Tamara Drager’s journey into Dalle de Verre art glass started in 1997 with a discarded church window, its rich, luminescent hues hypnotically beckoning from the debitage of a Rocky Mount dumpster.
Drager, a Toledo, Ohio native who has called Virginia home since the 1980s, could not abandon the lustrous piece to an ignoble destiny in a landfill, so she carefully coaxed and tugged the 120-pound window out of the refuse container and into the bed of her pickup truck.
“I was determined to get it, and I finally got it in my truck,” said Drager, a registered nurse and Bay Harbor resident who now runs a property maintenance business.
Thus began Drager’s sojourn into works created with stout slabs of glass in designs that seem timeless; they’d look as much at home in or around a contemporary lakefront residence with soaring ceilings and capacious windows, as they would positioned next to the rock monoliths of Stonehenge.
Dalle de Verre faceted glass is an art glass medium in which dalles (thick, handmade glass tiles) are broken with a hammer or cut with a band saw into pieces and set in an epoxy base to adhere them in a decorative design. Dependent on large scale for best appearance, they primarily are used in architectural applications such as church walls, commercial structures and residences. The technique originated in Europe with pieces of glass set in clay. Designers switched to concrete in the early 20th century and more recently, turned to epoxy resin.
The appearance of Dalle de Verre glass is often reminiscent of mosaic, but unlike mosaic, the glass jewels glow with light-filled color. This more impressionistic type of window recalls the early glass fabrication of the Persians and Saracens, in which thick, crude glass was set into wood, stucco or stone. French artists in the 1920s revitalized the ancient techniques as they sought a style of stained glass that would compliment Art Deco architecture of that period. Noted for for its luminosity and intensity of colors, Dalle de Verre (French for slab of glass) was introduced by the master French glassmaker Jean Gaudin in 1927. Its development later coincided with the emergence of contemporary reinforced concrete architecture and the construction of post World War II religious edifices. Gabriel Loire introduced the technique to the United States in 1955 at the First Presbyterian Church in Stamford, Connecticut.
Drager has lived at the lake since 1995 when she made a successful offer on a dilapidated, rodent-infested waterfront house that she since has restored into a comfortable, unpretentious, eclectic retreat where visitors feel at home immediately, a place to kick back, toss in a line, and if really lucky, land a Striper.
“The house was a bachelor pad, with stacked firewood and underwear,” lying about, she remembered.
Tiger lilies in soothing shades of pink and fuchsia, as well as other perennials, provide pops of color Drager’s yard. Perhaps not surprisingly, a few gazing balls, reflecting blue skies and passing clouds, nestle here and there in the ground cover.
To read more of this and other stories, pick up a copy of this week's Smith Mountain Eagle on newsstands or subscribe online or by calling 719-5100. A year's subscription, which is just $26 in Bedford, Franklin and Pittsylvania County, also gives you free access to the Smith Mountain Eagle’s e-edition, an online version of the entire newspaper.