How a glass studio in Pleasantville is making Christmas in Truro extra-special

by Allie Jehle

For the parishoners of Immaculate Conception in Truro, it just may be the best Christmas present ever.

A glass studio based in Pleasantville, Lunenburg County has fabricated a brand new, 20-foot high, wall-length contemporary stained glass window that will adorn the Immaculate Conception Parish just before Christmas.

The wall is scheduled to be installed behind the altar on December 20-21 and will be revealed to parishioners on Christmas Eve.

On behalf of the parish community, Father Dariusz Miskowicz approached Toronto-based glass artist Sue Obata and Sattler's Stained Glass Studio with the idea of creating a beautiful sanctuary.

"I am an artisan; I help artists to develop their art pieces," said Norbert Sattler, a "Kunstglaser" – German for master stained glass craftsman, in Pleasantville, Nova Scotia.

"Usually a community from the church goes in the studio and collects some of the work that I have sitting around here and they can say, 'Okay, we like the work from this artist,' and I will ask the artist if they want to design something for the church."

Obata has designed and painted windows for churches across Canada and in the U.S., and her work exceeded Miskowicz's expectations when she created a design that conveys the essence of resurrection through line and colour.

The three orange lines symbolize the Trinitarian origin of existence that has its fulfillment in eternity; whereas neutral greys at the bottom represent earth/stone and the tomb. Green represents hope, while blues flowing through the window are symbolic of water of baptism; the new life in Christ, according to a press release.

The project began in March and has taken approximately 1,300 hours to finish.

It began with a visit to the site. At one point Obata visited the Sattler's studio to select glass for the project, which was then fabricated and sent to the Obata's studio.

A full size working drawing of the window was made as a pattern for the cutting of the glass. After the glass was cut and painted where necessary, it was then fired, the panels all leaded or glazed, and the joints soldered with putty added for stability.

"Sue had to make a sketch that the community was happy with, and then she made a one-to-one scale of the project," said Sattler. "We had to go to Germany to pick the glass; and that is only when you can understand that you can have six-thousand colours," he explained.

The window is so big that it will not fit in his studio, so they will have to build it up a second time during the installation.

The artist has full control over the window, so the whole process is according to Obata's discretion. Sattler said that sometimes he has to fight with the artist, but in the end, he serves the artist. "When the artists say, 'That's not right,' I take it out and smash it."

Obata and Sattler selected the appropriate mouth-blown antique glass for the project, and the creative process began. Now after much hard work and development, the stained glass is almost ready for its reveal.

Sattler has been working with artists for over 40 years, and has developed innovative methods to fire and etch glass so that designs are able to be transferred onto the stained glass windows. His skills and unique designs are part of what makes Sattler's Stained Glass Studio outstanding and unlike any other.

He was formally trained in Germany and started his own business in 1980 before immigrating to Canada with his family in 1993.

Sattler and his wife, Helga, have made new windows and restored old stained glass for churches, public spaces, and homes in Germany, the U.S. and parts of Canada. They have gained recognition from Heritage Canada and the Nova Scotia Legislature for their work.

Their complete restoration of all the stained glass windows after a fire destroyed St. John's Anglican Church in Lunenburg is one of their most notable projects.

In the long term, one of Sattler's goals is to expand his production to satisfy international demand, particularly established German customers.

Sattler said that a lot of artists think stained glass is old and that they don't like "19th century bullshit," but he disagrees. He hopes that through his work, people will change their opinions.

"Stained glass can be modern, new, beautiful. I want to have stained glass accepted for modern art. That is enough."

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