Dream Window 13: Carissima and Kodachrome

In July of 1981, I attended a five-week pre-freshman orientation program at Hamilton College.  Between that summer and the late spring of 1985, I was a college student at one of the “Little Ivies.”  There were days when I felt about as out of place as Willy Loman in a summer stock production of Spamalot; conversely, there were days when I felt that being part of Hamilton College was the best choice I could have ever made.

You know what?  Hamilton College is as much a part of my life and legacy as everything else I’ve experienced.  Therefore, the college deserves a Dream Window.

And for the Dream Window, I’m going to incorporate something very special.  It will include imagery of the Hamilton College Chapel – the iconic structure that sits centrally in the “Stryker Side” of the campus.  And if all goes well, it will get its debut in a very special place.

IMG_20150222_193318Now take a look at this window.  This is a Queen Anne window that I snagged from Silver Fox Salvage in Albany.  I made a deal with Jamie and Camille at Silver Fox – they could have the stained glass panels inside the window, I would take the frame itself.  Yeah, it’s not the same as my usual “window-bashing” excursions, but I’m kinda in a hurry to build this.

In the past, I’ve had other people cut my panels of stained glass; this time, I decided it would be advantageous to start cutting my own stained glass panels.  Look, if I really want this “Dream Window” to symbolize my craft, then it’s time I learned how to cut stained glass by myself.

The plan was to have the swirls of stained glass blend from panel to panel.  I’ve done this before, but it often involved having someone else cut the panels.  This time, I bought some swirled Hobby Lobby stained glass, and after careful measurement of each piece…

I scored the glass with a carbide wheeled glass cutter.  And then… deep breath… close my eyes…


Two pieces of glass, with a break perfectly along the score line.

Whew.  Okay.  I can do this.

Each glass pane had to create three panels – one corner and the adjoining panels.  If done properly, the swirls would match through three panels.

First try.  Hobby Lobby white-burgundy swirled glass.  Things worked well.  I went back to Hobby Lobby and bought more swirled glass – blue-clear, green-clear, red-clear.  Went and purchased a second blue-clear because I messed up on a score line.  Oh well.  Stuff happens.

IMG_20150224_080150And when it was finished… looky here.

In the past, I’ve had my stained glass either pre-cut or trimmed by someone else.  This is the first Dream Window in which I’ve made the cuts myself.  And thankfully, only a small loss of blood.  All fingers remained intact.  Hee.

Now all I need to do is caulk the panes into place, and I’m all set.  Nice Dream Window, isn’t it?

Oh wait… I need something for the center pane.  And for that, I want a picture of the Hamilton College Chapel.

The Chapel was erected in 1827, and one of the architects involved in its construction was Albany architect Philip Hooker.  It has hosted countless weddings and religious services, and several of the College’s presidents – including the founder, Samuel Kirkland – were ministers.   Here’s a link to the history of the Chapel.

Okay, I have to go back and find a good picture of the Hamilton College Chapel.  I know I’ve taken dozens of photos of it over time, I’ve used nearly every camera in my arsenal to capture the simple beauty of that house of worship.

Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton, N.Y.
I’ve photographed the chapel with Kodachrome film…

Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton, N.Y.
I’ve shot it with my old Nikon CoolPix 800 camera…

Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton NY
This was taken with some crisp B&W efke film…

Hamilton College Chapel tower, Clinton, N.Y. - Shot on 60-year-old Kodak 120 B&W stock
And I used 60-year-old Kodak B&W film for this shot.

Hamilton College Chapel and statue of Alexander Hamilton, Svema film
Got this chilly shot with my wonky Svema film.

Hamilton College Chapel, Polar Panorama
And here’s a Polar Panorama with the Chapel at 12:00.

Eventually I settled on this picture.  It was a Kodachrome photo from August 2010, while I was on a trip through the Utica-Clinton Mohawk Valley area.

hamilton slideBy the way, do you know how difficult it is to create THIS digital image at left, to show you the Kodachrome border AND the image itself?  Yeah.  Tres difficult.  In fact, a true Hamiltonian will notice that the picture is horizontally flipped.  The statue of Alexander Hamilton holds a cane in his right hand, not in his left.  But how else can I show you that this was a Kodachrome slide?

Also, I needed a narrow photograph that encompassed the chapel and the statue.  You see how narrow that center panel is?  It better be at least as narrow as 8 inches wide by almost 17 inches long.

Digital scan.  Digital crop.  Just fits.  A quick edit job later, and the digital photo was couriered to my print lab of choice, McGreevy Pro Lab.  Okay, McGreevy, do your best.

And sure enough, a few days later, McGreevy Pro Lab produced my print – nicely foam-boarded and cropped, 8 inches wide, 17 inches long.

Now I need a pane of glass for the center.  No way am I putting unprotected artwork into that panel.

A quick stop at Lowe’s, where they will cut glass and plexiglass to my specific dimensional requests.

On Friday night, I stopped at Lowe’s with the specific dimensions.  8 inches wide, 17 3/4 inches tall.

The difference between Lowe’s and Home Depot is that Home Depot doesn’t custom-cut glass or plexiglass, and Lowe’s does.  But when I brought the pane of glass home and put it in the Dream Window frame… I discovered that the pane of glass was 8 1/2 inches wide.  8 1/2 inches won’t fit in an 8-inch opening.  In other words, 8 1/2 inches was just too big.  Please refrain from any 6th grade bathroom giggling after reading that previous sentence.

Saturday morning, I return to Lowe’s – this time the one in Northway Mall.  I asked them to cut the pane of glass for me.  They got it right this time.  I guess somewhere in Lowe’s, the memo of “measure twice, cut once” is only in half of the employee handbooks.


I was able to get the pane inserted… the artwork inserted… and as soon as the glazier’s points and silicone caulking do their job…

Okay, you want to see it, right?

Here it is.  My thirteenth Dream Window creation.

Dream Window 13 - Carissima and Kodachrome
Dream Window 13: Carissima and Kodachrome. Creation by Chuck Miller.

You like?  Yeah, I kinda like it, too.

Okay… now for the big news.  This Dream Window is getting displayed in a very special place this summer.

This Dream Window, along with Dream Window 11: Saratoga’s Healing Waters, and four framed photo artworks – The AGFA Bridge Over Ansco Lake, The Three-Two Pitch, Star Trails of Brown Tract Pond and Jesus Saves – will be part of an alumni art show this June, as part of my 30th reunion at Hamilton College.

How super-swank is that?

For me, this is a personal triumph.  When I started the Dream Window project nearly three years ago, I never imagined that I’d put together more than one or two of these artworks.  Now they’ve helped raise money in charitable auctions, they’ve landed on the walls in new homes and new establishments, and the creation of these treasures has helped me channel many of my emotions – both positive and negative – into something with visual appeal.

Not bad fora guy who only a few years ago wouldn’t know how to cut glass, caulk a window, or mix multi-media materials into an artwork like this.

Sometimes the paths we take can surprise us.  I know that Hamilton College guided me on a pathway that I never imagined.

And that’s the same with these Dream Windows.