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Cradle of the Sun

Creating Illuminating Works of Art

While sitting in church as a kid, I’d often daydreamed about the life of the biblical characters that were depicted in the tall stained glass windows. That is one of the original purposes of stained glass in churches: to teach the lessons of the bible to illiterate members of the congregation. In addition, the beauty of the light streaming through the glass was meant to inspire as pilgrims made their journey. Basically, its purpose is to invoke a different state of mind, one different from daily life.

Even though most people typically make the same association between churches and stained glass that I do, many houses built between 1880 and 1925 (the time when many of San Francisco’s famous Victorians were built) had this type of glass in the house for both decoration and extra illumination. You’d find them typically in hall landings or as sidelights flanking the entrance. By the time of the depression, the popularity of stained glass had waned, though there was a slight upturn in the interest in stained glass in the 60s.

One of those people who caught that second wave of interest was Dan Gamaldi. In the early 70s, Dan and his wife Elaine used to hold weekly craft parties where people could learn to do things like make candles. One week they chose to work with stained glass. Something about the stained glass struck a chord with Dan, so he decided to seriously study the craft.

In essence, the classes that now take place at Cradle of the Sun, owned and run by Dan and Elaine for over thirty years, are an extension of those parties. If you’d like join the party, there are 2 ½ hour classes that meet once a week for six weeks. When I walked in one Saturday morning to their shop on the corner of 24th and Vicksburg streets in Noe Valley, it wasn’t so much a party, but a warm, friendly gathering of students who wanted to learn about stained glass.

The classes are open to all levels, but are tailored to the beginner. The basic charge for the class is $200.00 and includes the use of tools. You’ll need to buy your own supplies ($60.00-$80.00, with a 10% store discount) to start. You’ll also need to purchase the DVD, “Succeeding with Stained Glass", to learn the complete process of creating a leaded stained glass window from conception to completion and installation for $29.95. The classes usually have a small waiting list, so it’s best to come down to the store and sign up for a class when you’re ready. Classes meet Thursdays (7pm - 9:30pm), Saturdays (9:30am - Noon), and Sundays (10:30am – 1pm).

The primary function of the shop is as a stained glass studio and retail supplier where Dan makes glass windows for homes and businesses. When customers come in looking to start a project, they can be as involved in the process as much as they would like when choosing a design and selecting the glass. Once the design has been chosen, Dan will visit to your home, as long as it’s in the Bay Area, so he can get a feeling for the architecture, setting, view, and decor and how the piece will be installed. After that, Dan can start laying out the design. Customers can expect 10-12 weeks to pass from the time of the initial order to the completion of the product. Prices vary from project to project, but normally range between $250.00 and $450.00 per square foot.

For those who are already working in the medium, the store carries more than 500 different types of glass. The glass is arranged by type of glass and color, with the square samples creating a rainbow that runs along the length of the left wall. You can choose the size you need from what he has available, but no smaller than a strip of two inches, which starts at $5.10 and runs up to $48.88.

If you’re not ready yet to start on your own project, but like stained glass or art glass, Cradle of the Sun has a wide selection of Tiffany style lamps, window panels and hand blown art glass including paperweights, perfume bottles, oil lamps and more. There are glass cases full of items ranging from the natural to abstract, including round multicolored decanters ($55), a maroon globe ($149), a purple starfish ($42.50), tiny lady bugs and bees ($2.50), and cherries ($9.95).