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An immersion in modern stained glass art in Champagne

Detail of a stained glass window in Serqueux church, inspired by the plant cells found in wood
Also known for its stained glass, Champagne is one of the best French regions for the craft. A centuries-old tradition elevated to an art form, the stained glass craft is in better shape than ever. How did this art form managed manage to keep up up with and draw inspiration from modern creativity? Are the same techniques still used today? Here we meet Flavie Serrière Vincent-Peti, a stained glass restorer and designer based in Troyes.
How would you describe your work?
For the stained glass windows in this church in Champagne, Flavie Serrière Vincent-Petit used a triple-glazing technique

I’m reminded of Jean Lafond’s definition: “Stained glass is a decorative composition whose effect is based in the translucency of its material ou medium (...) the main component of which is still glass.” It’s broad enough to include stained glass windows from the Middle Ages to contemporary designs. Stained glass is also often about the combination of materials: glass, metal work, and sometimes lead. There’s another definition I really like, by Vitellion, a Germanic monk: stained glass is the medium that transforms worldly light into divine light.

Is there any connection between your work as a restorer and as a designer?
Cutting glass in the stained glass studio

Each feeds into the other. When you’re restoring stained glass, you’re really at the service of the old piece, returning its legibility while respecting its authenticity. It’s a very calm, meditative experience. When you’re making your own, it’s a lot more stressful, because you’re taking a risk. Ancient stained glass is a huge source of inspiration for my designs, which are based on the techniques and iconography of the past, but from a totally new point of view. Ancient stained glass is a springboard for my own creativity.

What is the difference between ancient and modern stained glass?
Stained glass in the choir in Serqueux church

I’m not sure there is one. I use traditional techniques in my artistic concepts. When used in contemporary designs, artwork and buildings, all of this ancient culture alters the way in which we perceive and approach things.

Matisse, Chagall, Soulages, Benzaken, Raysse… How are artists making use of stained glass?
Painting of a stained glass window in Serqueux church

One of the defects of contemporary stained glass is the desire to turn it into a uniformly opaque canvas, negating the transparent medium instead of playing with it, which is the very essence of stained glass art: the confrontation between opacity, opalescence, and transparency. A medium that is transparent on both sides can be very unnerving. It can, like in the 19th century, create a veneer effect, of artwork on the windows, rather than stained glass that complements the architecture. This “complementary” aspect is forgotten, whereas its actually the very essence of stained glass. What I am interested in is light. There’s no stained glass without architecture, and it is the architectural constraints that we use to create spaces bathed in light. Something is lost if there’s no dialogue between the stained glass and the architecture.

Zoom in:

  • "Chagall, Soulages, Benzaken… contemporary stained glass": An exhibition organised in Paris in 2015 by the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine.
  • To admire Flavie Serrière Vincent-Petit’s work first-hand, visit the sides of the church in Serqueux, or the Aube regional council and government buildings in Fey-en-Haye in Meurthe-et-Moselle.
  • Discover Troyes (External link)
  • Plan your trip to Champagne (External link)

Getting to Troyes, in Champagne