A stained glass window marks the entrance to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa. The window depicts a swaddled infant and a sun (the sun is the logo of the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger). The images are embraced by a background of water, land, and night sky and welcome visitors to the NICU—serving as a beautiful reminder of how precious the lives are within it.
The window is especially significant for its creator, Angela (Simon) Lash ’89. It represents a culmination of two of Lash’s passions—nursing and working with stained glass.
Lash created the window in 2007 as a project commissioned by the Women’s Auxiliary at the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger. The window, which took Lash roughly 40 hours to create after its design, is the largest of her stained glass pieces, measuring 44" high by 58" wide. The piece is housed outside of the NICU, where Lash has worked for 22 years.
Lash has been committed to exercising her talents in both the nursing and artistic worlds since she was a student at DeSales. She was born into an artistic family, with parents who graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. When the time came to consider her own collegiate path, Lash needed to decide between following her art roots and pursuing something (as she put it) more likely to put a roof over her head and food on her table.
Reminded by her mother that she could always have a hand in art, no matter where life might lead her, Lash decided to attend DeSales, and drawn to a field in which she could help people, Lash was accepted into the nursing program on a Presidential Scholarship in 1985 and earned her B.S.N. in 1989.
During winter break of her senior year, Lash accepted a job in the NICU at Geisinger Medical Center. The facility seemed like a natural place work, as it was close to home and it was the hospital where Lash and her family had received their medical care. She began working after graduation and has been stationed in the NICU ever since.
Lash worked at Geisinger for eight years as a registered nurse and has worked for the past 14 years to provide outreach education to nurses, physicians, respiratory care providers, and paramedics in local community hospitals who refer infant patients to the unit. She educates them about appropriate delivery room procedures, including resuscitation and stabilization methods, to help ensure the best possible outcomes for NICU babies.
Another of Lash’s key roles at Geisinger is coordinating the hospital’s Newborn Hearing Screening Program. Pennsylvania requires all infants have the opportunity to be screened for potential hearing loss, identifying at-risk infants and children long before they begin school.
While Lash enjoys the technical and medicinal aspects of her jobs, she feels her true calling is to provide the necessary care to fragile newborns in a way that, as Lash puts it, “keeps the human element in tact.” She explains that it’s important to keep in perspective that the infants in the unit are long-awaited sons and daughters of very frightened parents, and those parents hope to simply take home a healthy baby.
Though her career at Geisinger is demanding, Lash remains dedicated to expressing her creative side through stained glass artwork.
Lash was first exposed to the craft the summer before her senior year of high school. A retired friend of her father worked with stained glass as a hobby and allowed Lash to experiment with it. While Lash enjoyed it, the hobby didn’t stick. She barely thought about stained glass until almost ten years later.
Traveling to and from work each day, Lash passed a business that advertised stained glass classes, which triggered her curiosity and sparked her desire to re-visit stained glass artwork. After many trips past the ad, Lash gave in to the temptation and enrolled in a class.
Her first project was an elementary sun catcher, and it became obvious she had a natural talent for creating stained glass artwork when she completed it in less than half of the allotted class time.
When the class ended, Lash found herself unsatisfied with stopping at that project level and craved to learn more advanced techniques. She sought the help of other stained glass artists who were willing to share their methods, but many of Lash’s skills are self taught.
Lash first mastered a technique called copper foil, also known as the Tiffany-style technique. This method allows for three dimensional designs commonly used for lamps or sculptures. She has used this technique for many projects, including boxes and candle holders.
Through reading and experimentation, Lash then learned the lead came technique. This is the technique typically used for flat panels, and Lash uses this technique for most of her window designs.
Though she uses both techniques in her stained glass artwork, Lash especially enjoys lead came. The older of the two methods, lead came has been done for centuries and Lash finds gratification in doing it “the old way.”
For months, Lash supplemented her learning by driving more than an hour away each week to attend stained glass classes and hone her skills. She also enrolled in glass etching classes to add more detail and originality to her work.
Much of Lash’s early artwork was done in her garage. In 1997, her hobby evolved into a business when she opened the Olde Towne Stained Glass Studio out of the back of her home. Though she has since closed her business, Lash continues to privately create custom stained glass designs.
And those designs now decorate a variety of homes, churches, and business. There is, of course, the window featured in the NICU at Geisinger. She has also done window designs for homes throughout Central Pennsylvania, along with various retirement and wedding gifts. Perhaps one of Lash’s most unique projects was a set of trophies used for a 5K race.
Another larger project was a collection of ten windows she designed for Trinity United Methodist Church in Danville, Pa. Lash completed this project as part of the sanctuary’s renovation, and she found this project particularly satisfying because it allowed her to combine various thoughts and ideas from the large congregation, thus “suiting nearly everyone’s concept of what the windows should look like.”
Interestingly, the woman who awarded Lash the contract to complete the church project was the same woman who taught Lash how to make her first stained glass sun catcher.
In her work as the hospital and in her designs as an artist, Lash says that she’s never run out of ideas because she’s been able to find inspiration all around her.
“Even in the small everyday things...leaves, light, texture, and the seasons,” Lash says, “inspiration is everywhere!”
-- Susan Gatanis ’10
This article was originally published in the DeSales University Magazine, Summer 2011.
Press Release: Angela (Simon) Lash '89: Art in Stained Glass | Posted on: 8/17/2011
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu