Barbara Lynch has the satisfaction of knowing her work is inspirational both in its historical and contemporary contexts.
Can you guess her line of work?Three hints. She's not a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker.
Lynch designs stained glass windows. She, along with her husband, Ben, and her two daughters, Karen Walls and Sandra McGee, operate BL Stained Glass Design & Manufacturers in Jamestown. The company designs, builds and restores stained glass windows for churches.
At 1:30 p.m. today, a window designed by Barbara Lynch and built by the company for Christ the King Church in High Point will be dedicated as part of the church's Golden Jubilee. The window is a gift of Max O'Connor and his family in memory of his wife, Marion O'Connor.
The Lynches usually don't get to work close to home.
``Nearly all of our work is by word of mouth, so once you get a job you get established in an area,' says Barbara Lynch. ``It's odd, we don't do much work locally. Most is far off.'
Their customers come from as far as the Bahamas, but most of their clients are in Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Lately they've been working for several churches in Augusta, Ga.
The window at Christ the King, like the few existing windows from the Middle Ages and hundreds of others Barbara Lynch has designed during her 28-year career, is a work of art. As a piece of art, every stained glass window begins with a concept. In the Middle Ages church clerics used stained glass windows to inspire the masses through narrative scenes from the Bible. Modern windows have simpler inspirational themes.
The concept behind Christ the King's window evolved from a basic idea given by Father Mark Traenkle - that all cultures and races are blessed by God and his Son, Christ.
``He wanted Christ surrounded by the peoples of the world. I came up with a traditional concept,' says Lynch. ``We put costumes on them so you could tell what race they were.'
Lynch remembers that Father Mark's concept stirred a debate among company's company employees on the number of races worldwide. She settled on four basic cultures - Asian, Indian, Oriental and European.
Although modern stained glass windows are separated from the classical Middle Ages style by nearly 700 years, they incorporate many of the same design and inspirational elements. Amazingly, Lynch follows a process similar to that used in the 14th century when the art of making stained glass windows was at its apex. The process, which uses sheets of colored and textured glass, is not generally familiar to the public.
Barbara Lynch has the advantages of modern technology, but still puts a lot of time and effort into completing each window.
While Barbara Lynch, her daughters and the company's three other employees handle the design, production, restoration and installation elements of the company, Ben Lynch handles the sales work. A former industrial sales manufacturing representative, he decided to join his wife in business in 1977. It was a major turning point for the couple.
Before forming BL Stained Glass, Barbara Lynch had built a prospering free-lance career from her in-home studio in Winston-Salem. The main switch for the Lynches was having one career between them.
``Then we had to approach it as a way to support us,' she says.
Ben Lynch often hits the road with samples, not drawings or sketches, but honest-to-God stained glass windows.
``You have to show samples,' he says. ``People can identify with what they can see.'
The company makes a point of working closely with their clients, getting their ideas. Barbara Lynch, a former interior design student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, often gets a basic concept for a project from the client and then tries to capture it on paper. First, she makes a small sketch and then a colored drawing to present to a client. In the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries the sketch was known as a ``vidimus,' a Latin word meaning ``we have seen.'
When a customer has ``seen' a color drawing that captures the desired concept, then the Lynches and company know how to proceed. The rest of the job, while not always easy, follows a time-honored procedure of patterning, skillful glass cutting, staining, lettering, firing, assembling and installation. Some windows can be completed in as little as a week's time. Larger windows usually take several months' work.
``One reason it takes a little time is that when you get into art work the customers have an input into it,' says Barbara Lynch.
``You might say clients design through the artist,' adds her husband.
Such was the case at Christ the King. ``Once I made a drawing they accepted it immediately,' says Barbara Lynch.