DSPT Campus

Sarah Gabbert Schmerl - Stained Glass Artist

Brief Biography

For the eight years leading up to the formal dedication of the windows in 1981, Sarah Gabbert Schmerl's major concentration was to design and fabricate stained glass windows. These glass windows were her first commission of such a large scale; her earlier commissions primarily had been windows in residences.

After completing these windows, she renewed her interest in watercolor painting, complementing other work in various media including oil, wood-cut prints, batik and sculpture.

Mrs. Schmerl organized an art studio for students in Palo Alto and taught glass courses for adult education classes in Morgan Hill, CA. Born in Riverside, CA, she earned her BA in 1962 as an art major at Scripps College, and her MAT in 1963 in art education from Stanford University.

The following is from Transcription of Oral History Interview with John G. Gabbert, the artist's father, by the University of California Riverside, March 6, 1998:

"Our oldest daughter, Sarah, lives in Tucson, Arizona. She married Robert Schmerl who was a mathematician and researcher for IBM. They lived in Palo Alto for many years. Sarah actually taught. She got her master’s in Art at Stanford and taught art at Palo Alto schools.

They moved here to Riverside briefly when he was doing some work for a company IBM had assigned him to at Norton Air Force Base on mathematics of rockets. Then they went to live at Morgan Hill for a number of years and he was working in San Jose for IBM. He was then transferred to their research program at Tucson. He passed away about two years ago, unfortunately, sadly. Sarah has always been very active in art and has her own studio. She started out principally in design of stained glass and got some pretty big commissions, churches and synagogues. The lead fumes began to affect her health, so she largely gave it up, although she still does a little here and there. She has gone into water colors and teaching. She teaches at an art school in Italy each summer. Next year, she will be the director. It is at a place called Trento, north of Rome. Last summer, she taught a session in an art school program near Nice, France, and will go back to do that this summer. She is very, very busy and has just done a big decoration of a big, new retirement program in Yuma, Arizona. She has done all the murals and is finishing there this week. Sarah went to Riverside schools and from here went to Scripps College in Claremont and got her master’s from Stanford." - http://www.ucrhistory.ucr.edu/pdf/gabbert2.pdf 

From the Artist's Notes

"Many considerations go into the designing of stained glass windows and I will enumerate a few of them. The people for whom the windows are created are of utmost importance. The orientation as to how the windows will be viewed and the light exposure they will receive need to be carefully studied. The theme, the impact and visual imagery suggested by the glass are important factors in the execution of the design plan.

Leaded glass in an art form that is directly tied to architecture. And as part of the archetecture, its intention is to visually define and enrich the space wherein it is contained. The overall purpose of the design is to add color and light, spirit and beauty to the temple.

The windows are not meant to dictate or impose ideas upon the viewer; but to combine them with each individual's experiences and perceptions, to create a statement unique to that individual. The materials of glass and lead are arranged in a manner to translate verbal symbols into visual symbols. Through the elements of design - color, line and shape - the windows create ideas and imagery.

The nature of the handblown glass and the subtle color relationships between some pieces and the contrasting nature of others are used to create a feeling of light and movement in the panels. Each type of glass has its own 'character' imparted to it by the thickness, lines, bubbles and color blown into the glass. Every piece is carefully selected to work with the neighboring pieces to create a total effect. Lead is used as a lineal element and, thus, it creates patterns and it defines shape. It is also a structural element in addition to a design element."