Here at Emil Frei & Associates we continue to make stained glass windows and mosaics with the same processes that have been utilized for centuries. At the same time, we innovate upon these traditional crafts over and over. But no matter how old or new a fabrication process, all of our work is crafted to the highest standard of quality. Every window and every mosaic is assembled by our highly skilled craftsmen using the finest materials.
In a leaded glass window, strips of soft lead “came” separate many pieces, or “lites,” of colored glass from adjacent lites. They are soldered together into a connected framework to form a stained glass window.
Traditionally leaded glass windows have been made with beautiful crystalline mouth-blown glass. But today many cheaper alternatives to mouth blown glass are available. The consequence of using cheaper materials is that windows have visibly less interest and less character. Our desire is to make the highest quality windows, which is why we choose to use mouth-blown glass exclusively. It is special-ordered and shipped to us from glass blowing studios in France, Germany, Poland and the United States (from Blenko Glass Company). Glasses are selected for their color, depth, texture, and character.
When making a new window, a studio artisan identifies a variety of glasses, consistent with the artist’s design sketch, and cuts each glass into the required shapes. If a design calls for a painted image, the glass lites are painted by studio artists with paints containing metal oxides. Finally, each painted lite must be kiln fired to permanently fuse the paint into the glass before it is soldered together by skilled glazers into a lead framework.
Our studio has always made leaded windows with traditional methods and with the finest materials. The result is finely crafted stained glass windows of the highest standards that elevate sacred spaces.
“Faceting glass” describes a process, developed in France shortly before the Second World War, by which slabs of thick molded glass, also known as dalle de verre, are given a series of scalloped shaped fractures on their surface by striking the glass edge with a hammer. Like a prism, the faceted pieces of glass beautifully refract light. After laying the pieces flat onto a pattern, an epoxy resin is poured around each piece; as it hardens, the resin forms a matrix that binds the glass together into a single panel.
The use of a resin matrix system (which has become an industry standard) was developed here at Emil Frei Studio by Robert Frei and Robert Bemis in the 1950s. Before the development of the resin matrix, earlier attempts at dalle de verre glass windows were set in concrete, which, because of differences in expansion and contraction between the concrete and glass, led to serious structural cracking. The use of a resin matrix system represents a significant innovation in the development of the medium.
As leaders in the design and fabrication of faceted glass windows, we have been a part of some of the finest examples of faceted glass windows in the United States. In the right setting, faceted glass windows can be a beautiful alternative to traditional leaded glass windows.
Glass lamination is a more recent innovation to stained glass window production. Our Laminated Glass Windows are made with the traditional mouth blown glass, but do not require any lead dividers. Rather, pieces of glass are butted up against each other and attached to a larger piece of clear plate glass with liquid laminate. An important attribute of Laminated Glass is that when it receives an impact and breaks, the glass shatters without breaking into dangerous shards, similar to the glass in your car windshield. For this reasons it is most often utilized in glass screens and partitions where the glass is close to the ground and situated in high traffic areas of a building.
Our studio is one of the early pioneers in laminated glass for sacred spaces. The glass screen pictured here, installed in 1966 at the famed Priory Chapel, is an early example of laminated glass.
Mosaics are a great alternative to stained glass windows, especially for areas of a church with very little or no natural light. “Tesserae” (cubed pieces of colored glass) and handmade ceramic tiles are the most common base materials of a mosaic. A mosaic is created by arranging many thousands of small pieces of these materials into a pattern to form an image.
Our studio has a long history in mosaics. Soon after its founding, Emil Frei Studio was approached by the Archdiocese of St. Louis and asked to furnish the mosaics for the then-under-construction New Cathedral of St. Louis. With the initial support of Puhl and Wagner of Munich, Germany, Emil Frei, Sr. opened the Ravenna Mosaics company under the same roof as the stained glass studio and proceeded to design and fabricate the mosaics for the New Cathedral, among other churches.
Eventually the close proximity of the stained glass division and mosaic division proved to be burdensome, and in an effort to return to a primary focus on stained glass, Emil Frei & Associates sold Ravenna Mosaics. They continued to work in close partnership on many projects until Ravenna Mosaics’ eventual closing in the late 1980s. Since the closing of Ravenna Mosaics, Emil Frei Studio has resurrected its tradition of crafting beautiful mosaics from handmade tile and tesserae.
Quite often clients will request that our artists design additional artwork or furnishings to adorn their sacred spaces or to be used in their liturgies. Many times our craftsmen will be able to manufacture these objects in house, but occasionally a project will require additional expertise. To that end, we have a network of artisans and artists with whom we can collaborate. Some examples of liturgical furnishings our artists have designed include: altars, ambos, processional crosses, tabernacles, candle holders, crucifixes, sanctuary doors, and paintings.