The son of a stained glass artist, Sander Blondeel started helping out in his father’s atelier when he was four or five and completed his first piece of stained glass at the age of eight. Born Deaf into a hearing family, he attended hearing schools in his native Belgium and earned two master’s degrees from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent. He followed that up with two and one-half years of independent study in the U.S., at Rochester Institute of Technology and Gallaudet University, and now maintains his studio in the Flemish town of Vinderhoute, a suburb of Ghent.
Blondeel’s commissioned works, most done in traditional style, adorn churches, public buildings, and private houses on three continents. He made a window for the conference center at Gallaudet University and is currently working on designs for a window commissioned by the National Technical Institute of the Deaf, in Rochester, New York, which already holds three of his pieces in its permanent collection.
The work that he creates for his own pleasure reflects his continuing interest in architecture and perspective. The compositions are abstract, geometric, and he uses each one as an opportunity to exploit the unique qualities of glass. These works are not pieced together but painted on a single sheet of hand-blown flat glass, made by the old method. “It’s more beautiful,” he says. “it has more variations, it’s more liquid. New glass is plain and flat.” Blondeel, who once wanted to become an oil painter, uses the glass as a canvas, applying paint in a series of layers, firing it after each application to create depth and complexity. Often he sandblasts a design onto the surface. Why go to so much trouble? “Sometimes it can be difficult,” he admits. “Sometimes the colours don’t come out properly. But other times the beauty of the colours surprises me-that’s the joy of making glass.”
From WFDNews Vol. II No. 01
“Sander Blondeel.” WFD News : Magazine of the World Federation of the Deaf 2.1 (July 1998), p.1.