Turning Space Shuttle glass into art: Meet the Syracuse stained glass artist with work seen round the world -

Jerome Durr holds up a piece of glass in his studio in the Delavan Center in Syracuse, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Jules Struck |

Jerome Durr observed the library of glass sheets in his studio, then reached into the delicate catalog and pulled out a pane with soft blue waves. Glass Products

Turning Space Shuttle glass into art: Meet the Syracuse stained glass artist with work seen round the world -

“This is considered candy,” he said, smiling. It’s an unbudgeted-for acquisition. The special stuff. One missing corner of the sheet he used as a skyscape for a privately commissioned project.

Durr has restored windows all over Syracuse and New York — at Syracuse University, LeMoyne College, the Everson Museum of Art, a long list of churches and more — for 50 years now.

He opened his first studio in Skaneateles in 1973 right next to Doug’s Fish Fry, then moved to the Delavan Center on West Fayette Street when the haddock-munching masses started to set up on the couches in his studio.

Durr’s original work, too, adorns homes and offices all over the country. There’s a Picasso-inspired window in a Maryland wine cellar. A huge hanging sculpture in Turning Stone Resort Casino. Some of his windows made it to Sri Lanka and France. There’s a big, multi-tiered chandelier in an office building near Franklin Square Park that Durr can see if he parks in a particular spot in the parking lot outside.

But he doesn’t usually bother reminiscing. “I’m happy doing the job,” he shrugged.

Durr leaned back in the desk chair in his office. To his left, a triptych of church window designs hung on the wall between accolades from restoration associations and historical societies. To his right, photos of family and method quotes from well-known artists were stuck to a pegboard over his desk. Books on art, poetry, architecture and history were stacked against the walls.

“This ain’t rocket science, and we’re not curing cancer,” he said, chuckling. It’s a borrowed phrase from a former president of the Stained Glass Association of America, a post Durr held from 2011 to 2013.

But his surroundings betray a deep seriousness about the work, as does his photographic knowledge of the contents of the books in his library.

He knows the traditional methods and will recite the correct firing temperatures for properly annealed glass, if prompted. He’ll explain the physics of light filtering and the chemistry of restoration painting.

Sometimes Deborah, Durr’s wife and business partner of decades, will sit in on his guest college lectures and give him a signal when he’s delving too deep into the minutae.

“She’ll go like this,” he said, waving a frantic stop motion.

Jerome Durr's sculpture hangs in Turning Stone Resort Casino. Photo provided by Jerome Durr

Deborah keeps most of the paperwork off Durr’s desk, so he’s liberated to deal with day-to-day antics.

Some of his commercial jobs, especially, require Durr to be more of a militia captain than a cloistered artist. His clients can have deep pockets and tight deadlines.

Durr hoisted a thick piece of laminated glass in one hand, and angled it one way, then another. It was reflective but translucent, only allowing blues and magentas to come through.

It’s part of the vaulting sculpture he designed for Turning Stone, made of construction-grade aluminum and draped with those meaty slabs of dichroic glass, the same type NASA used on the outside of the Space Shuttle.

Finding a big enough vacuum to laminate that glass, then transporting all the pieces to the casino in a hastily procured long-bed truck, and finally getting it into the 45-foot ceiling of the hall while a massive Christmas tree stood in the way, well, that required some finesse, said Durr.

The smaller projects, like the couple of windows he and Deborah keep in their house, or the serene series made for the Veteran’s Association in Syracuse — those ones are memorable too.

Durr was drafted before he finished a degree in geological engineering at Syracuse University, then served in the Army Special Forces during the Vietnam War.

Jerome Durr designed this window for a client's wine cellar in Maryland. Photo provided by Jerome Durr

Across the hall from Durr’s office is “the messy side” of the studio, cluttered with tools and diagrams scribbled right onto the walls. On a normal Monday, Durr’s assistant, Johnathan Dent, soldered molten lead into the crevices of a small memorial window, breaking the silence with heavy metal blasting in one earbud.

A seam of acrid smoke from the lead and tin soldering wire curled up from Dent’s work station. This job will give you lead poisoning if you’re not careful, said Durr. He gets his guys checked once a year; Durr goes twice a year since the Veteran’s Association on Waverly Avenue makes it easy for vets like him.

Durr prefers jazz for his side of the studio, where boxes of paints and jars of brushes sit next to skeletal models from past projects. Durr slipped loose a colorful pane of glass from the 7-foot-high cubbies and placed it over his drawings — “cartoons” in the parlance of stained glass, a 16th century Italian term that predates newsprint and comic books.

The quiet over here is disturbed by the tiny crinkling sound of Durr’s rolling blade on the glass and the sharp snap of the sheet splitting between his hands. He brushed away loose shards with a bare hand.

Durr likes his crew of three — him, Dent and another assistant, David. This way he gets to keep his hands in the craft instead of just “babysitting,” as he called it.

Almost 50 years ago, Durr took himself on a trip to Europe with a sightseeing list that read like a pilgrimage. He wrote a letter to the director of glass at Chartes, in France, who met Durr at the cathedral and took him up into the catwalks.

“It was really neat,” he said, gesturing to a window schematic in an open book in front of him. “I could touch these rows.”

On that trip, he sat and watched the sun creep up the Western sky through the glass.

Durr hasn’t been back to Europe for a while, but he has feelers out to the Notre Dame restoration crew, to see if he could come take a look.

Of course, he said, with the tireless humor he said he inherited from his dad, “I like looking out my back door window where there’s no stained glass, too.”

Jules Struck writes about life and culture in and around Syracuse. Contact her anytime at or on Instagram at julesstruck.journo.

If you purchase a product or register for an account through one of the links on our site, we may receive compensation.

Use of and/or registration on any portion of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement, and Your Privacy Choices and Rights (each updated 1/26/2023).

Cookie Settings/Do Not Sell My Personal Information

© 2023 Advance Local Media LLC. All rights reserved (About Us). The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Advance Local.

Community Rules apply to all content you upload or otherwise submit to this site.

Turning Space Shuttle glass into art: Meet the Syracuse stained glass artist with work seen round the world -

Beach Glass Candle Holder YouTube’s privacy policy is available here and YouTube’s terms of service is available here.