the paint is being applied with a silkscreen, to give a “photographic” appearance. Colors are either enamel paints, or etched “flashed” glass. That is a clear glass with an extremely thin layer of color “flashed” on one side. A pattern carved in a “resist” applied to the glass can be etched or sandblasted leaving the finished glass two-color without any lead line. The use of painting, silk-screening, laminating, and fusing make new art glass amazingly versatile. Combined with centuries old leading techniques it seems that glass artists are only limited by their imagination or their technical abilities. I think that’s why Mayer and Sons are emphasizing technical proficiency rather than design. Sometimes a lack of knowledge can be liberating for a designer. Freelancers can dream up things a knowledgeable glass-designer might reject out of hand. And Mayer and Sons prides itself on finding ways to bring any artistic visions to life.

We visited both churches and took lots of photographs. I wouldn’t have thought such installations possible if I hadn’t seen them myself.

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