|This ~7" maple leaf is my most requested piece!|
THE PROCESSIf you are new to stained glass and want to learn about this craft, I have prepared a simple 10-page beginners guide to starting and doing stained glass. Click here to download the pdf. This guide is a version of the handout that I created when I did several stained glass evenings as a charity fund-raising event. Participants got to learn in 3 hours what the craft was about, got to play around with glass and glass cutting, then started making their very own project. Everyone was able to finish their piece by the end of the evening and got a good taste of the hobby.
Here's the short version of the guide:
After cutting the glass pieces to fit the pattern, I assemble the pieces using the 'Tiffany method' with copper foil and solder. For all my pieces I use adhesive-backed copper foil to wrap the edges of the glass pieces rather than trying to fit them into lead cames (this makes it easier to produce more intricate designs). After soldering everything together on both the front and back (getting the solder to 'look right' is the most difficult part), I generally apply a chemical patina to the solder to change its colour (usually black; it's just an acid that oxidizes the solder) then I finish the pieces with a stained glass finishing compound (a liquid car wax would do the same thing). I typically hang the pieces from suction cups either with an attached chain or with 12 lb test fishing line through a small loop of copper wire soldered into a seam.
MY EXPERIENCESWhen I started in 1998, I had no idea that I would be still doing stained glass today. As is usual for me, I didn't start with the most simple of projects. Looking back, it was probably a good thing to do - it gave me the confidence to tackle even bigger projects. Below is a more-or-less chronological sequence of the early projects that I created and some thoughts I had at the time. If you are interested in looking at pictures of my stained glass pieces, I also have a web album where I store the pictures. This album might be easier to browse than the long page below...
Here is the online album showing some of the stained glass pieces that I have made:
|My first piece|
This was my very first stained glass project. I created this 9.5 inch clock without the use of a grinder (just a glass cutter and a pair of regular pliers!), so it took me quite a long time to complete. My wife didn't know if I would be successful with this hobby, but after seeing it completed, she bought me a glass grinder for Christmas '98 - it makes my life a lot easier. I can now make pieces to virtually any size and shape that I need (whether I actually do this is usually a matter of how lazy I am...). I decided to use opaque glass in the clock since it was going to be hung against a wall and was only going to be lit from the front. I had trouble finding clock hands that worked well with the colour scheme yet could still be seen from a reasonable distance (the solder lines made it difficult to see), so I ended up painting some brass hands with a pearl white craft paint. I gave this clock to my mother-in-law as a gift for Christmas '98.
|Takes 10-20 minutes to make|
These three geometric designs were created by myself with lots of inspiration from stained glass design books. The purple star uses 'wavy' clear glass and was originally going to be part of a larger panel. I liked it as it was before I put any border pieces on, so I stopped there. Unfortunately, I only had 'copper-backed' foil to use at the time, so the copper colour shows through the clear glass when examined closely. For the other two panels, I used different colours of foil (black and silver, respectively) to match the final colour of the solder (the blue green panel has 'natural solder' but it looks somewhat like pewter when it is back-lit; I have since changed its solder colour to black). I soon discovered that I liked using beveled glass (bevels are relatively cheap and add a nice sparkle to the panels) and have incorporated them into many projects since then. I usually buy a bunch of 'bevels' as I see them in the store and only later decide how to use them. The gold and red panel is 5 inches square and the blue/green panel is 9 inches square.
The tulip was made as a quick project and it is about 6.5 inches tall. I used cranberry glass that had some variation in its colour for the petals (it was expensive, but I only bought a small chunk of it). The hummingbird feeder was sort of a joke piece. I decided that a solitary 3 inch hummingbird looked too lonely in a large window, so I needed to make a coordinating item. I thought that a flower was a bit predictable for me (if you know me, you'll understand...) so I decided on something a little different. Since most stained glass projects are a representation of the real world, I thought that I might as well show what most people see when they catch a glimpse of a live hummingbird. As a
hummingbird feeder is purportedly designed to look similar to a flower (in order to attract the birds in the first place) this piece is a 'representation of a representation' of reality, if you will. I patterned it after my neighbour's feeder (I can see it from my back window). Although the photo doesn't show it well, I used some wavy clear glass and another one of my scraps of cranberry glass (yes, I'm cheap!) in this piece. The scale of the feeder is just about right next to the small hummingbird.
In June 99 I decided that the post lamp in our front yard was looking too ugly to ignore and that it needed some replacement glass (the sandblasted glass pieces in the fixture had been broken for years). Since I am not someone for doing things normally, I bought some beveled glass and created a pattern to fit (all four sides are the same).
Since Wendy didn't really want colour (and neither did I) and we both didn't like completely clear glass (boring! ) I found a nice glue chip beveled glass. (Glue chip glass is prepared by coating a piece of glass with a special type of glue and allowing it to dry. In the process of drying, the glue 'chips' the surface of the glass to create a somewhat opaque feathery pattern. The pattern created is dependent on the glue composition, as well as the speed and temperature of drying, among other things.) I was able to find beveled glass pieces that had a similar glue chip pattern in the centre. The most difficult part of this project was fitting everything into the lamp housing. I guess it has been bent out of shape over the years. I ended up re-cutting each of the four panels several times to make them fit. The individual panels are about 7 inches tall and 9 inches wide at the top.
