We went to see some cartoons the other day that were showing in full color. They weren't Disney, but the stories were great, the characters were deep and wonderful, and the lighting was fantastic.
A "cartoon" in the medieval sense is the design used for stained-glass windows, "comic-books" for illiterate congregations in cathedrals throughout the Europe of that day. The people of Washington have been building a Gothic cathedral since 1907, filling it with literally hundreds of these "comics."
At the Washington Cathedral there is a window depicting such industrial and social reformers as Nehemiah (by Napoleon A. Setti); another showing architects like Solomon (by Albert Birkle); and another depicting educators from Plato and St. Paul to Horace Mann (by Wilbur H. Burnham). There are windows of healing, humanitarianism and freedom, and a space window showing the first moon landing with a piece of the rock pinioned in the middle (by Rodney Winfield).
There are even religious windows, ranging from one that shows Jesus as a child playing ball to Roman LeCompte's magnificent West Rose Window, an abstract design showing a gathering of light and energy illustrating the account in Genesis of God's creation of the universe.
The children and I wandered away from the cathedral's tour to get an up-close look at one of the smaller pieces: the Maryland Window, a word picture describing the establishment of the Church of England on Maryland's shores.
The medium of stained glass is light, which the artist handles by mounting one to four thicknesses of glass in lead or copper foil. the weight of a large window is also supported by horizontal lead bars worked into the design.
The children mentally fingered the Maryland glass pieces, seeing the different depths of glass used and the illusion of three dimensions that difference makes.
Next we went to the cathedral's gift shop, where we found a book describing each window and a coloring book of stained-glass designs on translucent paper (by Paul Kennedy for Dover Coloring Books).
Before I discovered the elaborate coloring book. I'd stocked up on some cartoon paper of my own. Using onion-skin typing paper, the children drew designs in black pen and colored them in with crayons. Then we rubbed the finished product with a light film of vegetable oil (to make the paper even more translucent), and taped our designs to the window for a lovely effect.
By this time we felt sure enough about our designing prowess to try a more tactile approach: "stained-glass cookies," made from a recipe in Evelyn Voskey's Christmas Crafts for Everyone. Using ropes of cookielike "lead," we fashioned our cartoons. These were filled with crushed hard candies that melted in the oven to become our "glass."
I suppose we could have lacquered the cookies to become "sun catchers" or next year's Christmas-tree ornaments, but we all found a more satisfying solution to their disposal. It's not every day you get to eat a cartoon -- or a window. Here's the recipe: STAINED-GLASS COOKIES 3/4 cup shortening (or part butter, part shortening), softened 1 cup sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 6 packages candy mints, or 1 pound sour balls, peppermint candies or lollipops crushed.
Cream the sugar and shortening together; beat in the eggs with the extracts. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, and stir this mixure into the shortening a little at a time.
Evelyn Voskey's book has a three-page description of how to manage the cookies here's what we learned. The dough is fairly sticky, so flour your hands before you begin. Working with a pinch at a time, roll out very thin coils (they spread in the oven). Form the coils into shapes, leaving large holes.
Fill the holes with crushed candies (I broke mine with a hammer between two sheets of waxed paper). You may use one color for each hole, or mix colors for a mottled effect -- ours did not blend, for some reason. Try to keep the layer of crushed candied even so that your "glass" will be smooth.
When the first cookie sheet is full, bake in a preheated 375 degrees F. oven for seven to nine minutes, or until the cookie dough is starting to harden (it doesn't turn brown until past done). Remove the sheet, and let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the foil. We didn't find it necessary to grease the foil beforehand.
This batch made a little more than four sheets of cookie designs for us.