Spring Break: Day 4 - A visit to Glasmalerei Peters in Paderborn, Germany, with Peter Drake

By Peter Drake (Dean, Academic Affairs) 

I'm very happy to announce that I have been commissioned by the MTA Arts for Transit, one of the nation's largest public art programs, to create site-specific public art for the Long Island Rail Road Massapequa Station.

The project will feature 18 glass windows and five ceramic/glass mosaics measuring 463 square feet throughout the train station. My MTA proposal evokes timeless scenes of waiting for trains to arrive with toy figures representing rail customers, a bright sky, rows of hedges and local details. I am collaborating with artisans at Mosaika Art and Design in Montreal, Canada, and Glasmalerei Peters Studios in Paderborn, Germany.

Paderborn, Germany, is a lovely town of 150,000 people about three hours from Munich. It is home to Peters Glass, one of the most accomplished art glass manufacturers in the world. Peters Glass is a family affair, with four generations of experience working with artists and restoring stained glass. Wilhelm and Inge Peters, their son Jan and a staff of 60 occupy several buildings in Paderborn and the surrounding communities.

Peter Kaufmann, the American representative of Peters Glass, met Jan and me at the airport and quickly brought us to the main facility. For anyone who loves color, stained glass is an amazing material, and the Peters family has made an art out of working with artists and extending the technical and imaginative possibilities of working in glass. Every square inch of the facility is covered in glass samples, finished pieces and the extensive collection of Westphalian art that Wilhelm and Inge have collected.

In addition to the seemingly limitless studio facilities, there are enough apartments to house six or seven visiting artists at any one time. The apartment where Janice and I were staying has a bedroom, kitchen, bath, terrace and living room. It couldn’t be more gemütlich.   

On our first day, Peter K. took us on the 50-cent tour of the town and the facility. There are 13th century windows from Chartres Cathedral right next to new works commissioned by the MTA. The combination is awe-inspiring and a bit intimidating. As Peter K. and Jan like to say, stained glass is fragile and strangely permanent. If you make a piece of glass at Peters, it will be around for a while.

Peters Glass works with artists from all over the world, and about seven projects have been commissioned by the MTA in the past few years. In addition to my own seventeen 3 x 6 ft. pieces, Peters Glass is in the middle of working on more than one hundred 5 x 5 ft. pieces by Shinique Smith that look amazing.


Claus Happe is my master craftsman and he is an encyclopedia of talent and information about all manner of painted and stained glass. There were samples of techniques waiting for me to look at, and Claus was more than willing to experiment with sandblasting, multiple firings and pretty much anything that I wanted to try. I even tried my hand at painting on glass, and I have to say that it is a very unforgiving material. The results are incredible, but getting used to the flow of water-based paint on a slippery surface is pretty tough.

That said, the folks at Peters Glass want to start a residency program for the Academy in which two students would come to Paderborn for as long as one month to learn how to work with glass and finish a piece for display. It could start as a contest to see whose proposal would translate best into the medium. Wilhelm is particularly keen about this idea, and I think it could happen this year.

One of the many things that I have learned from this experience is that in a great collaboration you have to be open to the nature of the materials and the experience of the people that you're working with. You really can’t have a rigid interpretation of your own work; something new and refreshing will come out of the collaboration if you are open to it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment