artist, blogger, grandson
November 3, 2022 1:21 PM   Subscribe

"I spent the last couple weeks finally tackling a project I've put off for years: finishing a stained glass menorah project my grandfather started decades ago and left incomplete when he died." -- by Metafilter's own Josh Millard. (Related Twitter thread) [via mefi projects]
posted by bondcliff (33 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
Oh this got me right in the feels, for so many familiar family bridges and echoes. I’m so glad you finished this piece
posted by Bottlecap at 1:37 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]

Cortex, that is really beautiful! I especially love the glass you chose for the flames, and the symbolism and aesthetic of that diagonal copper line linking your work with your grandfather's. What a lovely project!
posted by ourobouros at 1:46 PM on November 3 [6 favorites]

That’s beautiful. I love the colour and sweep of it but my favourite bit is the way the simple inclination of the flames adds so much movement. My father died of cancer in the early 90s and last fall I finally got around to finishing the intarsia wall hanging he'd left behind…so I had a lump in my throat while reading this. Great job.
posted by brachiopod at 1:54 PM on November 3 [9 favorites]

I have a half-finished embroidery project salvaged from my grandmother's things that I keep telling myself I should do something with. Someday. (I don't have anywhere near the skill now.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:01 PM on November 3 [5 favorites]

This was a very moving read.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 2:09 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]

Lovely. And touching.
posted by Splunge at 2:38 PM on November 3

I was watching this unfold on Twitter and I'll be honest, I was skeptical when the idea first came up to do the unfinished background in different colors from the part his grandfather had done. But he pulled it off deftly and beautifully, and the division adds a fantastic layer of meaning to the piece.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:04 PM on November 3 [6 favorites]

Fantastic art with a fantastic story.
posted by humbug at 3:05 PM on November 3

Thanks, y'all. This has been a really satisfying project to work on and I'm so glad I finally did it after putting it off year after year after year.

The perverse thing about the length of the twitter thread is even as detailed and long as it is, there's a lot I left on the cutting room floor just to not further flood my followers with incidental details about the making process and things that I was chewing on or bothered by. There's a lot of little details and doubts and creative compromises that I could have gone on 500 word tangents on that just felt like, even for this, too much, but which at some point maybe maybe I'll feel like sitting down and capturing.

One of the ironies of stained glass work is there are so many details to worry about that, as soon as you put it up against light streaming through, just sort of disappear into a glowing silhouette. Every artist in every medium worries about shit that 90% of the people looking at the finished project will never even notice, but there's something about the deliberateness of stained glass that makes that feel even more so when I'm working on it a lot of the time. I spent hours of cumulative effort on some stuff no one who isn't a stained glass person standing two feet from the actual piece will ever give a shit about. But I still can't help but give a shit.

Anyway, yeah. Super glad I finally pushed through on this. It went better than I was worried it might and, more importantly, close to as well as I had hoped, which isn't usually the case for something where I go out on a limb. I feel satisfied with the work I did and not at all worried that I failed to justify elaborating on Milton's extant work, which is a huge relief. I wish I had known him better, or that time had worked differently so this could have been a proper collaboration in person of some sort. But I'll take what I can get.
posted by cortex at 3:12 PM on November 3 [59 favorites]

Gotta work on that internet hygiene.

Your pictures of stained glass Menorot emit copious amounts of dust......
posted by lalochezia at 3:59 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]

or that time had worked differently so this could have been a proper collaboration in person of some sort.

Hey, Natalie Cole won several Grammys for singing Unforgettable with tapes of her dead father, certainly a collaboration of exactly the sort you just did.

I was watching this unfold across the days on twitter, too. And I found it intensely moving, honestly, how much honor you gave to the original design while realizing you needed to make changes and choices... I feel like this finished product is so beautiful... I hesitate to say what your grandfather would have said about it, but I know that I look at it and feel nothing but deep appreciation and love and some powerful Menorah magic. And you got it done in time for the season!
posted by hippybear at 4:38 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]

or that time had worked differently so this could have been a proper collaboration in person of some sort.

And I guess I'm led to ask: did you ever discuss this project with your grandfather? Did you know about it before he died, or was it a discovery later? I'd like to have more backstory about the piece from before you took it over.
posted by hippybear at 4:47 PM on November 3

Congratulations on tackling this and on seeing it through so beautifully. And thank for sharing the process, it has been great to check in on every so often and see how it's been coming along.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:51 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]

I, too, followed your journey on Twitter. I am so happy you were able to finish in a way that is pleasing to you. It is a beautiful object and does you and your grandfather proud.

I have some pieces of woodworking, paintings, and fiber art done by ancestors on both sides of my mom's family and I've been making an effort to get them out and on display in my home. Holding something that they held lets me feel very connected to them.

Thank you for sharing this!
posted by agatha_magatha at 4:52 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]

posted by bendy at 4:56 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]

did you ever discuss this project with your grandfather? Did you know about it before he died, or was it a discovery later?

At the beginning of the article, cortex mentions that it wasn’t something he knew about.
I got a call from my parents out of the blue in February, 2019, saying they'd heard I'd taken up making stained glass art and would I like Grandpa Milt's stained glass stuff.

I hadn't known my dad's dad did stained glass. But he had, in the later years of his life. And my parents had managed, through at least two estate sortings-out following first Milt's death and then years later that of dad's mom Elaine, to hold on to some of it, and it had made it's way through all that time and shuffling-around into their basement, and, well, would I like it?
posted by zamboni at 5:01 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]

Wow! Congratulations on completing an amazing project and so worth the time and effort!
posted by Glinn at 5:04 PM on November 3

I've tried stained glass and getting it precisely right is hard. Congrats to you!
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:05 PM on November 3

I've never seen anyone go to the level of detail cortex puts into everything.
posted by bendy at 5:07 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]

did you ever discuss this project with your grandfather? Did you know about it before he died, or was it a discovery later?

