While other teens took on summer jobs as lifeguards or busboys, David Judson MA ’96 started with sweeping the floors of his family’s business: Judson Studios, Los Angeles’ famed stained-glass makers. Growing up roaming the stone-walled rooms, he eventually learned the timeless art himself as he watched artisans shape stained-glass panels.
Judson Studios’ handiwork can be seen in stained glass across USC, including in the vibrant windows of USC Caruso Catholic Center, Mudd Hall and the USC Village dining hall in McCarthy Honors College.
David Judson’s great-great-grandfather, English painter William Lees Judson, launched the Colonial Glass Company in downtown Los Angeles with his three sons in 1897. The same year, he founded the College of Fine Arts in Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood, which became the epicenter of California’s Arts and Crafts movement.
Within three years, the college became part of USC, and William Lees Judson its first dean. When the college moved to the University Park Campus in 1920, the Judsons took over the Highland Park building for their growing stained-glass business.
Yet when it came time for David Judson to go to college, he chose another path. “My parents encouraged us to try other things, knowing we could always come back with something else to contribute,” he says.
Glass is authentic, genuine and tactile, and it resonates with people on a deeper level.David Judson
He earned his bachelor’s in political science and Spanish literature from San Diego State University and spent time in Madrid, Spain. Living abroad inspired him to enroll in USC’s master’s in international relations program, becoming the fourth generation of Judsons to attend the university. Back in Madrid for an internship with the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization, he visited the Prado Museum and studied the city’s extensive public art.
When he returned to L.A. to complete his degree, he found himself at the nexus of two historic events—the centennial celebrations of Judson Studios and the College of Fine Arts, today known as the USC Roski School of Art and Design. He began to see where his passion and vision could make an impact.
“Majoring in international relations, coupled with living abroad, helped me to think differently and gave me exposure to ideas I’ve been able to bring back to a company setting,” says Judson, who today serves as president of Judson Studios.
One innovation he’s working on is melding 21st-century technology with the centuries-old art form. He’s forged alliances with contemporary artists to explore fused glass, a technique that can produce subtle color combinations and gradations that traditional stained glass can’t.
The company recently completed the largest-ever fused glass window—3,440 square feet—for a Methodist church near Kansas City.
To pursue this new direction, Judson opened a 7,000-square-foot industrial facility in South Pasadena. (The company’s original headquarters has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1999, which makes renovations more challenging.) Expansive, sunny rooms house six high-intensity kilns at the new location. “We’re creating a place where interesting collaborations can happen,” he says.
In our digital culture, people are more and more interested in handcrafted arts, notes Judson: “Glass is authentic, genuine and tactile, and it resonates with people on a deeper level.”