Given the apparent dangers of travel in this time of COVID, the immediate question is why bother traveling at all. International travel has always been expensive, time consuming, requiring intense planning, pain tolerance and great patience and now travel can actually kill you so the question is ‘why bother?”
The answer is that you get to see the three glories: history, beauty and craftsmanship. Seeing Notre-Dame is a good example. They began work on Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1160 and it took a team of skilled and devoted artisans, craftsman and engineers the next 100 years to complete the work. Notre-Dame remains one of the most beautiful structures in the world. To see those glorious rose stained glass windows which measure 33 feet in diameter is to be introduced to God. Victor Hugo’s published “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” in 1831 in order to awaken Paris to the value of this cathedral which had fallen into disrepair.
Notre-Dame is so well crafted, so historic and so breathtakingly beautiful that it continues to attract travelers from all over the world. The closer you get to the cathedral by foot you begin to notice that the sidewalks are filled travelers from all nations with everyone walking in the same direction and all with a look of excitement and high expectation as they anticipate the great and glorious vision of perfect craftsmanship.
But the French do not have a monopoly on craftsmanship. A visit to the Villa d’Este Hotel in Lake Como, Italy provides the same aesthetic thrills. This villa was built by artisans in the 16th century for Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio and continues to attract guests like Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Ralph Lauren, Michael Douglas and Robert Deniro. Part of the charm of staying in the world’s foremost luxury hotel is in the crafted gardens, sculptures and even a 100 step garden stairway with tiny waterfalls on the side of every step.
What I slowly concluded after seeing such finely crafted and historic beauty is that I ought to be able to approximate this kind of aesthetic in my own home. Why not? Sure I’m not as rich as a Cardinal but I’m not poor either. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
So I began to hunt down a craftsperson here on Long island to add some luster to my home. Over time I have had gardens built in my backyard but also longed to have stained glass windows installed like the ones designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in his masterpiece Fallingwater, the home he created for Edgar Kaufmann near Pittsburgh.
I found some free time during the recent quarantine and my research led me to the Italian-American artist Rita Riccardi, known as ‘The Goddess of Glass.” Rita was trained at Pratt Institute, founded Glass Impressions of New York back in 1987 and has has been busy ever since catering to interior designers, contractors, home owners, churches, corporations and consulates.
I explained to her that I wanted the eight windows that were facing my backyard to be converted to stained glass with some kind of geometric design similar to those wonderful Frank Lloyd Wright windows. You see four of them in the photo above.
Rita explained a brief history of stained glass, a craft which began with the Romans 2,000 years ago but gained prominence during medieval times in monasteries and cathedrals. Recently stained glass design has regained its former popularity thanks to Louis Comfort Tiffany and Frank Lloyd Wright. She said the method of manufacture has not changed much in two hundred years requiring the mixing of certain oxides during the mixing of the glass. She is required to roll out the molten glass treated with some kind of oxide, cut it into small pieces and fit it into a hand designed lead frame. This takes patience, engineering skill and craftsmanship. Each of the four windows you see took about ten hours each to make.
Of course this is why the art of craftsmanship is fading away and why architecture has lost its power and its magic. The only building of any real significance or beauty on Long Island is the Endo Building in Garden City, designed by Paul Rudolph in the ‘new brutalism” style.
One of the few good things to come out of these COVID times was that I had a chance to add some beauty to my modest home thanks to the fine art ability and the craftsmanship of “The Goddess of Glass.”
It’s always difficult to determine the exact value of something beautiful, rare and special. It will certainly cost you a small fortune to see Notre-Dame or the Villa d’Este Hotel but it will cost you far less for some stained glass windows. And now I have a touch of Paris, a hint of the Villa d’Este on Lake Como and a reminder of the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright here to gaze upon each morning when I arise from my sleep. Thank you very much Rita. Ms. Riccardi can be reached at (718) 389-5841 or at glassimpressionscorp.com.