I never did; I didn't even find out that he'd done stained glass until long after his death. (In that strained sense that maybe my parents had mentioned it at some point when I was a teenager, but would I have noticed?) So I was coming into this cold. Which is a shame, because they had a house full of art and I'm sure if I'd been artistically aware enough and honestly just far enough post-teens to have a real conversation with him about artwork I think I would have appreciated and benefited from it greatly.

The most significant creative conversation I remember ever having with Milton was at some point, visiting them down in San Diego (likely circa Thanksgiving for a year where Hanukkah was early, I remember as a Portland kid being struck by how incredibly fucking warm it was in November down there), him sitting down or maybe just standing over my shoulder while I tooled around on their electric organ. Grandpa was into jazz and played at least organ, maybe other things; I was a teenager or maybe tween who didn't give the least shit about jazz in practice but loved trying to work stuff out by ear on the piano. And he was watching me chording some song and talking about how the way I was playing reminded him of some organ techniques where there was a motivation to sort of move your left hand as little as possible, playing inversions instead of root triad forms to keep a more constant droney feel. Which I didn't have the theory or experience for to really fully appreciate at the time, but is exactly how I tend to operate a lot of the time in musical composition. Another thing I wish I could have an actual conversation about now that I wasn't prepared for back then.
posted by cortex at 5:14 PM on November 3 [16 favorites]

I have a half-finished embroidery project salvaged from my grandmother's things that I keep telling myself I should do something with. Someday.

My own Grandmother Biscuit knitted for close to seventy years, and only ceased on the final few years as dementia left her more and more confused. After she died, the only thing of hers I kept was the final, barely-started project: possibly a scarf for her great-granddaughter, my niece, who turned eighteen this week. It reposes in a cardboard box in my basement, with the needles still sitting where she stuck them a decade and more ago, in the hand-sized patch of wool. I am unlikely ever to learn knitting, so I may put it in a shadow box.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:23 PM on November 3 [8 favorites]

I am unlikely ever to learn knitting, so I may put it in a shadow box.

That sounds like a lovely memorial to have someplace in one's house.
posted by hippybear at 5:50 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]

Mad props. I thought you were doing the lead thing, didn't know about the copper.

Memory hole, this is 5th or 6th grade arts and crafts projects that you can almost but not quite do stained glass. One of my favorite elementary school things....

Black construction paper cut into thin strips (thinness depends on dexterity). Glue stick. Shape the paper into loops and glue as needed to do the outlines of the shapes.

Put that on some aluminum foil (nowadays I'd spring for the Teflon coated sort but it doesn't really matter).

Get a bunch of those little 1 oz plastic condiment cups, just something to mix up some stuff in with a toothpick or something.

Plain old white glue and some drops of food coloring mixed in to tint the glue.

Pour the different colors of glue into the the shaped paper that's laying on the aluminum foil.

Let set. The glue dries clear but tinted. Tear off the excess on the top of shave it off with a razor blade. Take a small nail and hammer a hole in the right place so you can hang it up. Glue doesn't stick to foil, it just peels right off.

If it breaks, just a bit of glue it back together.

Presto, kid friendly stained glass. Hang in window, put on Christmas Tree.

It's a great kid 'stained glass' project that doesn't involve cutting glass and soldering metals with a hot thing. Pretty cool.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:52 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]

cortex, I loved reading this.... your persistence and how you worked with and against your own tendencies, in particular, were nourishing for me just now. Thank you. And thanks bondcliff for posting it.
posted by brainwane at 6:12 PM on November 3 [5 favorites]

This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.
posted by eirias at 7:10 PM on November 3

Agree with everyone above. Very cool.
posted by Windopaene at 7:53 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]

Thank you for posting this bondcliff and bendy for the threadreader.
I left Twitter last week, no regrets, but i was sad thinking i would miss cortex finishing the menorah.
posted by 15L06 at 1:45 AM on November 4

So beautiful!
posted by ellieBOA at 2:02 AM on November 4

How many of us have "back closet projects?"
That is, arts and crafts items that we started in the first flush of enthusiasm for a new skill or after getting new tools, only to lose patience and time and the strong desire to continue struggling with the work until some unscheduled moment of completion.
So we box up the tools and supplies, add the half-done projects, maybe include our handwritten notes and any pamphlets or photocopied instructions, and store the box out of sight and out of mind.
Over the years we drag the projects out during moments of ennui, decipher our notes and continue where we left off. Maybe we make some progress, or maybe we rip out what we’ve done and start over.
But then life intervenes. At some point we box it all up again and toss the unfinished work into the back of the closet, where it gathers dust until the next time we have a spare moment and nothing else to do.

It takes a brave friend or family member to take up where we left off. You did a good job there, cortex. Hats off to you and your resolution to complete your grandfather’s work.
posted by TrishaU at 3:19 AM on November 4

All of it - the story, the writing - all just beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with everyone, cortex.
posted by jquinby at 4:39 AM on November 4

It’s lovely!
posted by stowaway at 8:02 AM on November 4

This was so lovely to read. And it’s a project with such a beautiful end result. Thanks so much for sharing it with the world!
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:06 AM on November 5

Nothing to say that hasn't already been said. The happy/sad tears are flowing freely here. Thank you, cortex.
posted by bcd at 11:51 AM on November 5

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