A testament to Ray Bradbury’s enormous contributions is on permanent display at the South Pasadena Library with the installation of stained glass windows honoring the famed American author and screenwriter who was a frequent visitor to the city.
The effort was the brainchild of Tim Carey, a painter turned glass artist with a studio in South Pasadena, who brought his idea to former South Pasadena Library Director Steve Fjeldsted.
Prior to his departure a couple of years ago, Fjeldsted pushed the concept, which eventually would team Carey and his former employer, Judson Studios, in putting the artwork on display. All the fabrication took place in Judson’s state-of-the-art fusing facility in South Pasadena.
“A special thank you to David, Quentin and the whole crew over at Judson for their expertise and hospitality,” said Carey.
The project’s inspiration came to Carey in 2017 when, in his own words, he “just happened by the Ray Bradbury Conference Room (in the library) and saw these fun illustrative tribute paintings framed outside in the hallway. These days I tend to look at every architectural space and see colored glass opportunities. This time was no different. The three transom arched windows caught my eye.”
Fjeldsted was immediately drawn to Carey’s concept of making fused glass windows and the project was off and running. “I offered to do the designs for free and pitch the project to the library’s board,” explained Carey. “This began a two year process of city approvals and fundraising, with the plan of completing the windows some time in 2020, the centennial of Bradbury’s birth.”
Carey realized “how perfect the location would be for glass art,” said current South Pasadena Library Director Cathy Billings.
With restrictions in place — individuals were encouraged to wear masks as the Los Angeles County Health Department prohibits large gathering during the coronavirus pandemic — an unveiling of the windows took place Thursday night outside the library’s conference room named after Bradbury where they overlook a giant Morton Bay Fig tree, a landmark destination in town.
To help pay for the cost of the window project, the library set up an online donation page asking for the public’s support. Remaining funds, with City Council approval, will be covered by unrestricted donations made to the library several years ago.
“The windows are absolutely beautiful,” Billings said. “The finished artwork is so much more magical than the concept design. Glass is such a rich material, with degrees of transparency and opacity giving the images depth, and the firing process combining colors, that I don’t think a design on paper can capture what it will really look like. I was lucky enough to visit Judson Studios while Tim was at work and got to see finished panels up close and a panel still in process.”
It marks Carey’s second installation of fused glass in South Pasadena. Over the summer he worked with the 5th grade class at Arroyo Vista Elementary School to create a fused glass Wildcat – the school’s mascot – mural that hangs in front of the campus. He’s currently working on a fused glass and steel sculpture to go out in front of a new apartment complex on Spruce Street in the city. “Judson has some major works happening right now as well,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for glass in South Pas! Fused glass is an extraordinary medium that is blossoming right here in South Pasadena. Not only do I want these windows to educate and inspire, but to increase the awareness of this medium as a unique and beautiful public art solution.”
As an artist, Carey says it’s normal for him to be self-critical now that the project is complete. “I am proud of how I was able to use the glass to translate my designs,” he said. “It’s always a bit of a crapshoot when you are melting glass and asking it to follow a design. It has a mind of its own when molten, and usually that’s a good thing. The final test will be when they are viewed in the space.”
Bradbury’s literary contributions made him one of the best-known writers the world has ever known. He wrote more than 50 books, 600 short stories, numerous poems, and plays and, to cap it off, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Living in Southern California for more than 75 years, Bradbury’s iconic works include “The Martian Chronicles,” “The illustrated Man,” “Dandelion Wine,” and “Fahrenheit 451.”
“Ray Bradbury was a beloved author and a mentor to writers and creators,” explained Billings. “He was a life-long user of libraries as well as an outspoken library advocate. His support for young writers, the joy that he took in his craft, and his support for public libraries are the things about Bradbury that I admire the most. Bradbury loved South Pasadena because of its small town feel, which reminded him of Waukegan, Illinois, where he was born and had many formative experiences.”
In his later years, many of Bradbury’s plays were performed at South Pasadena’s own Fremont Center Theatre. “The Bradbury windows are truly a gift to the people of South Pasadena,” said Billings. “I feel so fortunate that we have been able to bring such a high caliber work of public art to the library and the community and are grateful for the support of the many donors that made the project possible.”
Over the years, Bradbury Appreciation Days have been held in Bradbury’s honor. The South Pasadena Public Library includes an extensive collection of Bradbury’s memorabilia, books, articles, and documentation of one of the most celebrated 20th- and 21st-century American writers who worked in a variety of genres including science fiction, horror, and mystery fiction. He died at the age of 91 in 2012.
Carey served as the creative director at Judson Studios for 10 of his 14 years at the company, leading the fabrication of large and small projects all over the world, before leaving the company in July 2018 to venture out on his own.
Judson Studio’s biggest project to date was realized in 2017, with the completion of The Resurrection Window, at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, in Leawood, Kansas.
“To make this window, we had to utilize the technique of fusing glass, in combination with stained glass, to create a custom production on a scale never seen before,” Carey said.
Measuring 37 feet high and 93 feet wide, it’s now the largest stained glass window in the world.
Carey, who has lived in South Pasadena for 23 years, said he feels fortunate to have had the opportunity in being behind a permanent art display in South Pasadena recognizing the man known for his short stories and novels. “I didn’t know much about Bradbury before starting this project. But I read a biography, and was amazed by his story,” he said. “I felt a kinship wit him as it relates to chasing your dreams, observing the world intensely, and translating your experiences creatively in your work. He sought after universal truths and was never afraid to take risks. His famous quote ‘jump off the cliff and grow your wings on the way down’ was one of the motivating factors behind my opening up my own glass Studio. I hope these windows will encourage people to learn about Ray, read his stories, and propagate his legacy.”
Now that they are in public view, Billings hopes everyone who looks at the windows will enjoy their beauty, “but also get a feel for the joy, wonder, and imagination that Bradbury embodied and Tim so artfully represented in the work,” she said. “And of course, as a good librarian, I hope it will inspire people to visit the library and borrow Ray Bradbury’s books and read them!”
The library is currently in the middle of a fundraising campaign to try to make up the budget gap they are facing due to their Bookstore being closed for so many months.
To visit the page to donate, go to: www.friendsofsopaslibrary.org/donate and scroll down to Bradbury Stained Glass Window Fund.