Kids, what do you see in Mr. Wright’s art glass windows?

Angela has been attending “Teaching by Design” — a professional development series offered to educators by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. She’s using the experience to supplement her classes and curriculum with design thinking inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. Despite Covid, the conference has been hybrid – she attends tours and demonstrations at the Robie House and Wright’s Oak Park Studio in Chicago, and then returns to Zoom for presentations. She has met and shared ideas with a great group of talented artisans and experts over the last few months.

One of those experts is Matthew Smith of Unified Vision Studios in Rochester, New York. Matthew produces fine leaded art glass and has created a series of miniatures – samples and ornaments – that, among other applications, can be passed around in school classrooms to show how the work is done or to be used as templates for student art work.

Samples have been so effective that Angela is tapping donated funds to purchase more for her school. With Matthew’s work in hand, the students engage the medium authentically to experience and inspire their own designs.

During an email exchange with Matthew, Angela asked the question that she always asks her students when they visit our house: “What do you see in the abstract pattern in the art glass in the Elizabeth Murphy House?”

It’s a pattern unique to this little house. Like most of Wright’s window designs, it seems rooted in natural things like trees or flowers.

But Matthew delivered a zinger – a surprise we’d not seen or uncovered. With decades of caring for the fine leaded glass in Arts and Crafts and Prairie Style homes, Matthew points out that the motif in the Elizabeth Murphy House reflects the Elizabeth Murphy House herself. Like Wright’s window patterns in the Robie House, which mirror the proportions of that facade, this little house sees herself in her many lovely windows. (Matthew cites the book The Old Way of Seeing, by Jonathan Hale, for that bit of wisdom.)

The art-glass motif in the Elizabeth Murphy House overlaying the House itself.

Thanks, Matthew, for helping us see her this way too. And here, by the way, is Matthew’s Instagram. Please follow. His work is amazing.

About this blog: The Elizabeth Murphy House is a 103 year-old American System-Built Home and the protagonist in the book “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Forgotten House.”

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