“Even as a teenager, I loved glass,” says Ingrid Pichler, Swampscott resident and independent glass artist. “I used to paint those colors you can pick up at A. C. Moore and fire in your oven; I loved that.”
Growing up in a small Italian mountain town close to the Austrian border, art was everywhere in Pichler’s youth. “The valley I’m from is known for tourism, of course, but also woodcarving. There’s a tradition of carving, of painting, of statues. Lots of reproduction of Romanesque and gothic art.”
Her artistic passion led her from her hometown of 5,000 people to the bustling city of London and college at the Swansea Metropolitan University in Wales, where she studied stained glass. After college, she moved between England and the Boston area several times before eventually settling in Swampscott in 2001. Ingrid has been creating art out of the studio in her basement ever since.
Pichler’s work has been installed in colleges, court houses, banks and private homes all over the Boston area, New Hampshire, and England. For Pichler, stained glass is different from other art forms because “it really is an installation artwork. So, it’s never about me, it’s never about what I want, but about what the building needs.”
Her latest piece is a testament to this sentiment. Pichler has just completed a memorial window for the Clifton Lutheran Church in Marblehead honoring the memory of an eight-year-old girl who died from Leukemia last summer. The window was installed on May 28.
Memorial window commissions are rather unusual, so Ingrid jumped at the chance when the project was brought to her attention by a long-time friend who is also a member of the congregation. “She asked me if I would be interested and I said I would be honored. Because places of worship are very rare to be had and you have to think of a higher meaning. You have to go beyond what’s happening now when you do a window for a place of worship. It’s not just a recording of something, it’s a looking beyond…to another world.”
While she usually requests a fee for an installation’s preliminary design, Pichler presented the design to the congregation free of charge. They were “really, really pleased with it,” she says. “This was a very tragic event and I think the congregation needed to gather around and have some form of healing. This is my hope, that it is a message of hope, an image of peace and of hope.”
The window features an angel bearing the face of a young girl with long hair and pink wings holding a rose. The little girl’s parents requested pink be used in the design because it was her favorite color. Pink stained glass is special, Ingrid notes, because the color is made from gold powder, a fitting tribute to a precious child.
Before the window was installed in the church, Ingrid showed the piece to some visiting friends. “I said, I’m just going to watch their reaction. All four cried. One of them said, ‘Ingrid, I just lost my father-in-law and it’s so peaceful and comforting and it’s okay.’ And I said, wow that’s beautiful. I’m hoping for that kind of reaction. It is very personal.”
Like all her pieces, Pichler feels that when this piece is finished, it becomes part of the building.
“You let them go… It’s gone, it belongs there. It’s almost like that piece of jewelry that’s yours. It stays there.”
Visiting a piece is a “beautiful” experience for Pichler. “The glass looks the same, I don’t look the same, but the glass looks the same. So, it is nice, I guess, in a world where so much changes so fast and in a world where we are so disconnected from the pace of working with our hands that there is something that is… a connection to a place, a building, it’s beautiful.”
The window Ingrid has created is a shining memorial of a young girl who was tragically taken too soon from her family and community. The illuminated face of her creation will continue to provide solace and healing to members of the Clifton Lutheran congregation long after Ingrid is gone.