Recently at Franklin Art Glass Studios, artist and designer Mike Whap-ham was busy working on a stained glass window for Bishop Watterson High School.

Recently at Franklin Art Glass Studios, artist and designer Mike Whap-ham was busy working on a stained glass window for Bishop Watterson High School.

The project, which has been in the works for months, was methodically researched. It will be placed in a hallway, standing about 20 feet tall and about six feet wide.

By interviewing school officials, Whapham learned details about the high school that he incorporated into the window as design elements.

It is this type of detail that has made the German Village studio at 222 E. Sycamore St. a mainstay in Columbus.

The Helf family has worked with stained glass for four generations, while the studio has been with the family for three generations.

"Our longevity and then our craftsmanship is what we consider real important to us," said Gary Helf, the current owner of the business.

Founded in 1924, the studio has been featured in numerous publications, both in print and television. Last year, it was featured in a segment of "John Ratzenberger's Made in America."

The company is the largest art glass studio in Columbus and is commissioned by churches, universities and other institutions to make large stained glass windows and panels.

One of those businesses was Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers. When Wendy's first formed, the studio designed glass lamps for the restaurants. Throughout the '60s and '70s, Franklin Art Glass maintained an entire department devoted to the lamps.

These days, virtually all such lamps are less-expensive imports.

"We'd never make those today," Helf said. "No stained glass studio in the country would make those today."

Helf said he began working in the studio early in his life.

"I came down with my dad to the studio for as long as I could ever remember," he said. "It was one of those things when I got out of college that I decided to give it a try."

Helf said he stayed with the company because of projects such as the Bishop Watterson window.

"I get a lot out of doing a project like Bishop Watterson, where the people really enjoy what we do; we get to really personalize it," he said. "You get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing the work, seeing what we are able to accomplish."

Helf said one of the biggest misconceptions about stained glass is that it is only for church windows.

"A lot of windows are in homes you've never seen before because they are private," Helf said. "They might be a bathroom window or a sidelight or a kitchen cabinet."

Helf said stained glass has two functions -- to control atmosphere and to tell a story.

"The story that I always tell a church committee is ... (if a) contractor is in there and he hits his hand with a hammer, he might say a nasty word," Helf said. "You put the stained glass in there and it controls that light. That creates atmosphere. He might not say the same word, at least he might not say it as loud."

A closer look