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Examiner
  • Bringing the life back into art of stained glass

  • For the past couple of weeks, Jack Craig has stood atop a ladder, the radio playing background music, a cross around his neck held close to his heart.

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  • For the past couple of weeks, Jack Craig has stood atop a ladder, the radio playing background music, a cross around his neck held close to his heart.
    On Friday morning, while sitting inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church in a pew, the sunlight shone into the historic Independence church at 611 N. Liberty St. Light inside several stained glass windows, recently cleaned by Craig, showcase his work, while others await their chance for a thorough restoration.
    “I’m all about the preservation of the art that is there,” says Craig, owner of the Kansas City-based Jack’s Extreme Cleaning & Restoration business. “Then, the community can actually see the beautiful art on the stained glass windows.”
    Craig’s cleaning is extensive. He checks the windows for structural problems or any bad lead. Once his work is complete, which he anticipates finishing up this week, the thorough cleaning will last another 25 to 30 years.
    The stained glass windows at St. Mary’s date back to the mid-19th century, and they received a layer of Lexan in July 1986, Craig says. Years ago, to protect the stained glass, that layer of Lexan glass was installed for protection. Lexan, which also is used in space helmets and vehicle headlight lenses, among other uses, protects the stained glass windows from hail, rocks and other strong elements.
    “Basically, I’m cutting off the yellow,” Craig says, “and then I’m polishing it back out. It’s a green solution, too. Our dumps are full of Lexan, and we don’t need no more in the planet. It’s a green way out.”
    A Catholic himself, Craig emphasizes that he’s worked on stained glass restoration at churches of different denominations all across the metro region. When Craig started cleaning windows 20 years ago, he noticed different reactions to different kinds of windows.
    With stained glass windows, Craig taught himself to clean them in a hands-on, experience-driven setting. While the cleaning is extensive, he says being careful is essential since the materials are more than a century old.
    “They’re beautiful,” he says. “Each and every one of them is different – that’s what makes it so fun.”
    While Craig’s business is based out of the Waldo neighborhood in KC, he and his family travel to Independence annually for the Santa-Cali-Gon Days Festival, and he’s looking forward to seeing his work at St. Mary’s for years to come.
    “That’s kind of a payment in itself,” Craig says. “There’s something about restored art of your forefathers – who did wonderful work – and keeping it alive. It’s really important."
     
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