Roots of Knowledge: Behind the Scenes

About this exhibit:

The Roots of Knowledge: Behind the Scenes exhibit is comprised of photographs taken at Holdman Studios between March and November 2016, and various other videos and images. In Order to document the fascinating process and painstaking work behind the creation of the Roots of Knowledge windows, Sutherland Archives staff member Richard McLean visited Holdman Studios numerous times to photograph the process. Assistant Archivist conrtributed panoramic photographs and created this digital exhibit. additional photographs availible at:

One of the first steps in the process of creating the Roots of Knowledge stained glass windows was to create concept art. The "Storyboard" organized ideas about the scope and content of the project into a graphic sequence of interrelated events and key characters.

A timeline and "mind map" was created to represent the many ideas and concepts of the project and to show relationships among the pieces of the whole. Hand-drawn sketches, photoshopped images, and internet printouts were placed along interrelated timelines to help provide structure to the vast scope of human knowledge to be portrayed in glass.

Designers used photoshop to incorporate computer images and hand-drawn sketches together in sections to see how they would fit into the overall window display. The illustrsted sections then went to Tom Holdman and the design committee for approval before going on to the next step.

The approved template was printed onto a big sheet of paper and the shapes outlined with colored markers as an outline. The template was printed on to vinyl sticker paper. Each shape was numbered with its corresponding color of glass. Each shape could then be peeled off and applied to the chosen glass, serving as a cutting guide. 

Technical lead line drawers traced the section outlines on to large sheets of clear glass, like a huge puzzle, to be used as a template for each stained glass panel.

Eight types of raw colored & textured glass were used: Uroboros, Youghiogheny, Kokomo, Holdman, Oceana, Spectrum, Lamberts, and Fremont. After the glass for each image was chosen, it was cut and polished by hand or with a grinder.

Many pieces of cut “raw” colored and textured glass were laid directly in place onto the panel templates. But most of the cut colored glass was sent on to the painters to paint details on to each piece. Over 60,000 pieces of glass were used.

Several layers of paint were applied to the glass pieces, beginning with Reusche (ro-shay) paint, a name brand that is a mixture of ground glass and a pigment oxide. Reusche paint provided a dark matte base layer, and was used for the writing on some of the panels and to create depth and shadow. After each application of Reusche paint, the glass was fired in a kiln at 1200°.

The painters used colored enamel paints made of crushed glass mixed with clove oil to paint the images on to the glass. Paint was applied with a sprayer, a brush, stencil tools, or a pen.

After each application of paint, the glass piece was fired in a kiln to bake the paint in to the glass. Temperatures had to be just right in the kiln (anywhere from 570° to 1250° f. Depending on the paint & desired finish) Temperatures had to be just right in the kiln or the glass could crack and break.

In the paint room, the painted pieces of glass were laid out in place on lightboards for inspection and final touch ups.

For the leading process, pliable lead was bent, shaped and cut to fit between the glass. The lead lines were secured with nails. Besides lead, other materials such as copper foil was used with the glass.

When all of the lead lines had been inserted & secured in place between the pieces of glass, the joints were welded and sealed, using soldering irons & more lead.

Around the Holdman studios, motivation for the roots of knowledge project could come in many forms.

Cementing a completed panel with glazing cement & plaster filled the gaps between the glass and the lead lines, helping to strengthen and weatherproof the panel. It also added an aesthetically pleasing dark patina to the lead surface. Whiting powder cleaned up the excess cement and polished and cleaned the glass.

The finished glass panels were cleaned and polished, then insulated by being placed between two sheets of clear glass and sealed with glue in an iron cast frame. The finished frames of glass were stacked atop each other while the glue hardened.

When sections of stained glass were completed, they were displayed against a backdrop of light, on either the paint room’s big lightboard wall, or the studio windows.

In preparation for the installation of the roots of knowledge windows, the UVU library’s first & second floors were partially remodeled. The unveiling of the windows was set for November 18, 2016, to cap off Utah valley university’s 75th anniversary celebration. There was a private unveiling ceremony for donors and dignitaries, and then an open reception for the public.

November 18, 2016 was a momentous day for Utah Valley University because three interrelated events took place: the Roots of Knowledge unveiling was a huge success; the UVU library was named the Ira A. and Mary Lou Fulton Library; the area housing the Roots of Knowledge windows became the Marc C. And Deborah H. Bingham Roots of Knowledge Gallery. What a way to top off UVU’s 75th year!

Roots of Knowledge: Behind the Scenes