HISTORY of The Glass Studio, Toronto
The Glass Studio was established in 1982 by brothers and artists Stephen and Thomas Smylie. Their unique, complimentary design styles and technical abilities enabled The Glass Studio to grow creatively and earn admiration from clients as Toronto’s most artistically diversified art glass studio. From the outset, a policy of creating original work and never repeating the same design was followed - ensuring that each client received original, unique artwork. This practice led to a rapidly expanding portfolio of completed projects and continuing development of skills. Each brother focused on a unique glass-working specialty - with Stephen becoming one of Canada’s most accomplished glass carvers while Thomas mastered the techniques of glass bevelling – one of only a handful of Canadian artists making custom, hand-bevelled glass for commissioned projects.
The first studio was opened in June of 1982 on Sherbourne Street in downtown Toronto, moving a few years later to a loft on Britain Street and ultimately to a modern, spacious and skylight-lit studio on Castlefield Avenue. Over its 38 years of operation, The Glass Studio was commissioned to design, fabricate and install thousands of original works of leaded, bevelled and sandblasted glass. While most are installed in private residences, several are publicly visible. Their work was commissioned for skylights, door panels, leaded windows, room dividers, glass railings, decorative firescreens and wall art. The Glass Studio on Castlefield Avenue closed permanently at the end of June 2020.
To express their artistic interests and showcase the capabilities of the studio, Stephen and Thomas devoted time to the creation of dozens of pieces of custom art glass for display in the studio’s showroom. These pieces were exceptional examples of the leaded and carved glass art forms and usually incorporated sophisticated technique along with the best glass mouth-blown and hand-cast art glass available.
CUSTOM HAND BEVELLED GLASS
Hand bevelled, leaded glass is a spectacular art glass tradition dating back more than a century. Thick pieces of clear glass are hand-ground at a steep, refractive angle then hand-polished to a brilliant, refractive finish. The Glass Studio in Toronto was one of only a few studios in all of Canada to design and produce its bevelled glass by hand. A commissioned, bevelled glass window from The Glass Studio was always an original composition because mass-produced, 'stock' bevel clusters were not used.
Upon opening in 1982, The Glass Studio acquired and restored a set of three antique Henry Lange bevelling machines. Made in Chicago in the early 1900's, Lange machinery was capable of producing the best quality bevelled glass. Bevels made with this equipment had a brilliance different from those produced with modern diamond abrasive wheels because of the natural smoothing stone and cork polishing wheels used. The Glass Studio's bevels were usually made using 8mm glass - far more refractive and twice the thickness of mass-produced cluster bevels. The ability to make custom, hand-bevelled glass on restored, circa-1920's Henry Lange beveling machinery ensured complete design freedom and distinguished The Glass Studio’s custom work from the 'cookie-cutter' look of mass-produced bevel cluster sets used by other glass artists and studios. Read more here.
The Glass Studio’s surface ‘etching’ or deep, sculptural carvings were an excellent, practical alternative to leaded glass for many applications. Carved glass is ideal for complex, three-dimensional artworks or for subjects that are impractical to realize with the stained glass medium. Surface etched glass is perfect for simpler motifs and Victorian-era style designs. The studio’s sandblasted work was completely produced by hand and most pieces were signed. Most of the studio’s commissioned glass carvings featured sophisticated shading and overlapping techniques as well as very deep layering of elements. Some artworks were accented with lamination and other textural treatments. See a selection of sandblasted commissions.
REPAIR & RESTORATION