A Conversation with Romany Kramoris

Romany Kramoris with one of her stained-glass windows at Temple Adas Israel. Photo by Michael Heller

This Thursday, August 2, at 7 p.m., artist and gallery owner Romany Kramoris will speak at Temple Adas Israel about the stained-glass windows she created for the synagogue. The project spanned 20 plus years. Ms. Kramoris, who owns the Romany Kramoris Gallery on Main Street in Sag Harbor, sat down with The Express to talk about the project and how she got her start in stained glass.

How did you get your start in art and in stained glass, specifically?

I left Milwaukee, where I was born and raised, to get a Master’s degree at New York University in dance and movement therapy. My classmates all did something with their hands something tangible like painting and pottery, all I did was dance and sing. So a friend said, ‘Why don’t you take a coarse and do something with your hands.’ I loved glass so I started taking stained glass courses on the weekends while I was getting my degree and I fell in love with the medium. When I came out here for a couple of summers with classmates I started my first commissions for the Jewish temple.

You’ve spent 20-plus years on this project, what made you want to take it on in the first place?

One of the members wanted to have a window in memory of her husband and asked if I could do the side of the building facing Division Street. She was happy and the temple and the board were happy with my designs. Other people fell in behind —every couple of years they wanted to donate a stained-glass window instead of a pew or a silver challis, or a Torah scroll. It’s kept me busy for 25 to 30 years.

What was your inspiration for the project and what necessary steps were taken to start it?

I was very excited to get the commission and I thought, ‘Well I better do some research and study Jewish symbolism and Jewish objects’ so I went to the Jewish theological seminary in New York City to their library and I sat there for hours pulling out books on synagogues, and synagogue art, architecture and I started sketching designs. The inspiration came from research and reading. I know that blue is a very highly valued color and it represents the divine. I bought blue glass that matched what’s in a lot of Israeli art. With foresight, if I do more windows here I’ll have established a background color that other designs can fit into so they can all connect to each other.

Did you have a specific goal or look in mind that you wanted to achieve?

Each commission is unique. A woman named Florence Kulick said her husband was a very strong man and asked if I could include something that reflected his character, so I included the lion of Judah and the crown of God in gold. She as very happy that I represented her husband well. There was another piece that wanted to reflect the Holocaust, which was a very tall order. After the Holocaust what is there? There is life that you have to rebuild. I knew that the pomegranate represented life and rebirth and the pomegranate is full of seeds and that represents rebirth. I did a small window that was pomegranate branches and little pieces for the seeds of the pomegranates so that window represents rebirth, renewed energy and renewed enthusiasm for life.

What can people expect from your talk this Thursday?

I’ll talk about my inspiration and my research for the project. There are about 12 windows in the piece and the sun is in the west at 8 p.m. so I’ll start in the east and go west.

Romany Kramoris will discuss the stained-glass windows at Temple Adas Israel, at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Atlanitic Avenue in Sag Harbor, on Thursday, August 2 at 7 p.m. For more information, call (631) 725-0904.