San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Stained Glass: A Heavenly Way to Decorate Artists Make Stained Glass for Church and Home

CHURCHES forfeited their monopolieson stained glass around the time plasticwas developed into coin-sized suctioncups, and every house in suburbia got aglass and lead hummingbird or butterfly tohang on its front door. Fortunately, stainedglass in the home has evolved into artisticprivacy walls, outer windows and evenskylights that translate daylight into kaleidoscopichighlights on furniture.One of Costa Rica’s great stained-glassartists, Sylvia Laks, creates custom scenesand designs for homes, churches and businesses.Her work is framed in some of themost elegant homes in Costa Rica, and shehas been charged with restoring the windowsat the cathedral in Cartago, east ofSan José, as well as other churches withwindows imported from Europe more than100 years ago.Hugo Barrantes, Archbishop of SanJosé, last month inaugurated Laks’ latestendeavor: the huge stained-glass windowof the Sacred Heart of Jesus Temple insoutheastern San José. The ceremony culminated18 months of labor Laks coordinatedamong 18 glass workers from herstudio, 12 metal smiths and solderers andsix glass installers, who designed, craftedand placed 10,000 kilograms of glass,copper, solder and supporting materials.The massive Tiffany-style piece is nearly20 meters wide and 20 meters tall, composedof 252 panels of 18,600 pieces ofimported glass.LAKS employs the centuries-old grisaillemethod, using black enamel paintmade from ground glass and lead to createpatterns on clear or lightly colored glass.“It’s a very old technique used toexpress personal issues,” she said.She applies metal oxides to importedglass to color it, sets the color by firing it ina kiln, then scratches the pigment off thecooled glass to create the figures or patternsshe wants.Besides saints and crosses, she makesfolk pieces for homes, such as wood-framedscenes in glass, lamps, jewelry,mosaics and other pieces.Her workshop in Heredia, north of SanJosé, employs up-and-coming masters ofthe craft from the community, many ofthem formerly farmers and ranchers whohave become some of the most skilledstained-glass artists in the country. Forinformation or to visit her workshop, call267-6350 or visitÑOS Zafiro has decoratedhomes, hotels and churches in and outsideof Costa Rica for 10 years with its originalworks of stained glass. Artists JavierSanabria and Jeannette Campos createstained-glass images for doors, skylights,folding screens, lamps, candelabras, mirrors,headboards and an “interminablenumber of products,” Sanabria told TheTico Times.“The stained-glass technique has anearly inexhaustible versatility, and it canproduce about as many things as you canimagine,” Sanabria said.They work to order, focus on clients’needs and are extremely service-orientedand friendly. For more information or to seethem in their workshop in eastern San José,call 231-3522, 291-6241 or 372-5062.LEONA Wellington makes complexstained-glass nature scenes in her lodge inLa Virgen de Sarapiquí, a mountain townin north-central Costa Rica. She depictsplant life such as flowers and grasses; animalssuch as tree frogs and tropical birds;and underwater scenes with corals, seafans, rainbow-colored fish and bubbles.Her scenes are small enough to pack ina suitcase and hang on a wall or in front ofa window, or large enough for an entirewall, such as the mural across the top halfof a bathroom wall in her Rancho Leonaguesthouse. They are in demand locallyand in the United States, where she sendscustom pieces. For more information, callher at Rancho Leona, at 761-0048 or 761-1019, or visit

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