Daniel Maher’s work serves as a testament to both his diverse aesthetic interests and his firm roots in the traditions of the stained glass craft. A former employee of Boston-based Connick Studio, in 1989 the artist established Daniel Maher Stained Glass in Somerville, Massachusetts, to further explore a variety of design styles. With the goal of accelerating his evolution as an artist and extinguishing the notion of stained glass as an exclusively traditional art form, Maher made it his mission to explore the textural movement inherent in glass.
In 2007, a reduction in the number of restoration jobs coincided with the exodus of a few of Maher’s key employees, and thus he began to wind down his studio’s restoration commissions. Currently, residential commissions comprise 75 percent of his studio’s new work with the remaining 25 percent commercial or corporate projects.
Driven by a goal to introduce prismatic effects into stained glass windows, Maher created his first found objects windows more than 30 years ago in a series called Housewares Graveyard Windows. These colorful, textural panels showcased glass that had been rescued from its ordinary life as serving bowls, platters, goblets, lids, jars, and general household utilitarian objects and made the star of his stained glass symphony.
Over time Maher’s palette expanded, providing fuel for myriad thematic ideas. Some panels centered around old alcoholic beverage bottles, some antique medicine jars, but each created a unique look. One of Maher’s found object windows was featured in Martha Stewart Living’s December 2012 issue. His work, Pig with Corn, was made from a number of glass corncob buttering dishes that Maher silver stained and placed in circumference around the bottom of a giant pig’s foot jar, imprinted with the words “this little pig went to market.” This panel was exhibited at the American Glass Guild Conference in Buffalo, New York, July 2009.
Since 2010, Maher has been incorporating one of the most beautiful glass objects into his stained glass windows. Because none of the commercially available roundels captured the magic he was looking for, Maher decided to learn how to make his own and enrolled in a glassblowing course taught by Jesse Rasid at North Cambridge Glass School, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Learning to make roundels resulted in an awakening of creative ideas and a move of Maher’s studio to Cambridge.
Maher’s largest roundel commission was created for the Alfond Inn owned by Barbara and Ted Alfond, Boston, Massachusetts, and Winter Park, Florida. The couple became aware of the artist’s artwork via his lectures at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Because Orlando, Florida, is the home to the Morse Museum of Tiffany Glass, the Alfonds wanted a piece for their inn that would speak to the beauty of the ponds, lakes, and gardens of their city while referencing Tiffany’s legacy in a unique way.
In yet another approach to enhancing the aesthetic and content of stained glass, Maher’s Portrait Windows celebrate specific people and events through their inclusion of photographic imagery. Using a photo-sensitive film, Maher creates a transparency onto which he places the photo sensitive film and exposes it to ultraviolet light. Whether painted and fired in the kiln, etched or sandblasted, the images become a permanent part of the glass and are constructed in the vivid colors unique to stained glass. Photo imaging allows subjects to be rendered that would otherwise be impossible to create by hand painting, traditional sandblasting or acid etching.
A combination of glass painting and the photo imaging process can be seen in Maher’s three-lancet Harvard Lampoon Castle window, a collaboration with designer by Michael Frith. Frith was the art designer for the Muppets and Sesame Street, and Dr. Seuss’s book editor and close personal friend. All imagery references the history of The Lampoon, an undergraduate humor publication founded in 1876 by seven undergraduates at Harvard University i n Cambridge, Massachusetts, and its secret lingo. In the lead and copperfoil combo window, each of three lancets measures 2 by 5 feet and includes 450 to 600 pieces. “The project was a whirlwind with late changes and groundbreaking techniques, but one of the most rewarding projects I have done in my years of stained glass.”
Inspired by the notion of the sun entering prismatic glasses, Maher’s Suntrackers split sunbeams into long bands of color, rainbows, or arcs of light. Optically clear colored glass and prismatic objects combine to create patterns that change through the course of the day or season. A secondary image is created when the sun casts light onto the floor or wall after passing through the glass. Works that include prisms project a tertiary image of overlapping rainbows.
After dedicating 49 years to exploring the possibilities of glass, Maher looks back at his pivotal beginnings, when he invited local architects, designers, and artists to a brainstorming session prior to opening his studio. Out of that meeting, he learned to ask himself the question: Is your work something new and different? Is it unique to your studio? – reinforcing the idea that not only can one produce something new and different in the traditional art form of stained glass, but one should. “The greatest compliment I’ve received,” says Maher “is, ‘I’ve never seen windows like yours before.’”