Judson Studios: Lighting the World of Stained Glass for More than a Century
by Steve Fjeldsted, Library Director
(An Author Night on Judson Studios’ magnificent “Resurrection Window,” will be presented in the South Pasadena Public Library Community Room on Thursday, November 15 at 7 p.m.—please see announcement under “Events” on this website.)
Tucked into the small residential street of Avenue 66 in Highland Park, just across the Arroyo Seco and the York Street Bridge from South Pasadena, lies California’s oldest and most famous maker of stained glass, Judson Studios. For more than 120 years, it has thrived under the visionary leadership of the Judson Family. Starting with the English-born artist and educator, William Lee Judson, and continuing through five generations to its current Director David Judson. Judson Studios’ immensely talented artists and craftsmen have designed, built, and installed more than 10,000 masterful stained glass creations that inspire viewers around the world and throughout the United States. Not surprisingly, most of them can be found in California, especially the Greater LA region. The Judson Studios’ high quality, artistic reputation has long since spread far beyond U.S. borders and its stained glass windows have been commissioned by religious institutions, businesses, and private residences the world over.
A panel of The Resurrection Window demonstrating its amazing variety of imagery.
While continually vitalizing the ancient art of stained glass, which has more general public appeal than contemporary art or architecture, Judson Studios has created a bounty of acknowledged masterpieces. These stained glass works adorn both Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, as well as the rotunda of the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, the Congressional Prayer Room in the U.S. Capitol, the Caesar’s Court Dome in Las Vegas, and the Sun City Ginza in Tokyo. Locally, Judson’s fantastic creations can be admired at All Saints Episcopal Church and the Gamble House in Pasadena, St. Barnabus Church in Eagle Rock, the meditation chamber of the Crescenta-Canada YMCA, and St. Edmund’s Church in San Marino. In South Pasadena their awe-inspiring work can be admired at Calvary Presbyterian Church, St. James Episcopal Church, and South Pasadena Public Library ---where Judson stained glass adorns the Oxley Street entrance and the skylight above the main reading room. Judson and its employees have continued to push the limits of contemporary Art Glass creativity while remaining true to its traditions. In recent years they’ve collaborated with such modern artists as El Mac, Sage Vaughn, and Marc Zamora.
David Judson points out the level of detail in the lion's eye.
In 2016 Judson Studios expanded their available workspace with a second location in South Pasadena. The additional space offers almost 5,000 square feet of modern factory and kiln capabilities and enabled them to more efficiently work on their grandest stained glass creation to date, “The Resurrection Window” for the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. It is the largest single stained glass window in the world and stands a colossal 37 feet tall and 94 feet wide. For the ambitious project, Judson Studio is collaborated with the internationally-famed Narcissus Quagliata, a glass artist whose 50 year resume includes work for “The Dome of Light” in Taiwan and “The Last Basilica of Michelangelo” in Rome.
“The Resurrection Window” commission was awarded to Judson Studios in 2014 after a competition with 60 other stained glass firms from around the world. It was the first time a notable stained glass window was created entirely from fused glass. The painstaking process involves multiple layers of colored glass heated to a molten state and cooled to form a single piece which could contain dozens of colors in a single square foot.
Another panel contrasting the rainbow of colors in the Resurrection Window's flowers.
The former Artistic Director of Judson Studio, Tim Carey has lived in South Pasadena since attending the Art Center College of Design in the 90s. When he heard Judson was hiring, he visited the studio in Highland Park and was hired as a part-time painter. 13 years down the road, he helped to keep Judson Studio on the cutting edge of what stained glass can do. In 2018, Tim has ventured out to start his own Tim Carey Studio, but he still retains a solid working relationship with Judson Studios.
The Judson Studios Skylight above the main reading room of the South Pasadena Public Library.
For a marvelous chronicle of Judson Studios’ glorious past, Jane Apostol’s “Painting with Light: A Centennial History of Judson Studios” is highly recommended. It’s available for checkout from the South Pasadena Public Library and others. Looking forward, it will be fascinating to track the progress of both Judson Studios’ (and Tim Carey Studio) endeavors. During their expansion and transition endeavors they have temporarily halted public tours of their Highland Park facility, but expect to resume them in 2017. And according to Tim Carey, they couldn’t be happier about expanding into South Pasadena because of its lively arts culture. Adds Carey, “Having lived in South Pas for 20 years, I know how supportive the city is of the arts. It looks like Judson Studios will be making beautiful stained glass in South Pasadena for many years to come.”
Tim Carey (l) confers with his artistic collaborator, Narcissus Quagliata.