Lessons in stained glass

January 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

Putting finishing touches on the Swedenborgian's St. Christopher window

Putting finishing touches on the Swedenborgian Church’s St. Christopher window

FIRST PERSON | DOUGLAS G. STINSON

Like many people, I had been active in church life from childhood into early adolescence. Then, confronting what my teenaged mind saw as cowardice and hypocrisy within my church, I swore off religion.

In college I became aware of the writings of the 18th century scientist and Christian mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg and, as a scientist, was drawn to his insistence that the teachings of faith and reason must conform. But I had no interest in being part of any organized religion.

Until I walked into the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church.

I was awestruck by the building’s humble strength and simple beauty. Everything breathed a spiritual essence. I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

By 2012, the condition of the stained glass windows that had graced the Swedenborgian church at the corner of Lyon and Washington Streets for more than 100 years had deteriorated. We learned that if action were not taken, the beautiful windows — an integral part of the National Historic Landmark — could be lost forever.

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One that got away

November 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Frank Lloyd Wright's design for 830 El Camino del Mar in San Francisco.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for 830 El Camino del Mar in San Francisco.

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT designed no homes built in San Francisco — only the V.C. Morris Gift Shop on Maiden Lane, thought by some to be a warm-up for his circular design for the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

It turns out, however, that Wright also designed a home for the Morrises in Sea Cliff, overlooking the Golden Gate. It was never built. But drawings show what might have been.

Read more: “A Frank Lloyd Wright house in Sea Cliff

Still teaching its lessons

October 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Photograph of the Swedenborgian Church by Laurie Passey

The Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco is a National Historic Landmark.

FIRST PERSON | TED BOSLEY

My earliest memories of the Swedenborgian Church are from about 1957. I would have been three years old. I remember the welcoming fire behind the hearth and the home-like atmosphere of the sanctuary. And there were the welcoming people, too: Rev. Othmar Tobisch and Mrs. Tobisch, and Jane Sugden — “Miss Jane,” as we called her — who taught my sister Kathy and me to sing. I recall especially the sound and feel of the rush-bottomed chairs that my little backside swam around in.

Our father died in 1959, so most of our childhood memories of the church are connected with our mother, Phyllis Bosley. The church became our home away from home. Kathy and I were there four or five times every week for one reason or another: children’s choir practice, adult choir practice, Thursday night supper or to help Miss Jane with a project.

I don’t recall exactly when I became interested in the church building as a potent physical object, but I do remember why. Sitting at the back of the church waiting for a wedding to conclude so I could blow out the candles and sweep up the rice (Mr. Tobisch paid 75 cents per wedding), I picked up a copy of the little pamphlet written in 1945 on the 50th anniversary of the first service. It described historic features of the church, practically all of which — and this is what captured my complete attention — remained decades later exactly as they were described. It seemed incredible that a place might be so loved as to be left unmolested for so long.

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Tonalism in the Holloway collection

March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

From the Holloway collection: Piazzoni, Oldfield, Mathews, Redmond.

Tonalism in the back room: Piazzoni, Oldfield, Mathews, Redmond.

Jan Holloway writes, in Good Times, Hard Times: I became very interested in the California Tonalist painters — Arthur Mathews, early Granville Redmond, Charles Rollo Peters. The subdued limited palette and soft light were poetic to me.

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Audel Davis honored at Grove Park

March 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Audel Davis Coppersmith

A catalog of Audel Davis’s work accompanied the Grove Park exhibit

AUDEL DAVIS is the first living crafter to be honored with an exhibit in the Great Hall of the Grove Park Inn. The exhibit [from February 21 to 23, 2014] is also the first one-person showing of his work in a non-commercial setting. It is entirely fitting that Audel Davis be honored in this way, and in this place. He has a long affiliation with the Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference, having attended all but three of the 26 conferences. His deep commitment to the ideals of the movement, too, both aesthetically and philosophically, make this exhibit a supremely natural manifestation of the conference’s mission to educate and inspire those who revere the Arts and Crafts movement and its contemporary renaissance.

Those who know Audel personally will understand how his self-effacing nature initially rebelled against the idea of an exhibit honoring his work. A modest man of unfailing good humor and grace, Audel is not comfortable in the spotlight. But if you are also familiar with his work, which this exhibit seeks to elucidate, you will know that Audel Davis is completely deserving of the attention this exhibit brings to him.

Some years ago I was the very happy recipient of a pair of Audel’s candlesticks. They have become like members of our family, such is the warm and personal character that they express over years of closeness and familiarity, not unlike the people who are dear to me. The attributes of family and warmth are naturally a part of Audel’s work, and as you contemplate the objects in this exhibit you may also sense the traits that make his way of working copper to be so very much more than merely raised, planished, hammered and patinated sheets of metal.

— TED BOSLEY, Director
The Gamble House
Pasadena, California

Foreword to Audel Davis Coppersmith
Copyright 2014 by Roger Moss

Read more: “A coppersmith of skill and maturity

Warming up a special place

March 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Renovating the historic Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco

Renovating the historic Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco

MOST RENOVATIONS and facelifts aim to make things look a little younger and fresher. But that was not the case with the work just completed at the historic Swedenborgian Church at Washington and Lyon streets in San Francisco.

On February 16, the congregants entered through the garden and past a crackling fire in the massive fireplace, just as they always have, as they returned to their sanctuary after the first major renovation in the church’s 119-year history.

The restored dove window from the outside

The restored dove window

“It’s so toasty in here,” said office manager Dana Owens, who supervised the project. The fireplace was the primary source of heat until radiant heating was added during the renovation underneath the refinished wooden floorboards. Discreet lighting was tucked into the madrone trees and rafters that support the roof. The stained glass windows were restored and the thick, rounded wooden doors were refinished.

The Swedenborgian Church, built in 1894, is the birthplace of the Arts & Crafts movement in the United States. Its simple handmade maple chairs with tule rush seats were the inspiration for all Mission-style furniture that followed.

On March 16, the Swedenborgians will launch a monthly lecture series on the art and architecture of the unusual church, which is a National Historic Landmark.

Reinstalling the stained glass window above the altar

Reinstalling the stained glass dove window above the altar

Read more: “Arts & Crafts movement started here

‘One of America’s great craftsmen’

January 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

Audel Davis copperwork | Photograph by Russell Abraham

Audel Davis copperwork | Photograph by Russell Abraham

TUCKED AWAY on a quiet residential street in Berkeley, California, is the home and studio of Audel Davis, one of America’s great craftsmen. Think Maloof, Stocksdale, Nakashima — only Davis is a coppersmith and his genre is Arts and Crafts. When one hears the phrase, images of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Greene and Greene immediately come to mine, as well they should.

Read more: “A journey to the world of Arts & Crafts

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