Now Reading
Master of Glass: Mike Aylward is Preserving the Past and Designing the Future

Master of Glass: Mike Aylward is Preserving the Past and Designing the Future

Written by Diane Helentjaris | Photos by Shannon Ayres

The first thing to know about Aldie Glassworks is that it’s not in Aldie. Nope. It is not by the hot air balloon office or the old mill. Instead, the Aldie Glassworks studio is tucked inside a huge former warehouse turned office building in eastern Loudoun, less than a mile as the crow flies from Dulles Airport. No one would guess that the unassuming gray and white office building with the blue trim holds jewel-like treasure inside. 

Mike Aylward is the artist and artisan of Aldie Glassworks. He’s been creating and restoring stained glass for over 30 years. 

Down the hall, past the reception area, he is at work. He’s setting up his new studio and already has a collection of antique and modern work on display. Highly detailed, ornate old church windows with angels and an antique window with a geometric design join Aylward’s original creations with large floral motifs surrounded by complex borders. 

The studio offers custom glass artwork for doors, cabinets, transoms, windows, and home décor. It also provides replacement and restoration of stained glass. For over 25 years, private homeowners, decorators, developers, churches, schools, and commercial buildings have all sought help from Aldie Glassworks.

Aylward’s own creations are one-of-a-kind, made from scratch. They are not computer-generated designs. He often photographs a subject, then makes the design from the image. In a nod to the realities of modern life, his works are usually mobile. He uses inserts for installed windows and makes “landing windows,” which are large decorative pieces placed in wooden stands so they can be moved. When asked what it takes to be a good stained-glass artist, he replies, “Patience and creativity,” then agrees precision is important, too. For a 36-by-36-inch window, his tolerance for a mismatch is limited to only one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch. This does not prevent him from being highly productive. Within the last five years, he has completed over 200 stained-glass projects.

Originally from New England, he studied architectural engineering and design in college for two years, became bored, and joined the Army. “The first day, I knew I didn’t want to be in the Army,” Aylward recalls, but goes on to reflect that he doesn’t regret his time as a military police officer in Kansas and Europe. “I had so many adventures.” After completing his service, “I knew exactly what I needed to do and wanted to do.” And he did it.

He came home, earned a degree in finance from Boston University, and graduated with an MBA from Boston College. He then began his career in banking. Always intrigued with stained glass, he talked his brother into taking a course with him. Six months later, he bought his instructor’s stained-glass business and has been making and restoring stained glass in the 30 years since. 

He enjoys restoring old stained glass, explaining, “I like saving the window… It’s like keeping the art alive and also the history, bringing it back to life.” Restoration includes cleaning the glass, replacing the lead, and more. When Aylward is done, he says, “It’s exactly the same as the day it came off the bench. All the detail is back.”

Aylward has plenty of glass to restore. A few years ago, he purchased 600 antique windows originally in Pennsylvania churches. He is painstakingly going through the cache, restoring each one and making them available for purchase. Typically, he sells these in live online auctions.

They are extremely popular with Europeans. Most, if not all, were manufactured in Europe, the center of the stained-glass industry prior to World War I. Much of the stained glass in Europe was destroyed during the two world wars. Aylward’s collection offers Europeans a way to regain some of their nearly lost heritage. The number of antique stained-glass works is finite. Aylward says, “When it’s gone, it’s gone,” and demand is rising.

Aylward works to keep the art of stained glass alive in other ways as well. He is a master demonstrator at the annual Waterford Fair. He also teaches sold-out classes in stained-glass techniques at the Waterford Craft School. For his commitment to the Waterford Foundation and its mission, he is a designated Waterford Landmark Artisan. He plans to be at the Fair this coming October.

Aylward believes designers are once again returning to color after the recent emphasis on neutrals in the home. “For designers,” Aylward says, “adding a stained-glass piece can give them that color blast that a house needs. It gives a lot of pop for not a lot of money and adds a unique accent.” ML

Aldie Glassworks
22611 Markey Court, Suite 114
Sterling, VA 20166
(240) 506-0112

Published in the June 2024 issue of Middleburg Life.

Scroll To Top