Glass Law – Space Coast Living Magazine

For nearly half a century, Melbourne stained glass masters Gerry Preston and John Emery have been designing custom stained glass windows, doors and lamps. Their work decorates some of the Space Coast’s most unique homes, as well as a castle in Denmark.

Preston Studios shapes light and color into fragile magic

Moonshine Hill, home of Preston Studios in Melbourne

Moonshine Hill, home to Melbourne’s Preston Studios, has no shortage of stunning stained glass lamps. The pieces are sought after by collectors from all over the world. Photos by Stephen R. Hicks

MOnshine Hill—as the home, stained glass studio, and gardens of John Emery and Jerry Preston are collectively called—is no ordinary Florida home.

Preston Studios Central is a leafy oasis within walking distance of Melbourne’s original courthouse, a place where two exceptional stained glass artists unleashed an ever-flowing river of elegant doors, windows and lamps. Their work features a plethora of the most stunning properties along the Space Coast and around the world, from British Virgin Islands villas to a Danish castle, and even a few chapels in between.

Distinctive installations from Preston Studios can be seen in a large number of homes – and even at the club on Lansing Island in Indian Harbor Beach. The Preston lamp fetched a huge sum during an auction at Hearst Castle in California. The Preston Window is featured in The New American Home, the show home that forms the centerpiece of the International Builders’ Show.

“If they can’t create your vision, no one can,” said Kate Clark, interior designer at The New American Home. In 2011.

Preston Studios collectors are a very loyal bunch

They are known to move stained glass windows and doors when they move. Another Preston fan has assembled 20 elaborate stained glass lamps that rival any from Louis Comfort Tiffany’s studio.

Fragile ecosystem

Whoever built Moonshine Hill a hundred years ago could never have imagined that the modest cottage would one day be adorned with such an expanse of elaborate stained glass. In the small living room there are eight stained glass lamps that vary in size from floor to table. The front door is made of stained glass, and the original stained glass windows have long since been replaced with intricate stained glass artwork.

“We wouldn’t recommend that much stained glass,” Emery joked.

Everywhere around the house, from the bedroom to the kitchen, there is stained glass. The lamps — some of which contain thematic references to India, Egypt, Asia and other parts of the world — illuminate nooks and crannies around the house. Some designs are by Preston and others by Emery.

The first of many lamps bearing angel trumpet flowers is the Preston lamp. Emre Kui Lamp incorporates Chinese symbols of double happiness, long life, good luck and prosperity.

“My idea was to bring them into the 21st century and bring those feelings into the room using photovoltaic energy,” Emery said.

Three lamps from the private collection of Preston and Emery adorn Moonshine Hill's living room space.

These three lamps from the private collection of Preston and Emery adorn an area of ​​Moonshine Hill’s living room. The artists’ wanderings provide inspiration for their elaborate and colorful lamp designs.

Go pro

Birds are Preston's favorite subject

Birds are a favorite subject of Preston and Emery, and this example represents a stunning window into the artists’ Melbourne home.

Preston discovered the 1923 cottage in 1976, and quickly fell in love with the opportunities the two-acre property for $18,500 offered him.

Around that time, Preston and Emery entered the world of rare stained glass, not through extensive academic training or an apprenticeship with a teacher, but through a bottle cutter they found in a drug store. They were looking for a craft that would produce holiday gifts for friends and family. They didn’t realize they had found a calling.

“I never imagined this would be my life’s work,” said Emery, who spent his early life in a series of jobs, including dancing in Disney’s Electric Show.

Preston, a former field director for the American Red Cross, was looking for an alternative to a job that required living in remote locations.

Bottle cutters were the literal rage in the early 1970s. While the initial pieces produced by Preston and Emery were simplistic, they inspired the pair to take it to the next level – and the next and the next. It all came together in 1974 when Preston sold his first stained glass lamp for $2,500. It’s a lot of money today, but it was so important nearly half a century ago that it reinforced the idea of ​​professionalism.

In 1976, Preston Studios was established in Tin Lizzy’s hut that formerly housed a Model T in the Moonshine Hill area. Their big break arrived when the Aquarina Beach and Country Club was built along Melbourne Beach, with Preston Studios glass installed in the clubhouse. The late George Plimpton, development spokesman, provided Preston Studios with international publicity.

“We got a lot of calls,” Emery said.

The Brevard Symphony Orchestra’s major fundraiser at Aquarina in Melbourne Beach began a connection that continues to this day. The BSO plans to host a fundraiser at Moonshine Hill on Jan. 16, followed by a second one in February that will visit two residences in Titusville that boast Preston Studios glassworks.

The art of landscaping

The studio in the old garage is cooled by the shade of the large live oak tree that originally sparked Preston’s interest in the property. The large, well-planned studio may not have air conditioning, but it’s no ordinary garage, thanks to its many stunning stained-glass windows and doors. Stacks of Kokomo glass, the same glass Tiffany favored, were placed against the back wall.

Working on the glass is labor-intensive, and the outdoor studio under the trees is put to good use. “The transfer window will take six weeks, if we do nothing else,” Emery said. But nearly 50 years later, neither Preston nor Emery plans to resign. At 88 years old, Preston still manufactures copper foil and takes an interest in management. “Even during the pandemic, we never stopped working,” Emery said. A solo commission from Preston Studios was undertaken during the pandemic, when Emery and Preston installed double entrance doors and several windows at their Lubeck residence in Malabar.

Moonshine Hill is still bustling with stained glass activity. The owners remain busy with commissions, but are also preparing to launch a coffee table book about stained glass internationally. They hope to publish it next year.

Few kitchen hallways feature as much lighting as these two stained-glass beauties at Moonshine Hill at Preston Studios.

Few kitchen hallways feature as much lighting as these two stained-glass beauties at Moonshine Hill at Preston Studios.

from natural

The sprawling garden that surrounds the house is as integral to the Preston/Emery complex as the studio. The massive oak, a volunteer tree that flourished in the former corn patch that surrounded the house at the turn of the century, acts as the conductor of a garden symphony that includes a collection of priceless mature tree specimens. The massive kapok tree, once a small twig planted by Preston years ago, delights visitors with a riot of red flowers.

“We call it the red carpet treatment,” Emery said.

Huge plumerias, bamboo trees, and palm trees surround palms, pines, and other natives, creating an unexpected oasis that isolates the home from the rest of the world. Most trees were pocket-sized when they first arrived. “The large frangipani came in small cuttings from Dave and Linda Grover at Sun Harbor Nursery,” Emery said.

One of our first outings after moving house was to visit the palm collection at Florida Tech’s Botanical Gardens. “As a result, over the years, we have grouped Bismarckia to Areca to Sago to Foxtail and many others.”

The large plants are complemented by a wide array of bromeliads, as well as creeping Rangoon vines and angel trumpets, a favorite subject of stained glass that lends itself perfectly to representation in some of the lamps.

The large pond, dug many moons ago with the help of Emery’s son, is home to a family of “animal” snapping turtles that Preston hand-feeds.

“Just look on YouTube or Facebook and you’ll see them,” Preston said.

Like most artists, Preston and Emery may not have much financial wealth. But surrounded by their art and nature at Moonshine Hill, they are rich in things money can’t buy.

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