- Chaîne d'artistes -

Michael Laduke, the stained glass creator

Lothar Hartung

Michael Laduke (Photo : Lothar Hartung)

From the beautiful hills of St. Armand to the hamlet of Stanbridge East, creativity flourishes in our townships.

Michael Laduke has lived in Stanbridge-East all of his 56 years. His family is native to Stanbridge-East and has been settled there for seven generations. As a boy, he worked for his carpenter grandfather, Alton Laduke, building the town’s first sidewalks. Michael then worked in construction for many years with his father Clifton, who was also a well-known carpenter. Clifton made beautiful wooden furniture, mostly out of cherry wood, screen doors that can be seen throughout the townships, adirondack chairs and so much more. He loved working with his hands, and spent hours in his shop turning spindles and the like.

Inside the house was Michael’s mother Beverley, who was also very creative, enjoying painting, knitting, crocheting, quilting, sewing and much more.

Michael inherently values the beauty of making things by hand. As a young man in his twenties, he remembers visiting friends and admiring the gift of a stained glass fisherman they had received. His curiousity perked, and while in Toronto Michael found a stained glass book with an address in the back, where he sent away for a beginner’s stained glass making kit Michael’s work with stained glass has been a trial and error process, with some guidance in the beginning, from his friends at the Studio de Verre in Old Montreal, where he gets most of his material. It is an amazing shop, impossible to go in and buy one piece of glass ! Did you know that glass is made out of sand ? Coloured glass comes from the U.S.A., England and Germany. It is a paradox, but the thicker, more difficult glass to work with is also the more expensive to buy. A sheet of glass may have blends of colours, with a variety of textures. Red glass and the pink family are more expensive because gold dust is added to the molten glass to intensify the colour. The assortment, colours, textures, and patterns are endless. Michael’s reputation has spread and for years the owner of The Studio de Verre has encouraged him to work with them on large contracts in Montreal !

Perfecting the technique has required endless patience. The first stage, after choosing a pattern or creating one’s own, involves making a pattern out of cardboard and cutting out each piece, with precision. Then, choosing the glass. There are “rules” such as not mixing opaque with translucent, having the lines of each piece run the same direction (whereby using more glass but following the aesthetic beauty of the material) and more. One then traces each pattern piece onto the glass and then the cutting (scoring) begins. A carburumdum tipped cutter is used, remembering never to cut over the same line more than once ! The glass is then broken along the score lines, easily with straight lines, not so easily with inward curves. Glass tends to want to crack in a straight line, much to a novice’s dismay ! Each piece must then be put to the grinder, cleaned, wrapped in self-adhesive copper foil tape (a technique begun by Louis Tiffany), soldered together, cleaned again and then polished. Oh what a shame when a piece is dropped !

Michael began by making gifts for family and friends. Now he works on contracts, builds inventory and participates in the Tournée des 20 each fall. He is one of the original participants, welcoming clients into his shop, and inviting them to try their hand at cutting a piece of glass.

Michael also works with leaded glass ; has created church windows and restored others. His work has been shipped to many countries ; from a polar bear window in South Africa, to angels and music boxes in the Arctic, maple leaves in Switzerland, other pieces in Germany, England, France and Peru. Samples of Michael’s work can also be found at Mr. Baker’s bakery, Baker-Dion-Meunier Funeral Home, Dépanneur Stanbridge-East, Bedford United Church, Stanbridge-East United Church to name but a few.

Customers come to order lamps, which can be from 20 to as many as 2000 pieces. The simple elegance of stained glass lends itself to unlimited possibilities. Also popular are windows, mirrors, and suncatchers. Michael is able to work with a customer, helping them choose the perfect design, sometimes going to their home and offering suggestions for colour combinations and such. Some clients even come in with a memorable photograph and Michael transforms it into a work of art !

Courses are also available. Students have often been heard to say how much they love to work in the studio with Michael, learning from his patience and precision. It’s fun to learn an art, sitting with an artist, on a winter afternoon or evening.

Currently, Michael is working on the Carrefour Culturel Committee in Stanbridge-East to try and bring a « Marché de Noël » event to the town ; a traditional old fashioned market with local hand-made goods.

Michael’s process continues as he explores the boundaries of the glass, and his imagination. He strives to create new, original designs, using his knowlege and experience to create sparkling wonders.

Although there are no conventional hours as Michael delivers the rural mail in the mornings, there is a very informal, inviting atmosphere, and if he is home, the shop is open. He is often in his shop in the evenings. He asks that people call ahead. He is situated at 2 Riceburg Road, Stanbridge East.  450-248-3871.

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