His unusually large hands with fingers that measure almost two inches in circumference would seem to defy the fact that Jack Hampton, age 55, is a Master Stained Glass Artisan… A STAINED GLASS
His unusually large hands with fingers that measure almost two inches in circumference would seem to defy the fact that Jack Hampton, age 55, is a Master Stained Glass Artisan and makes his living in the meticulous work of fabrication, custom design, repair, restoration and installation of stained glass.
His hands are not the only things that would seem to defy reality. How many African Americans have you heard of working in the stained glass business? I’m sure there are others, but there are certainly not many in this country. For the past 30 years, Hampton has honed his skills in this centuries old craft. Today he is the founder and owner of Hampton’s Stained Glass Company, formerly Midwest Stained Glass, Inc. located in Blue Island, IL, a small suburb of Chicago. Hampton learned the craft and was certified as a Master Stained Glass Glazer following his military service in Germany, a historical haven for stained glass design, manufacture and apprenticeship training. “I traveled all over Europe and soon realized that stained glass is a way of life in Europe. I would venture to say that 80% of the old buildings had stained glass. This type of glass reflects the culture and history of Europe.”
FROM THE HOOD TO ENTREPRENEUR
How did an African American man raised in the ghetto on Chicago’s Southside end up designing and restoring with precision a wide variety of stained glass objects including windows, doors, lamps, skylights, churches etc.?
“After returning from Germany, I began my career in sales. Later I joined the Cook County Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff. I would do stained glass projects in my basement as a way to create and relax. I later opened a small studio because people were beginning to hear about my work and were frequently asking me to repair and design items for them. I took early retirement from the Sheriffs Department in 1989 and have been doing this full time since that time.”
Hampton’s steps in the design process are simple and straightforward. He begins each project with a personal consultation with his customer. Capitalizing on skills learned while serving as an Army photographer in the late 1960s, he then produces a photograph to get a real feel for the project. Then Hampton will design several sketches to narrow down the design. Finally, working closely to fully appreciate the needs of his clients, they jointly will arrive at a decision on the selection of colors, glass, price and final design. His attention to detail, desire to assure quality craftsmanship and more importantly, his outgoing, gregarious personality and contagious laugh, are definite assets in this process.
As one of the few African American entrepreneurs and stained glass glaciers in the Chicago-land area, Hampton is uniquely qualified to partner with the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association in a recent municipal effort in the restoration, preservation and adaptation of bungalow homes, many of which are located in predominately African-American communities.
When asked about his opinion on the most impressive stained glass creators and creations, Hampton mentions a “work” not a person. A perpetual storyteller, he gets quite animated as he describes a creation that he finds beautiful as well as intriguing.
“Many wonderful stained glass creations have been done and many by unknown artists, but there is one cathedral that is absolutely stunning. Near Yamoussoukro, the capital of the Ivory Coast, sitting in the middle of nowhere, in a place with few Catholics, is the Basilique de Notre Dame de la paix, the exact replica of St. Peter’s in Rome. It is the tallest church in all of Christendom with a cross that raises 158 meters above the ground.!!!! It has 36 immense and absolutely glorious, exquisite stained