Simon Simonian held up an amber shard of glass, watching it bend the sunlight streaming into Progressive Art Stained Glass Studio. He wanted to make sure that each dagger-like cut would put a sliver of joy into the dome covering the children's wing in a Bel-Air mansion. "We are trying to create a happy space for kids, with ribbons and flowers," says Simonian, 63, a stained glass artisan. "The combination will put you in the same mood as a party - though we don't have balloons."
For more than 13 years, Simonian has been creating unique fused and stained-glass artwork at their combination workshop and showroom. For the former architect and fine artist by training, creating functional art - domes, windows, doors, skylights and church windows - is more than just work.
More than 30 years ago, the ethnic Armenian immigrated from Iran so that his wife, Evelyn, could study piano. He had worked as an architect and been a painter of contemporary and abstract expressionistic art. But what he really wanted to do was create art within architecture. Big art. Public art. And stained glass, which he'd admired in churches, was the perfect medium.
Fused and stained glass, he believes, can transform consciousness - and life. "In church windows, it creates a spiritual space," says Simonian, an elegant man who works in an oxford shirt and dress slacks, as classical music plays in the background. "In somebody's hallway, it creates something additional, we can call it mystery. Every day you enter your house and you see a beautiful window or skylight. You may be tired, or under pressure, it acts like music. Because it relaxes you, it makes your life longer."
His workshop in back is crammed floor-to-ceiling with glass panels, blueprints, plywood and lead rods surrounding a large worktable where Simonian spends up to 12 hours each day designing and working glass. In the corner sits a kiln, where he fuses glass for custom panes, opposite a hot pot for the green tea he pours regularly from 7 a.m. till well past dusk.
In the front of the shop, behind a chic showroom highlighting fused glass plate, bowl and mirror designs, is an office run by his son, Emanuel, who has joined him in recent years to help him market his talent. In recent years, the Simonians have built a nearly 600-pane dome for a Beverly Hills home, stained glass for the St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Pasadena, a pie-shaped dome in Brentwood and an entryway in Beverly hills that included double-doors in stained glass, a soaring window and a fused-glass artwork signed by the artist.
Prices range from $250 for a fused glass bowl to tens of thousands for the 12-foot oval being built for the Bel-Air mansion hallway connecting the kids' room and their library. "When it comes to kids, tradition goes away, a thing of the past. Kids are the future. This will make them happy," the artist says of the contemporary pattern of gold and amber. "I love glass. I love its vivid colors. I love the way it works with light ... I love to make people happy."
Progressive Art Stained Glass Studio
15021 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks