A twinkle, a shadow, a rosy hue streaming through glass of pink and red, light seems to dance when it comes through stained glass. For a mausoleum, it can bring life and personality to a building that’s entire purpose is to represent a person or family. That’s what Rock of Ages stained glass artisan Susan Giroux-Cohen loves about it. “When you add a stained glass window, the light comes in and moves across the room throughout the day; it brings so much beauty.”
Light reflects through a stained glass window inside a BLUE GRAY™ granite mausoleum.
The stained glass windows displayed throughout this article were crafted for Rock of Ages over the years by various stained glass window artisans. The Rock of Ages team had the opportunity to speak exclusively with Susan about her experiences and techniques.
Mausoleums provide an alternative option to underground burial. The granite building can hold the remains of one person or an entire family. There are endless personalization options available to reflect the loved ones they hold, including stained glass, columns, door styles, entry architecture, building architecture style, type of stone, number of crypts and the incorporation of cremation niches. It’s one of the most intimate forms of artistry.
Blue Gray granite mausoleum
Susan would know. She grew up in Graniteville, Vermont, just a stone’s throw from the former Rock of Ages headquarters. Her father Phil Giroux owned a business sandblasting decorative details on monuments and sculptures, well-known for their roses. “I would walk there after school and sit and watch these amazing stone artists from Italy doing their work and they’d be singing opera. It was eye-opening for me. I wanted to be like them!”
Susan tried a number of different artistic mediums until she landed on stained glass. Initially, it began as a stress reliever from her busy human resources career in the biotech sector. Things took a turn when her brother-in-law Dan Brown, Manufacturing Plant Manager at Rock of Ages, suggested she should make stained glass windows for their granite mausoleums. “I literally laughed out loud!” she exclaims. “I was making little Christmas trees! I didn’t think I was there yet. But then I thought, why couldn’t I do that?” She began to take her art more seriously, took more classes, and started her business, SueBee Glass. In 2010, Susan approached Rock of Ages about a partnership: “It’s been a wonderful collaboration ever since,” she said.
When someone chooses to incorporate stained glass windows into their mausoleum, that’s where Susan comes in. She said each piece she does for a family or private mausoleum is the result of talking to clients to find out whom it’s for, what they loved and what they want to incorporate into the windows. “Each client is different. I listen to their emotions, why they are building an above-ground mausoleum, and what they hope to get out of it. While it’s a sad thing to do, it’s also wonderful.”
A stained glass window depicting a biblical scene inside a Canadian Mahogany granite mausoleum.
She said popular window themes are animals and trees. “One client said their family member had parakeets that she loved, so we incorporated them into the design. She also loved magnolia trees, so we had magnolias wrap around the building.”
For the Chambers family project, a classic 12-crypt mausoleum in Blue Gray granite built specifically to keep the family close together for all eternity, Herb Chambers specifically requested a dove release, which takes a prominent place in the mausoleum. You can read more about this project here.
If you’re considering a mausoleum, a reputable mausoleum company will begin the design process with an unhurried conversation with one of their consultants to get to know you and your family’s needs. Visit a Rock of Ages Authorized Dealer near you for a truly personal experience.
Some information you’ll need to prepare include the number of people you plan to have in the building, whether there will be burial or cremation, your preferred site, and how you will use the building for reflection. Take our Shopper’s Checklist for Mausoleums along as you comparison shop.
If you plan to have a stained glass window, think about what image you would like to have in it. Your consultant may help you along to get you thinking with questions such as, “Do you want a religious image? Is there a flower, favorite place or type of animal the person liked? Is there a family coat of arms?” They may also suggest going online to look for images that resonate with you and your loved ones.
From there, a design will be drafted and you will work with your consultant until it becomes exactly what you want.
When Susan goes to work to create a customized stained glass piece for a client, she heads down to her basement and goes into “the zone” of creating. “You really have to focus on what you’re doing. But it’s fun. I don’t think of anything else around me and I’m all by myself with that piece. That makes me very happy.”
The techniques used to create stained glass really boil down to two methods: the Tiffany technique and the Came method. The Tiffany technique, named after Louis Comfort Tiffany, the maker of the famous Tiffany lamps, consists of individual pieces of glass wrapped in copper foil and then soldered together to bend into different shapes. The Came method involves lead strips built into a box frame and floating the glass between the strips, creating a design across the frame.
Lead came strips
Susan said Rock of Ages prefers the Came method to stay with traditions in line with historic buildings, but she occasionally uses the Tiffany method for more detailed pieces. She said there is also a method of painting the glass but it’s one she doesn’t specialize in. Rock of Ages works with other artists who can bring in that method when needed.
Susan crafts a magnolia stained glass window using the Came method
Susan said what she loves most about designing the windows for Rock of Ages granite mausoleums is meeting the clients. “It’s so wonderful to get to know them and you learn so much about them,” she said excitedly. She said she never repeats a design that was done specifically for a customer. “I did this one very large window and at the very bottom was a cardinal peeking out. Everyone wanted that cardinal! But it was something that was personalized just for that person and I respect that.”
In her downtime, Susan makes art for herself and private commissions for clients all over the New England area. She features her work through her website and Instagram page. She said she likes to use leftover glass that would otherwise be tossed out. “There’s a lot of waste in glass and it’s expensive. So I save it and make mosaics. I like the freedom of mosaics because you can place things in a pattern any way you want.”
Susan with her stained glass artwork
Susan recalls spending time with her father and monument artists when she was a child. Her father used to take her on walks through the cemeteries to learn about the art. “He could tell you which artist worked on each statue and monument. He showed me how to really appreciate the artistry.” Now creating stained glass for Rock of Ages, she feels connected to that childhood dream of watching those artists do their craft. “I feel like I’ve come full circle. I’ve done so many mausoleum pieces now, and I’m just so proud of each one.”
Discover how you can pay tribute to loved ones with stained glass. Download the Stained Glass Book for types of stained glass designs, guidance for choosing imagery and examples of customization.