Tag Archive: Stained glass art


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The last knot was tied on Watchful (Ar-Raqib).  A lot of string was used on the last couple pieces because I had to make big loops to give room for my hands, then slowly “cinch” the string until the last pieces were seated correctly.  And I jabbed the back of my hands on the points a few times – whine, whine.

This is the greater stellated dodecahedron.  The sculptures for the Names of this second set, 26-50, have been emerging as reflections of pollen and stars, and this seems fitting.  Pollen spores help propagate life and stars guide and provide light, both nourishing growth.  This Name refers to the concept that the Creator is constantly viewing His creations, steadily vigilant, and supremely aware.  When I first remember hearing this in Sunday School I was in Kindergarten, and was so horrified that God was busy watching me all the time I refused to take a bath for a week, and even threw fits about changing my clothes!  My parents finally were able to pry from me why I was so mortified, and were able to explain that God is keeping His “eye” on me because He loves me, and this eternal awareness is not “spying”.

Viewing is normally felt to be a passive vocation, but the implication for this Name is that God’s sight is somehow an active awareness of all we do and are, not seeing individual actions out of context but seeing all we are as a complete creature.  This sight is expansive and penetrating.

On the human side, this Name reminds me of astrolabes and sailing.  Muslims are taught to metaphorically keep their hearts towards Mecca and Christians are taught to keep their faces towards the place of worship – not so each of us sidle around oddly as we try to do our daily activities, but to keep a place in our heart for our awareness of God’s place in our lives.  Keeping watch, so to speak, over the direction of our thoughts and all we do.

Moroccan Astrolabe From Wikimedia

Moroccan Astrolabe
From Wikimedia Commons

Ancient sailors and travelers used the stars to navigate their way across the world, and for early pioneers in North America the Big Dipper and Polaris were particularly important.  For some American religions this constellation became a beloved symbol for Christ and His teachings (one of my favorite songs, “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd”, is a reference to this same constellation in respect to the Underground Railroad).

Big Dipper and Polaris on the LDS Christian Salt Lake Temple Image from Simerg.com

Big Dipper and Polaris on the LDS Christian Salt Lake Temple
Image from Simerg.com

Sailors and travelers kept constant watch of the stars to steady their direction and navigate through life.  The metaphor applies to our lives as an overarching, steady and subtle awareness that success in life comes through watchfulness, responsibility, of our own actions and how they coincide/support Divine Will for our own well-being.  We are, all of us, created to be magnificent creatures; our watchfulness of our own actions can help us as we listen to the “still small voice”, ever present in the background but so very quiet, which guides and directs us to fulfill our intended purpose.


Some photos of the process for building Watchful (Ar-Raqib):

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The designs are from Work in the Garden.

45-Comprehender (Al-Wasi’)

Etched, painted, and fired glass sewn with hemp

It is always easy to think according to appearances, and refuse ourselves or others the benefit of the doubt because of weaknesses we perceive.  The Creator is beyond the constraints of mortal perception and even our simplistic understanding of time – He sees each of us for the entirety of who and what we are, and still miraculously loves us.  The proof of this is all around:  the entirety of the universe from before the moment of creation was made not just for all of humanity, but for each individual as well.  There is something in each of us worthy of God’s love and attention, and our jobs as mortals is to respect that in ourselves, and search for that something in everyone we meet.  When Samuel was searching for the next king of Israel he was ardently reminded of this:  For the Lord seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart (I Samuel 16:7).

Photography by My Cell Phone

Calligraphy by Sufism.org

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The Seventh Annual Rumi Festival was held this year in the Anderson-Foothill Branch of the Salt Lake Public LibrariesJalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, or Mevlana (Beloved Master), was a spiritual teacher and poet in 13th Century Persia and Turkey.  His Masnavi is a collection of poetical allegories/parables he recited to his scribe, and is an exploration of the truths behind truth, or as he put it, religion behind religion.  His writings teach insights applicable to every faith.  I find his insights into the 99 Names remarkable and wonderful, and they help me approach understanding and appreciation of another faith while making me feel strengthened and sustained in my own.

One of Rumi’s heroes, and mine, was another Sufi poet named Farid ud-Din Attar who wrote an incredible poetical allegory of the journey of the soul, Parliament of Fowles or Bird Parliament.  All the birds in the world desired to elect a king and in their gathering the Hoopoe announces they already have a king, the Simourgh or mighty Phoenix.  Thirty birds are elected/volunteer to seek out the Simourgh, representing all the rest.  The Hoopoe leads his fellows through a journey of seven valleys which, while leading physically to the abode of the Bird King, gives opportunity for all the quest participants to transform into beings worthy of grace and enlightenment.

Rasoul Shams, translator of Rumi:  The Art of Loving, presented his article “Seven Valleys of the Soul’s Journey” from the Light of Consciousness Journal on Attar and the Bird Parliament.  Amir Mohammadi, a master of the Ney flute, played while some truly remarkable voices read Rumi poetry.  Florin R. Nielsen, a friend and remarkable contemporary poet, read some of his own work – it is one thing to “copy” the poetic style of another culture, I think that’s something akin to linguistic engineering, but what Florin does is get such a thing to work on a visceral, emotional level which is truly remarkable.  And I was asked to share some of the work from the 99 Names project inspired by Rumi.  Since Mevlana Rumi has subtly influenced my entire exploration of Islam, that was not a difficult selection to make.

