Circle Studio, Inc. in Chicago

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.

This is the supply of glass sheets at Circle Studio, Inc.
This floral design was hand-painted onto the 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!

Joseph Badalpour Interview Part 1

Joseph Badalpour Interview Part 2

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).

Halim Time and Glass Museum

The Halim Time & Glass Museum in Evanston, Illinois (a Chicago suburb) is one of the most beautiful museums that I have ever visited.  Unfortunately, when I went, I was not writing this blog yet, so did not take photos to prove it.  The museum contains approximately 1,100 timepieces in addition to a gorgeous collection of stained glass windows.

The Halim Time & Glass Museum was founded in 2017 by Cameel Halim, an Egyptian immigrant who became wealthy by working in the real estate industry.  Always fascinated with clocks, he only began collecting them about twenty years ago.  His collection includes 200 timepieces that he purchased for $5 million from the collection of the late Seth Atwood.  Atwood’s collection of 1,550 timepieces used to be on display at his Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois, from 1971 until its closing in 1999.  Unfortunately, I never visited the Time Museum, which was once one of the largest museums about the history of time in the world.  After the museum closed, the collection was displayed at the Science and Industry Museum in Chicago for a few years, but then was sadly auctioned off to different bidders, including Halim.

Halim originally planned to open his museum in 2012, however, the Victorian mansion that would have housed the museum burned down in 2011.  Fortunately, none of Halim’s collections were inside the home yet.  However, the fire meant that he had to create a new building for his museum.

When you enter the Halim Museum, you find yourself in the stained glass exhibit, which takes up the entire first floor.  The glass displays include works by a variety of artists including the famous American, Louis Comfort Tiffany.  I am not sure if it is a permanent exhibit, but when I visited the museum, there was a room specifically dedicated to Tiffany and his work.  While going through the stained glass exhibit, you will learn how European stained glass artists usually painted the glass, whereas American styles that evolved in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used new techniques to design glass.  This included layering pieces of colored glass to create different textures and colors in the design.

The remainder of the museum is dedicated to the history of time.  This exhibit begins chronologically, with the oldest clocks first.  The timepieces are from all over the world, although most are European.  There are cuckoo clocks, pocket watches, grandfather clocks, sun dials, chronometers, and many other types of timepieces.  For some of the more unusual clocks, there are screens next to them so that you can click to see a video of how that specific clock looks while it is running.  None of the clocks are currently running at the museum because that would potentially be too loud.  The most elaborate and bejeweled clocks in the museum are those that the British made as gifts for the Chinese emperors during the eighteenth century.  These include clocks that look like bird cages, with the clock part located on the outside bottom of the cage.

The Halim Museum is a little pricey, with regular adult admission being $20.  However, seniors and students get discounts, while children and military personnel can enter for free.  Tours are available to visitors each day at 1 PM, except for Mondays, when the museum is closed.

Sources and Further Reading
“About the Halim Time & Glass Museum.” The Halim Time & Glass Museum. https://www.halimmuseum.org/about (accessed December 12, 2020).

Bullington, Jonathan. “Evanston Fire Destroys Historic Building Slated to Be Museum.” Chicago Tribune. March 16, 2011. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2011-03-16-ct-met-evanston-fire-0316-20110316-story.html (accessed December 12, 2020).

Haas, Kevin. “Former Rockford Collector’s Rare Clock Sells for Record $6.8M.” Rockford Register Star. December 6, 2012. https://www.rrstar.com/article/20121206/BLOGS/312069867 (accessed December 12, 2020).

Horan, Deborah. “He’s the Man of the Hour for Clock Buffs. LA Times. May 27, 2007. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2007-may-27-adna-clocks27-story.html (accessed December 12, 2020).

“It’s About Time.” Roadtrip America. September, 1996. https://www.roadtripamerica.com/places/timemus.htm (accessed December 12, 2020).

McColley, Robert and William D. Walters, Jr. World Book Encyclopedia, s. v. “Illinois.” Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1996.

“Stained Glass Masters.” Halim Time & Glass Museum. https://www.halimmuseum.org/stained-glass-masters-archive (accessed December 12, 2020).