HISTORY of The Glass Studio, Toronto

Round blue and white glass stained glass window Upper Canada College crest
TheGlassStudio Image 4a-Upper Canada College
The Glass Studio was established in June 1982 by brothers and glass artists Stephen and Thomas Smylie. Their unique and complementary design styles, combined with their technical skills, enabled The Glass Studio to grow creatively and become one of Toronto’s most artistically diversified art glass studios. From the outset, they adhered to a policy of creating original work for each client, never repeating the same design - ensuring that each client received unique artwork. The result was 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 and was 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, 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 panels. While most pieces are installed in private residences, several are publicly visible such as 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, sometimes with 'Smylie'. The Glass Studio on Castlefield Avenue was closed permanently at the end of June 2020. 
To express their artistic interests and showcase the capabilities of their studio, Stephen and Thomas allowed time to create 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, featuring sophisticated technique and 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. These pieces are now called The Showroom Collection and are offered for sale through this website.


Polishing glass by hand on a sandstone wheel
The Glass Studio image 174 - Polishing glass by hand with The Glass Studio's sandstone "newcastle' wheel
Hand bevelled, leaded glass is a spectacular art glass tradition dating back over a century. Thick pieces of clear glass are hand-ground at a steep, refractive angle and then hand-polished to a brilliant, refractive finish. The Glass Studio in Toronto was one of only a few studios in 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 three antique Henry Lange bevelling machines. Manufactured in Chicago in the early 1900s, 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 fabricate custom, hand-bevelled glass on restored, circa-1920s Henry Lange beveling machinery allowed 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 about hand-bevelled glass here.


Carved glass divider screen featuring branches and leaves
TheGlassStudio Image 69-Private residence, Toronto
The Glass Studio’s etched glass and sandblasted sculptural carvings were an excellent, practical alternative to leaded glass for many applications. Abrasive-carved glass is an ideal technique for complex, three-dimensional artwork or subjects impractical to realize with the stained glass medium. Surface frosted glass (often referred to as 'etched glass') is perfect for simpler motifs and reproduction of Victorian-era style designs. The Glass Studio’s sandblasted work was produced entirely by hand using fine, aluminum-oxide abrasive driven by compressed air. Most pieces were signed. Commissioned glass carvings featured sophisticated shading, texturing, overlapping techniques and deep sculpting of design elements. Some artworks were also accented with UV-glue 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 entire 38-year history, The Glass Studio provided stained glass and leaded window repairs ranging from the most straightforward ‘one piece’ on-site residential repairs to significant 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 the historic bevelled window from Alderlea House in Brampton, for example. It was carefully restored using the same type of glass, machinery and techniques used to make the original.
Read more about our work at these locations