Ashland residents Tim Yockey, right, and his son Dal Yockey repair and restore a 100-year-old stained glass panel from the First United Methodist Church in Ashland. 2/29/08 Denise Baratta

Father & Son

For most artists, public display is the ultimate reward. But for stained-glass restoration artists Tim and Dal Yockey of Ashland, leaving little evidence of their work is often the goal.

"On occasions where matching someone else's creative expression is the thing to do, sometimes you think, OK, it may not be the ideal thing to do, but let's follow the original artist's intent because it's what I want future restorers to do with our work," Dal said.

"We want to minimize our footprints and our impact on an overall art piece so that, hopefully, when it's done, it looks like the day it was created," adds Tim.

The father-son team must match 100-year-old glass as closely as possible through cutting, staining and coloring various types of glass, then meticulously bend and shape soft metals to make sure the new glass stays secure. They're often hired by churches to preserve historic stained glass in windows and domes. For the past two years, they've been restoring windows for Ashland's First United Methodist Church.

They also create their own pieces, often as custom works of art for new homes.

The family profession began more than 30 years ago when Tim, who'd studied business management at Southern Oregon College but wasn't too impressed, was given an opportunity to apprentice with a stained-glass craftsman in Portland.

With stained glass needing a tune-up every half century or so as lead wears down, the early 1970s saw a resurgence in stained-glass training programs.

For his apprenticeship, Tim spent time helping restore and repair stained glass done by the renowned Povey Brothers in Portland between 1889 and 1929. With a knack for working with his hands, Tim found a trade that fit him like a glove.

"It was actually the best thing that ever happened," Tim said. "Just getting out of the business world and what I was trained to do in college was kind of a breaking away — I was never meant for that, but I was up for anything working with my hands.

"It was just amazing how good it would feel, like wanting to split wood until you got blisters on your hand. It was that working with my hands more than anything that got me into the glass business."

Tim returned to his hometown, Ashland, in 1976 and founded Canterbury's Stained Glass Co. During Dal's childhood, Tim supported the family from his home-based shop while his wife worked as a teacher.

Having grown up with an interest in art, Dal eventually struck out on his own to tackle the usual assortment of menial jobs, do some travel, then graduate from Lewis and Clark with degrees in anthropology and sociology in 1991.

As a child he'd never given much thought about joining the family business. But looking back now, it made perfect sense.

"I always loved spending time with my dad, and while I didn't necessarily think I was going to be a professional artist, I enjoyed working on art projects," Dal recalled.

"Just before I was close to getting to finish up college at Lewis and Clark, I got a chance to help my dad with a restoration project. I remember working on a window that was almost as tall as I am — just shy of six feet and probably 100-120 years old at the First Christian Church in Eugene. That's when I knew it might be something I'd be willing to do."

Dal and his father are repeating history, as Dal's own sons, 14-month-old twins and a 3-year-old, play around the shop as they work.

Though technology has changed very little — the Yockeys use materials and hand tools similar to those employed in the early 1900s — the job offers news challenges and new insight each day.

Matching century-old glass — in weight and one-of-a-kind colors — is the Yockeys' toughest challenge.

"We have windows we're working on now that the glass is irreplaceable," said Dal.

"We have to think about things like, 'When do you replace it with a whole piece of glass or decide it's more appropriate to put broken glass back in with some extra lead or copper foil lines?'" he said.

Tim said the beauty of stained glass has never been wasted on a man who's grateful for what he does for a living.

"It's been quite an experience making windows, especially for churches. People are praying there and it just creates a wonderful atmosphere, like a medium between here and there," he said.

"It's an honor to have a part in creating something that has been around for so long, to preserve it for another generation. It's almost overwhelming to make some of these sometimes. It puts you in a place."

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