I was reminded how talented one of my neighbours, Sue Henson, is when I noticed she had been nominated for an Architectural Conservancy Ontario (London branch), and the Heritage London Foundation Award for her work with stained glass. Little wonder – her work is absolutely spectacular.
Henson and her husband Mike Lucas have lived on Baker Street for the past 29 years and have watched the neighbourhood shift. When they first moved in there were many older people and they were warmly welcomed into the neighbourhood. Today, now their children have grown up are now the older people. “I remember being invited to an old fashioned tea party to meet the women on our street where there were many fancy home made desserts and coffee and tea served in a colourful array of china cups.”, explained Henson.
This is one of the many memories that Henson has of this tree lined street, a stone’s throw to South Secondary and Tecumseh Public School where their two sons went to school. Shortly after moving in they converted their garage into a stained glass workroom. Henson has worked on her business for the past 40 years restoring and creating wonderful stained glass pieces.
Over the years Henson has restored over 120 churches across South Western Ontario.Other projects have included the Idlewyld Inn on Grand Ave’s front door, King’s College at Western University, Lawrence House Centre for the Arts in Sarnia, The Carnegie Public Library in Goderich, and the Westover Inn in St. Mary’s to name a few. She has also restored and made original stained glass panels for many residences in London.
When she has free time she works on more “artsy” pieces that typically incorporate what she sees in the neighbourhood for inspiration. “One of the things I like most about this area is the huge old trees that tower over the whole neighbourhood. I can see those beauties from all of the windows in my workroom.” said Henson. One winter she was inspired when she saw the beauty of the bare trees and created a series of 21 painted glass squares based on the intricate cross hatched patterns formed by them. When all the pieces are put together the branch lines continue throughout, forming a larger section of the tree. Individually they are wonderful too! The painting technique Henson uses is called sgraffito, – which is typically used in painting for pottery glazes. The result gives an appearance of wood cuts. The idea was to make a play on the trees being the source of wood. Using different colours of glass, you can see the variety of the hues the sky takes on throughout the day. This series was taken from the enormous black walnut tree she can see from her workroom.
So the next time you are strolling through Old South you might notice many homes with old stained glass windows and transoms. Perhaps some of these might have been restored by Henson.