Sundial of the Month
The Gecko Dial
by John Carmichael
in Tucson Arizona, USA
Constructed in 2004
Photo courtesy of John Carmichael
Imagine a beautiful stained glass window that has a sundial face somewhere on it which permits you to tell the correct time from inside or outside! The main purpose of this not-for-profit website is to reawaken interest in these rare jewels of art and science so that new ones will be constructed and the old ones will be preserved. We want to stimulate and promote working relationships between glass artisans, sundial designers, and the public by bringing these people together though the links on this site. We've also included pages on etched glass, mosaic, and ceramic sundials, since these materials are similar to stained glass because they're usually assembled in pieces and permit the use of vivid, durable, non-fading colors in the designs.
These sundials can be beautiful works of art that are also functional timepieces which keep the precise time. They are that rare marriage of art and science that inspires wonder among scientists, artists, and the public most of all. Sadly, few were made and many have been lost or destroyed. Some remain in their original locations but many now reside in museums and private collections. We found the majority of them in England, continental Europe and in North America.
The art and science of their fabrication nearly died out in the 19th century, but today's stained glass craftsman can build them almost as easily as a normal window if they have a little professional help with their sundial drawings. To function as accurate precision timepieces, these sundials must be custom-designed for specific locations. Both the face and shadow caster are different for different locations. A qualified sundial designer who understands all the mathematics involved must determine the sundial part of the design in order for it to function properly.
The term "stained glass" commonly refers to any colored flat glass or any object made of this glass joined by metal strips. The term originally applied to colored or clear flat glass cut to fit an artist's design, on which details were painted with a brush using glass enamel. The glass pieces were then heated in a kiln or oven to bond and fuse the enamel to the glass surface. This firing made the painted detail as durable and permanent as the glass itself. Most stained glass sundial and religious windows from medieval times until this century were executed in this manner. In our website, we use a broader definition that includes glass colored by any means including inks and non-fired enamels. Etched glass is not stained glass. But we included a separate etched glass section in the Image Archive since they are so similar in function and use. Some sundials have both stained and etched glass pieces in them, making them difficult to classify, so I follow this rule: If most of the sundial is of stained glass, then I put it in the stained glass section, otherwise I classify it as etched glass.
With generous help from many people, we are collecting, categorizing and restoring all available and suitable sundial images and pertinent information about them for safekeeping and display in our Image Archive. In the links above you'll find extensive Technical and References pages, and a Commissioning page to help you find artisans and sundial designers for your sundial project. We created this website in July 2003 and we'll try to keep it updated with new information and photos you send us. We hope you enjoy the website. David Bell (dbell@TheBëlls.net) and John Carmichael ([email protected]оmcast.net)
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