Rasoul and I were interviewed for The Daily Universe and their reporter Annmarie Moore was very cool.

The librarians were totally cool, and we had a better turnout than anyone expected.  All in all a wonderful Saturday.

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How much does the Creator comprehend?  I’m pretty sure it’s much, much more than we can ever imagine.  The fact that He can see something in each of us worth saving is, for me, truly remarkable.  And a trait for which I am truly grateful.

The exterior side of each of the pieces is etched with designs echoing cloud images from several medieval-era depictions of the Miraj, the Night Journey during which Mohamed was able to see the vastness of Heaven.  And the interior of each piece is based on ceramics and tile designs evoking the abundance of growth in Paradise.

As the whole thing is moved around, shadows and light play on and through the shapes so at times we can see the lines inside, or they’re occluded by the clouds, and different forms are revealed on the surface.  I was thinking that many times our own vision is clouded by our preconceptions, prejudices, and misunderstandings so we are unable to see the interior of someone, and  new facets are constantly revealed as we shift our own vision.  I cannot begin to understand how much God truly sees, but I do know I have a long way to go before I can appreciate the hearts of even those I know.

Great Stellated Dodecahedron Image from Wikimedia Commons

Great Stellated Dodecahedron
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Three of the Names in the next part of the series – Al-Basir (Seer), Al-Khabir (All-Aware), and Ar-Raqib (Watchful) – are based on the great stellated dodecahedron.  These Names remind me of the power of stars, but with a little twist.  We view the stars primarily as sources of light, sending energy far across the universe, and I started to wonder if the stars can perceive all that which their light touches.  And I started considering, what if they see in the process of giving light?  So the source of light becomes also a metaphor for seeing.

And with how much fun the grinding is, I thought I’d share a wonderful slide show of a short part of the process:

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Now, only 174 more little triangles to grind!

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Imagery of the Celestial Garden reminds us that each of us, and everything in the universe, are vitally and intricately connected.

All of us are part of something bigger.

We will never see the whole picture – the edges are too far from our view, we can’t even see the middle, and try as hard as we can we are unable to see most of our own little patch.

But each of us is an important part of that bigger thing which stretches so far beyond our imagining.  And we are – each one of us – a vital part.  Otherwise we wouldn’t be here at all.

The unfolding, interlacing, intricate designs of Celestial Garden patterns go on forever, and remind us not just of the infinite complexity and continuation of the Creator’s pattern, but of our own inextricable part within it.

We may at times feel lost within the creation, but we are never lost to the Creator.

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There are three aspects to the Celestial Garden which make it resonate as a beautiful symbol of hope.

There is something about planting and tending a vegetable plant, then eating the crop you raised yourself.  The process allows us to play an active, inside role in the cycle of life.

There is the knowledge that all of us, and every thing in the universe, are vitally and inextricably connected.

The garden is also a metaphor for abundance and fecundity in the Celestial realm.  Mortal life is temporary and fleeting, but life in Paradise is lush and vibrant.  In Islam this imagery is especially significant considering the area in which the Revelation was received.

The Arabian peninsula is one of the largest inhabited areas on the planet in which no significant natural bodies of water survive all year round, and the extreme rarity of life-giving oases were tangible miracles of Providence.  Lush and succulent plants, cool flowing water, and similar vibrant imagery helped propound the concept that Paradise is a world of beauty and abundance, profoundly removed from the everyday, ordinary life of the desert-dwelling nomad.

Poets described the growth of these preternatural Platonic gardens and artists showed it – the mosaic scenes of the Great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus are imaginal windows into wonderful vistas of the eternal oases in Heaven.  The Dome of the Rock – built as a reverent shelter for a stone spiritual significant to all the Children of the Book – holds stylized vines and flowers, celebrating vibrant growth.  Plates and carpets, homes and mosques, were decorated with the delicate, intricate, colorful designs of fantastic plants, trees, and flowers.

As we move towards the hot and sticky parts of summer, it is a wonderful image to hold in one’s heart.

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Images of Umayyad Mosque of Damascus and Dome of the Rock courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Some more process images for garden panels – learn a little more about Persian Gardens here.

Some Fun Stuff

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When I’m at work I get to build stained glass windows, and there’s a couple reasons I enjoy it so much.  One is a metaphor introduced to me by a minister in Alabama years ago.  “People are like stained glass windows,” he said, “they only really show their true beauty when the light shines through.”  That’s a pretty good metaphor.

These are pictures of what I get to do when the customer wants me to design something cool, and they let me do what I really like to do.  The medieval style windows are crests from the owners’ family, and are in their home made from “recycled” materials – they find derelict buildings in Europe, have the materials cleaned and shipped to the States, then incorporate them into their home.  A wonderful way to recycle and keep history alive.

The set of five windows is based on the five elements and seasons of Feng Shui, and each also has the alchemical symbol for the season represented (that was fun trying to explain to the owner!).  These go into a home where the owner flew all the way to Italy just so she could find the right sconce in a hallway in her home – very cool.

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