Working With Stained Glass

Partial Picture of the 40 foot stain glass window in the Gadsen Hotel

Partial Picture of the 40 foot stain glass window in the Gadsen Hotel

I have made most of the stained glass on display at Down By The River B and B in the bedrooms and in the common areas for our guests to view. I always liked to look at what artists did with stained glass when I was growing up. When we traveled, the glass that I would see in churches fascinated me. I wondered how anyone could make such beautiful things out of glass. I lived in a small town and we didn’t have resources to explain to me how it was done and no one that I knew had an inkling of what it took to make those colorful scenes out of glass. I would help my mom clean the church so that I would be able to see the sun coming through the glass.

By chance in 1992, I found a glass shop that taught people how to work with glass. I had previously been buying pieces in stores, at swap meets and yard sales for gifts. When I walked in the door of the shop the variety of colors and shapes awed me. All the windows were covered with sun catcher creations and there were items hanging from the ceiling. Along one wall were shelves that contained sheets of glass of all sizes, types and colors for hobbyists to buy. Before I left the store I had signed up for the next class to learn how to work with glass.

Vendors display of glass for sale.

Vendors display of glass for sale.

The class started out learning how to cut glass and not have the glass cut you. This was surprisingly not a simple thing to do when I first started. And I learned that cutting a curve is trickier than a straight line. When I broke the glass I learned what to do to prevent a crack that ruins the piece and not down the line I scribed. But after some practice I didn’t make the foolish mistakes that I did when I first hurried through the process.Learning to cut a piece of glass so that if fits perfectly into the pattern takes some time. Too big a gap and I had to re-cut the piece or fill the extra space with solder. Having the piece too large made the rest of the pattern looked shoved out of place. I thanked the person that invented the glass grinder many times. This can be expensive since the grinders are made out of diamond dust. It is better to learn how to cut correctly so that the grinder is not needed.

Cut pieces of glass before foiling.

Cut pieces of glass before foiling.

I learned to put the glass in lead channels and also the art of foiling. These are the two ways of binding the glass pattern so that it all stays connected. With leading, smaller pieces can be covered up because of the thickness of the channels. This process is mainly for larger glass projects that are going to be framed. Foiling allows you to make smaller lighter pieces. Foiling is more tedious since the foil needs to be evenly spaced on both sides of the glass.

However, both leading and foiling require the joints and pieces be soldered together. Foiling requires more solder work than leading but smaller pieces are lighter and can be hung with suction cups from windows. The next skill that I needed to perfect was soldering. Soldering takes a lot of practice so that there aren’t bubbles and uneven lines in the work. When I quit working with glass for a while I ended up needing to reacquire my skills at soldering again.

Finished Glass of an Angel on the Moon

Finished Glass of an Angel on the Moon

Now that I am here in St. David, I am no longer close to a glass shop. The nearest one is in Tucson, an hour away. I first found the shop because Barb needed glass for a shade to complement an Art Deco lamp that she found. I didn’t have the colors she wanted so we went to Tucson, found the glass and purchased it. The shade now sits on a floor lamp in the Prospector Room. At the time we were in the glass shop, the owners were just finishing up a class on fused glass.  I asked about when the next class was and signed up. I found that fused glass has some other aspects that are unique to the art. With my cutting skills, I found that it was easier than foiling or leading glass. The one drawback was that I didn’t have the variety of colors that are available in the other mediums. This is because all the glass has to have the same coefficient of expansion so that when it heats up and then cools it doesn’t crack and ruin the work.

When Angie and I go into Tucson we will sometimes stop to buy some glass for projects or get ideas for things to do. We are also looking at creating some sun catchers to have available as souvenirs from the B and B for our guests to purchase. This summer Angie and I went up to our web hosting company and met the people there. We talked about what we wanted on our new website and we are excited that this is being worked on at the present time. We are hopeful that it will be up and running this month.

Fused Glass Plate

Fused Glass Plate

On the way back to the airport, we took time to stop at the Museum of Glass. I had heard of this museum when I visited the Chihuly exhibition in Phoenix in 2009. The museum was a great find and the exhibits that we looked at were unbelievable. We also stopped at the Space Needle in Seattle to see the Chihuly exhibit there. I have some photos on the B and B Facebook page. We hope you view them and “Like” the pictures and our page. You can also Like the B and B.

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