From the Gothic cathedrals of Western Europe, to the Tiffany stained glass of the United States, to the simple design of raised glass on a door, we can all appreciate the beauty of glass artists. Although I usually write about museums or libraries, for my first post of the new year, I would like to write about a stained glass art studio that I visited.
Circle Studio, Inc. is one of the few stained glass art studios in the Chicago area, and even in the United States. This is because stained glass is not as popular as it once was. The peak of its popularity in the United States was during the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. However, despite its waning popularity, it is still universally regarded as a beautiful style of art.
Joseph Badalpour, an Assyrian from Iran, founded Circle Studio, Inc. in 1975. He is likely the only Assyrian who works with stained glass as a career. In 2020, Mr. Badalpour was kind enough to give me a personal tour of his studio!
Mr. Badalpour opened Circle Studio, Inc. right after he received a Fine Arts degree from the American Academy of Art in Chicago, where he specialized in painting. He took the skills that he learned from painting and applied them to stained glass. He has had stained glass studios in different locations in the past but is currently at 3928 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago. His clients have included the Oak Park Temple, the Assyrian Christian Church, and the Assyrian Cultural Foundation (where he serves as the Fine Arts Director), as well as many other religious institutions, private homes, and businesses.
When I entered Circle Studio, Inc., the beautiful variety of color immediately caught my attention. Stained glass pieces surround the entire space, hanging from the walls and ceiling. There are even several stained glass lamps on display at the studio. All of the glass pieces were created by Mr. Badalpour and his team, although several of the pieces are actually antiques that Circle Studio restored.
As we walked through the studio, Mr. Badalpour explained to me the process of creating stained glass. First, he talks about the idea of a piece with his client and sketches out the design during the process. Once the client approves of the sketch, he creates a detailed sketch on paper, using the exact dimensions of the anticipated glass piece.
He ultimately uses that sketch as the blueprint for creating the stained glass. This involves cutting out pieces of glass into different shapes like a puzzle, and then sticking them together in a process called soldering.
Some works are made from different pieces of colored glass, while other works require Mr. Badalpour to hand-paint colorful designs onto the glass. Not all glass pieces contain color. Sometimes, Mr. Badalpour bevels the glass, meaning that he carefully carves out designs onto the glass itself. Beveling can look nice on both colorful and clear glass.
If you are interested in watching a video filmed at Circle Studio, here is a 2-part interview or Mr. Badalpour, produced by the Assyrian Cultural Foundation. However, unless you know Assyrian (neo-Aramaic), you will not understand what they are saying in the interview!
The above stained glass window can be found at the Assyrian Cultural Foundation’s Ashurbanipal Library in Chicago. It is surrounded by Ancient Near Eastern motifs. In the center is the Ancient Assyrian King, Ashurbanipal, the founder of the first systematic library in the world. To the left of him is a cuneiform table, like the ones discovered in his library. To the right is a Bible with two verses about Assyria written in Syriac: Isaiah 19:24-25 and Luke 11:32.
Click here to read my post about a related topic: the Halim Time and Glass Museum.
Click here to read my post about the Assyrian Cultural Foundation’s (formerly, the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foudnation) Ashurbanipal Library in Chicago.
Sources and Further Reading
“About Us.” Circle Studio. http://www.circlestudioinc.com/about.html (accessed January 2, 2021).
Assyrian Cultural Foundation. “Interview with Joseph Badalpour Part1.” YouTube, August 21, 2018. Video, 31:17. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZCwMgk-Gss (accessed January 2, 2021).
Assyrian Cultural Foundation. “Interview with Joseph Badalpour Part2.” YouTube, August 21, 2018. Video, 31:17. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eYgxkkN57k (accessed January 2, 2021).