HISTORY of The Glass Studio, Toronto

Round stained glass window Upper Canada College crest
Upper Canada College stained glass window designed and made by The Glass Studio.
The Glass Studio was established in 1982 by brothers and glass artists Stephen and Thomas Smylie. Their unique but complimentary design styles and technical skills enabled The Glass Studio to grow creatively and earn admiration from clients as Toronto’s most artistically diversified art glass studio. From the outset they adhered to a policy of creating original work, never repeating the same design - ensuring that each client received original, unique artwork. This led to a rapidly expanding portfolio of completed projects featuring a broad range of art glass techniques. Each brother focused on a unique glass-working specialty. Stephen became one of Canada’s most accomplished glass carvers while Thomas mastered the art of glass bevelling – one of only a handful of Canadian artists to produce custom bevelled glass by hand for commissioned projects.
Their first studio was opened in June of 1982 on Sherbourne Street in downtown Toronto, moving a few years later to Britain Street and ultimately to a modern, spacious and skylight-lit studio on Castlefield Avenue. During its 38 years of operation, The Glass Studio was commissioned to design, fabricate and install thousands of original stained glass windows, leaded glass, bevelled and sandblasted glass.  While most pieces are installed in private residences, several are publicly visible;  the abstract window created for the Lillian H. Smith public library in Toronto or dozens of stained glass windows at St. Demetrius Church in Etobicoke. Their original work was commissioned for skylights, door panels, leaded windows, room dividers, glass railings, decorative firescreens and wall art. Completed pieces were usually signed in the lower right corner, sometimes with the studio name and a date but sometimes with just the name 'Smylie'.  The Glass Studio on Castlefield Avenue was closed permanently at the end of June 2020 and the showroom display windows were made available for sale via the studio's website.
The Glass Studio Showroom Collection
To express their artistic interests and showcase the capabilities of their 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 one-of-a-kind 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. The photograph at the top of the home page of this website shows a view of the studio's showroom with their work on display.


Hand-bevelling glass on a stone smoothing wheel
The Glass Studio's Henry Lange stone smoothing wheel 
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.


Carved glass divider screen featuring branches and leaves
Carved glass room divider screen
The Glass Studio’s surface ‘etching’ or deep, sculptural carvings were an excellent, practical alternative to leaded glass for many applications. Abrasive-carved glass is ideal for complex, three-dimensional artworks or for subjects that are impractical to realize with the stained glass medium. Surface frosted glass is perfect for simpler motifs and reproduction Victorian-era style designs.  The Glass Studio’s sandblasted work was completely produced by hand using fine abrasive and compressed air. Most pieces were signed. 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 laminations and other textural treatments. See a selection of sandblasted commissions.


Glass Studio staff restoring the Ontario Legislature Atrium ceilings
Restoring the Queen's Park atrium ceiling


For its full 38 year history, The Glass Studio provided stained glass and leaded window repairs ranging from the simplest ‘one piece’ on-site residential repairs to large conservation and restoration projects. Noteworthy commercial clients included The Royal Ontario Museum, The Ontario Legislature at Queen’s Park and the City of Toronto. More than 3,600 residential customers were clients of The Glass Studio’s on-site leaded window repair and restoration services. The studio's custom glass bevelling abilities were well-known for authentic and meticulous restoration of late Victorian era hand-bevelled glass windows - like this bevelled window from Alderlea House in Brampton - using the same type of machinery and techniques used to make the original glass.
Read more about our work at these locations