Lead & Light

One of the things I always enjoyed about editing glass & glazing publications was the opportunities it offered to visit glass studios; although it’s been a while, writes John Roper as he describes a trip that confirms householders find decorative glass desirable.

We have a 1970s Habitat decanter. A wedding present. It had, (has) a big, blown glass, bulb shaped stopper. Back in November my daughter managed to drop the stopper and the part that goes into the decanter broke leaving dangerous shards.

Which brings me to my trip to Lead and Light, a glass studio in Camden, London.


Yaron Meyer

My resourceful daughter asked among her arty friends and someone came up with Yaron Meyer. Meyer's business card says 'Glass Expert'. He is an Israeli studying fine art at the Royal College of Art (RCA) but he also works at Lead and Light, not just as the resident glass expert but also as the resident ‘muscle’. To be clear that means he got the job initially unloading glass deliveries and stacking the material in the store.


Stained glass

The owner of Lead and Light, Marc Gerstein, arrived in the UK from Canada in 1974 and quickly established himself, repairing stained glass in Victorian houses.

“I spotted all of these Victorian houses with leaded lights, often in a bad state of repair,” he says. “The owners often didn't realise that they could be restored to their original condition. The opportunities seemed endless.”

The opportunities continue to be endless. If you have customers or your customers have customers seeking such repairs, you’ll find Lead and Light’s at the end of this article.

The work led to Gerstein founding the company in 1992, originally in Camden Lock with another workshop in St Catherine's Dock. “I eventually gave up the St Catherine's workshop. It was too far from my main source of work in north London,” he says.

Gerstein reckons that his workshop, which is a two story building off of a residential street, is one of the biggest in the UK. “We built the place,” he told me. “I bought the site in 1990 but it took me four years to get planning permission. You know how it is, everybody objects to everything and you find yourself arguing with the council planners. It is all NIMBY stuff going on. But we got there in the end and I was able to demolish the building that was here before and build this place.”


Restoration is mainstay

The workshop has studio space on two floors with glass storage on the ground floor and facilities for sandblasting and fusing. A mainstay of the business is still the restoration of stained glass in domestic properties. “We also do original commissions for people,” says Gerstein. “Heritage is in vogue and householders want to keep the aesthetic of their properties. We also do commissions from third parties such as architects and sealed unit manufacturers who want panels to encapsulate in IGUs but the direct domestic work is my preference, it's simpler and we are not usually tied to a deadline.”

Lead and Light employs a number of glass artists who work on the commissions. “They are the artists,” says Gerstein. “Some of them have ten times the knowledge I do.”


Trade and training

In addition to the glass work, Lead and Light supplies glass and tools to the trade and to hobbyists. “It was never my intention to go this route,” Gerstein says “but the demand is there so it makes sense to fill it.”

There are also courses in glass working run by artist Lynette Wrigley. Run over two days, she teaches both beginners and experienced glass workers techniques in leaded glass, painting and fusing. Classes are limited to six people so small enough for individual attention.


Which brings us back to my decanter

Meyer loves working glass. He has three torches in which he works 'strings' of glass into all kinds of shapes. It was fascinating to watch him at work, bending, twisting, manipulating glass, so quickly. “My plan,” he says, “is to eventually establish a glass centre in Israel.” Meanwhile he is finishing his degree at RCA and in between lectures working on projects in his favourite material at Lead and Light.

He made me a brand new stopper (and ground the old one down to keep with no sharp edges) and my decanter is back doing its job, pouring my red wine.


Picture: John Roper’s new decanter stopper that was made for him by Yaron Meyer at Marc Gerstein’s Lead and Light glass studio in London’s Camden.



Article written by John Roper
06th March 2023


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