Michel Blog Post Image

Michel L'Huillier, stained glass artist, is a longtime CCAE instructor (and former student). This spring he is teaching Stained Glass Design and Fused Glass Bowls and Plates. Michel spoke with Marketing Associate Antonio Morales about his artistic background and inspirations, as well as his experience on the PBS program This Old House!


How did you get into stained glass? 
After finishing my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Strasbourg, France, I visited a glass factory where one of my friends had just been hired. I saw sheets of glass the size of walls, mirrors, colored glass, textured glass being cut, drilled, polished, sandblasted, curved, assembled. I was mesmerized. Soon after my visit, there was an opening in the newly created kiln-forming studio and my fine arts degree was put to good use. I joined a great team of designers and craftsmen. I fabricated and enameled kiln-formed windows for churches, logos for restaurants and offices buildings all over France. I had the chance to work with the great French painter, Ladislas Kijno, and create prototypes for his 21’ diameter Neo-Gothic rose window cathedral’s new facade in Lille, France. When I moved to the USA in 1995, I apprenticed in one of Boston’s most prominent stained glass studios where I grew and l developed my craft for 8 years. 


Who and/or what are some of your artistic inspirations?
As you can see my glass background is very eclectic: I learned stained glass in a studio which specialized in figurative works for churches and temples, techniques that have been pretty much the same for 800 years. Kiln-forming and glass fusing on the other hand are modern techniques. I learned most of those techniques from an Austrian master fuser, Rudy Gritsch, at the Corning Museum Studio and, indirectly, from an Australian kiln-forming pioneer, Warren Langley. “Warm glass” (fusing and kiln-forming) is a world without borders. What are my artistic inspirations? In music, I am moved by Glenn Gould playing the “Goldberg Variations” as well as by the raw and unfiltered sound of the Sex Pistols. As for visual arts, I jump out of my skin in the Picasso Museum in Paris or when looking at pre-Renaissance painting in Siena's “Pinacoteca Nazionale”, trying to find clues and decipher the stories depicting the lives of the saints. I know that my love of art is contagious when my two kids go from one painting to the other in search of Saint Catherine’s spiked breaking wheel and sword or spend time looking for Saint Mark’s winged lion.


You were recently featured on the PBS program This Old House. How did you get on the show and what was your favorite part of it?
One of my former CCAE student who took a stained glass class with me 10 years ago, contacted me to help her design, fabricate, and install a large stained glass window for her home in Newton. Since the renovation of her house was featured on This Old House (16 episodes in 2017-18), the creation of the stained glass panel was also captured on film (season 39-episode 11). The second segment related to the stained glass window (installation) aired on February 8th on WGBH (season 39-episode 14). Both segments can be streamed online. The challenges of such a project were to stick with a very strict schedule, let Liz, my student, do as much of the work by herself as she could, help her with decisions without forcing her direction and jump in when she was running into quicksand. The unexpected part: filming some scripted scenes three times over because of the noise of an airplane flying over my studio, or because the light or the angle of the camera was not right. The best part of being part of This Old House was meeting the hosts for the first time, guys it feels that I’ve known for decades by watching the show: Kevin O’Connor, Tommy Silva, Norm Abram. It was a treat!


How did you get into teaching?
I got into teaching in 2004 when the director of education at a Boston glass school contacted me to see if I would be interested in teaching stained glass; I said yes. I really enjoyed that first experience and began teaching glass fusing and advanced fusing techniques. A few years after that I started to teach at the CCAE, then in Newton, Needham, Brookline, Arlington. Recently I added glass classes for parents and children, after school programs, and summer classes for kids (grades 2-9).


You have taken a few classes at CCAE before. What did you take away or enjoy from them?
When I moved to the US from France in 1995, my wife and I rented a small apartment in Cambridge next to City Hall. My English was basic at best. I registered for ESL classes at the CCAE. It was great to be in a classroom with people from South America, Asia and Europe, trying to find words and idioms to say simple things. Years later, before a long trip to Spain, I decided to learn some basic Spanish: my teacher was a Harvard student from Mexico, Lenny Lopez. He was both hilarious and brilliant and made learning Spanish challenging and exciting. I learned recently from a common friend that he has an illustrious career in medicine at Harvard and now UCSF. Hola Lenny! Como estas?


Are there any projects you haven’t done that might interest you in the future?
I’ve been fortunate to have a varied experience in working with my medium. Of most interest to me is designing and creating architectural commissions for private residences and religious facilities. I am currently in the early stages of design for a church in Cambridge. Beyond further developing my commissioned stained glass projects, one of my goals for 2018 is to expand my offering at art galleries and museum shops. The Society of Arts and Crafts, in Boston, is the first gallery to showcase my creations. I will apply for the American Craft Council show in Baltimore to target a national audience among galleries in the next year as well. As far as teaching, I plan on expanding my class offerings beyond the Metro Boston area. I will be hosting a stained glass workshop at Snow Farm in Northampton over the Labor Day 3 day weekend in September.