Abbey Stained Glass Studio

The Abbey Stained Glass Studios
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The Abbey Stained Glass Studios is nearly 60 years old, spends most of its time working with stained glass 100 and more years old, employs craftsmen and artists who continue through generations and operates from studios in Old Kilmainham which fit happily into an ageless ideal - flaming kilns, long tables in long workrooms and an ordered chaos of glass, lead, paint and drawings everywhere.

The company has its roots in The Dublin Glass and Paint Company, set up in Abbey Street in the 1920s by Tom Ryan.  Tom's nephew, Frank Ryan, joined the business in 1944 and proceeded to set up Abbey Stained Glass, a company within a company, which flourished and grew and is today managed by Ken Ryan, son of Frank and the third generation of Ryans to run the business.

Work in the 1940s came fast and beautiful on the heels of a nationwide church building programme and subsequent need for stained glass windows.

The Ryans lived in Clontarf and Ken Ryan remembers his father working on the windows of St Gabriel's Church in that part of the city, as well as the churches in Donnycarney and Raheny.  It was Frank Ryan too, along with the studio craftsmen, who put Evie Hone's Four Green Fields (made for the New York World Fair of 1945) into the storage from which it was subsequently resurrected to take its glorious place in today's Government buildings.

Today's company is mostly involved with restoring stained glass windows in older churches.  "Three-quarters of our work would be in restoration and the rest new work," Ken Ryan explains; "largely we'd work on churches 100 or more years old, so the requirement is for the traditional.  New works are often in older buildings, in response to people leaving bequests for new windows."

Willie malone and paddy mcloughlin

Ken Ryan is not a stained glass artist himself - his training is as a quantity surveyor and his pre Abbey Glass years were spent in Africa - but the company's senior artist, Kevin Kelly, has been with the company for more than 50 years.  "We use other artists from time to time on various projects," says Ken Ryan, "as on restoration and repair work.  We're sometimes asked to do repairs to vandalism."

His background in quantity surveying comes in useful.  "I'm able to offer other advice, e.g., on construction ideas a stained glass man mightn't be aware of."  His African adventure

("seeking fame and fortune!") began in 1967 in Malawi, where he worked on contract with Sisk. Later in what was then Rhodesia, he and two Cullinane brothers set up a construction company which, pre the country's war of independence, worked at everything from building churches to setting up civil engineering schemes. Post-war, the company rebuilt mission stations for the Carmelite Fathers in remote parts of Zimbabwe.

Abbey Stained Glass had moved to Old Kilmainham, via a stop in Inchicore, by the time Ken Ryan returned and joined forces with his
father Frank in 1984.  Father and son worked together until Frank's death in 1987 at which point his son took over as MD. Ken Ryan's wife, Muriel is also a director.

Ken Ryan, steped in the lore and expertise of stained glass, explains the difference between stained and leaded glass: "In stained work the artist paints details onto glass which is then fired in a kiln up to four times to give depth, colour and texture.
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