Ann Wolff Talks Art Glass Windows

Ann Wolff brings her half century of experience to her role as one of Colorado’s leading experts on glass art windows.

Ann Wolff | Artist | Home & Garden Colorado Magazine
Ann Wolff. Photo by Jake Holschuh.

Ann Wolff perfected her art glass talents the traditional way, apprenticing with an Austrian master craftsman in Aspen and working for a German-owned studio on Long Island. Her windows result from a demanding applied art that requires her to draw and paint, piece elements together like a mosaicist, fire at high temperatures like a ceramicist, and engineer like an architect. Wolff has been featured on HGTV and has received many accolades, including the highest award from the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art (ICAA) for craftmanship in the Rocky Mountain region.

Why are art glass windows a good investment?
“Glass enhances the environment. For one thing, sun through colored glass is ever-changing. It’s not like a painting that never changes. The glass brings something special to a room, something living. Glass is a living art form. You’re installing a piece of living art that takes advantage of the light.”

Ann Wolff | Artist | Home & Garden Colorado Magazine
Ann Wolff. Photo by Jake Holschuh.

What are some important design considerations for art glass windows?
“We don’t take a watercolor and decide we’ll make a stained-glass window. Glass has structural concerns. That’s important. You can’t make just anything out of glass; you can’t make every shape. I design the lead lines first. A good line drawing will make a nice window. You don’t want too much lead, and you have to be careful where lead is. You don’t want a lead line coming out of the beak of a bird so it looks like it’s spitting.”

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Works from your studio are installed throughout Colorado. What distinguishes your windows?
“Creativity, knowledge, craftsmanship and materials. I use the best materials. Most of my glass comes from Europe and it’s hand-blown.”

What are ideal residential stained-glass window applications?
“We do a lot of sidelights, transoms, landings, windows beside fireplaces, cabinets. Not so much bathrooms because there’s a code problem, and tempered glass is required.”

Ann Wolff | Artist | Home & Garden Colorado Magazine
Ann Wolff. Photo by Jake Holschuh.

Do you recommend a certain exposure for art glass windows?
“It doesn’t matter. A northern exposure evens out the color. A southern exposure will wash it out. But to deal with exposure you change the glass. Not all glass is transparent. Some is opaque-ish. It’s okay to have a tree outside the window, because the shadows will give the glass life. What’s most important is that the glass is site-specific and integrated in the building it’s intended for: the right glass for the location.”

Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has spectacular hand-painted Munich Glass, and the Denver Mint has some Tiffany glass pendant lamps. Where else in Colorado can readers see outstanding public art glass?
“There’s a lot of glass in churches. St. John’s Cathedral has mostly American glass: Charles Connick, Gothic revival. Montview Presbyterian is finishing an extensive remodel, and I worked with them on a display case showing how stained-glass is made, starting from sand. They have a variety of glass in the church: some of the old, painted-on opalescent glass, some thick dalle de verre glass, some Gothic revival. Cherry Hills Community Church has contemporary glass by a post-war designer named Jean Jacques Duval. The glass in the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs is very famous. The governor’s mansion has leaded windows. The Navarre Building has beautiful Victorian beveled glass doors, and the Equitable Building has Tiffany glass.”

Ann Wolff | ArtistAnn Wolff | Artist | Home & Garden Colorado Magazine
Photo courtesy of Ann Wolff.

Do you recommend buying antique windows?
“Yes. They can be cut down or enlarged to fit, but save yourself the heartache and buy one in good condition. Antique window repairs are very difficult, and not many people can fix them properly. You can find old windows online, but then you have to pay shipping. Eron Johnson Antiques is a good source in Denver.”

What trends do you see in art glass windows?
“For so long, everything was clear. You see it in interior design all over: Everything is gray and white. It’s a sleek look that integrates electronics. People didn’t want to commit to color, so if their whole interior is white and gray, they wanted clear windows. We have more clear textures than we used to have, but clear is clear. Color is coming back in design, and I want to encourage it. That’s what makes these windows. When they have color, they have something else to say. I like seeing the increase in some kind of color. There’s no reason not to have more color in glass. Color is more interesting.”