Helmut is a living resource to anyone interested in dalle de verre. Karen, Helmut's wife, is his biggest fan, having traveled with him far and wide, visiting first hand, many great works not only in stained glass, but also in dalle de verre, in the United States and abroad… Helmut was Jean Jacques Duval's foreman for many years, creating and installing some of the first epoxy cast dalle, just about anywhere and everywhere across America… He also has had his creative hand in many other dalle projects, for other greats, like Robert Pinart and Benoit Gilsoul. It's best to talk to Helmut directly for his full history, as I've heard him speak on three occasions now and each time he randomly selects tidbits of his life-story, like picking flowers from a vast garden center, each story, reference, or piece of knowledge given with the love and generosity of someone who is passionate about the art and the potential of what yet can be created, you will rarely hear the same fact twice.
I arrive early to the sound of the metallic ring that a hammer makes when coming in contact with a nail. Helmut was definitely preparing for the class. It was also to be a hands on course, clearly leaving the lecture format behind, as the anvil, assortment of tools and a selection of dalles lining the wall, would indicate. Helmut was neatly assembling the last of the small wooden frames he was going to use for the demonstrations. The room had a great window, over looking Broadway, a peek at the Oakland Tribune building and a window sill full of dalle sample panels. This was going to be a great class.
I had been told that there were only about seven of us, that had registered, however the news that this had become a hands on course had spread and I think there were closer to twelve, with a few drop by guests. Helmut wasted no time jumping in with a bit more of his experiences, skills and overview of how he would like to class to proceed. A taste of dalle history, explanation and source of tools and then into the work. He graciously wanted all of us to have a chance to use the assortment of the tools he had made available, all his own, expect the anvil. He demonstrated cutting, breaking and chipping dalles, when to use the anvil, when not. Faceting would come later, as would the epoxy pour. His hope was to get as many little dalle project samples assembled as possible, so as to fully utilize the generously donated epoxy resin. We had a great time, some adopting the new skill easily, others with a bit more frustration. Helmut made it all look so easy and reassured us that time and practice was all that was needed.
We had four projects assembled by the time it necessitated mixing the epoxy. Helmut took charge demonstrating how efficiently it was to prepare, mix and apply the epoxy. It was all over far too quickly. I am walking away from this course very excited about working in dalle de verre. Helmut was an organized, no nonsense instructor, there wasn't a question he couldn't talk to. I gratefully thank the two sponsor/donations of the class, Blenko for providing some very beautifully colored dalles and Key Resin for the epoxy.