My first 3-D project (actually, my first successful 3-D project - ask Wendy...) was made as a gift for my
mother. She was interested in a stained glass box, so I made her one with white, rose, and green glass. It is about 8 by 6 by 3 inches and stands on commercially available metal feet.
After the rose box, I decided to try another 3-D item, something I saw at a craft show and thought would be easy to make (I made a quick drawing while at the show to make sure that I got it right). I went to a stained glass store and bought 12 identical 6" shield bevels (beveled glass pieces that look like a square with one extended corner). I wrapped these in foil and soldered them together to make a Star. This one is 12" in height, so it is pretty large. I have it hanging in my front window to catch the light.
After seeing some stained glass birds at a different craft sale (believe me, I really don't go to that many of them, it was just a fluke!) I decided to make some of my own. I made this Chickadee on a branch and incorporated some red glass 'globs'. I gave this one to some friends as a housewarming gift at the end of October 99.
I realized that I had too many bevels piling up on my light table, so I decided to make a few quick projects. The first is a simple geometric design with 3 shades of purple and 4 corner bevels. I used silver-backed foil and left the solder untreated - I don't really like the silver colour too much (and Wendy quite rightly points out that the edges are not even - I have since refinished the edges to make them look better). The next is an abstract flower design using (wait for it...) more pieces of my cranberry glass (I originally bought one 6"x8" piece, but it has gone a long way!) and 4 star bevels. These bevels are actually 2" square bevels that have been ground down on their edges (I bet that they are the 'factory seconds' and this is a smart way of making money from them). I really liked the result with black patina and black-backed foil. I gave this as a gift at Christmas '99.
As with many people who do stained glass, I eventually decided to get into mosaic work I bought some white Mosaic stone cement powder and used the lids from disposable Petri dishes for moulds. I started with a simple design and a limited colour scheme, and put together a set of 4. With all the extra cut pieces (and extra cement) I made four more coasters.
Adam was also eager to make coasters with the cement that I mixed up, he made some and decorated them with pencil crayons once they were dry. He doesn't use them, but he also refuses to give them away.
After my success with the large beveled glass 3-D star, I wanted to make the same pattern (but much smaller) with coloured glass. For these 'suncatchers with a difference', I cut 12 identical pieces and put them together (the base of each piece must be a right angle or it won't work - the point can be any size you want). I started by making a 7" Red Star, and following that, I made an even smaller version (4.75") in both pink and purple. All of the stars have been given away as gifts. Click here to view the instructions on how to build a 3-D Star.
While cutting out the pieces for the 3-D stars, I serendipitously put a number of the pieces together on my workbench and was please with the pattern it made. I quickly drew a sketch and later decided to recreate the effect. I took two 5" circular pieces of glass (one pink, the other clear glue chip) and made the equivalent of 5 cuts on each. After trimming the edges, I interchanged the colours and made two identical items. Adam thinks they look like snowflakes.
Just for fun, I decided to make a tropical fish. Using black and yellow (opaque) glass, I created this 4 inch fish. I think I may add others to the school in the future and perhaps make my own aquarium scene.
MY BIGGEST PROJECTI started cutting glass for a major project commissioned by Wendy's Aunt and Uncle in May 1999. I designed a set of two panels that follow closely the colours and style of a Peruvian carpet hanging above their stairwell. This project is most definitely the largest I have attempted - each panel is 9"x30" and will freely hang in paired windows of their living room. In total, there are 636 pieces to put together!
Before I started cutting the pieces for this large project, I needed to get back into the stained glass groove
I have done a few more small pieces as gifts since then. One is a candle holder made with bevels and a few pieces of red and gold glass. I think it looks like a crown. The next is another (somewhat more successful?) attempt at making chickadees on a branch. It is a little better constructed than my earlier attempt and it is in a more vertical orientation. I gave this one to my mother-in-law for Christmas since she liked my earlier version.
Just before Christmas 2000, I started making a few 3-dimensional projects again. I put together bevels with a few other pieces of glass and mirror to make small candle holders. These three images show some of the pieces that I have given away.
I finally finished the monster commissioned stained glass project!!! It took over two years, but the 636 pieces of glass came together nicely in the summer of 2001 and I installed it for the customer (Wendy's Aunt and Uncle). Below are a few images of the panel with closeups.
|One panel installed (hanging) in the window|
|This is the final location for the two panels|
The panels hang in two tall windows that open for ventilation. The colours are nicely visible both from the inside and from the outside. The colours don't show up very well, but this and the next picture were taken with a white background to give a better view of the detail. You can see the two patterns - one I call a "bug" and the other is a "face".
|Closeup of a panel|
After a short break I decided to make a quick project with some of the small leftover pieces of glass from the large panels (above). In a design quite similar to what Adam created, I made 3 separate panels that look like patchwork quilts and mounted them together to make a triangular chimney lamp. A piece of red oak was used as a base and I wired up a 60 watt chandelier bulb with an inline 2-position dimmer switch. I'm not certain what I'll do with it, but I like the final results.
I put together another 3-D project similar to the candle holders above, and this one I gave away to potentially be used as a paperclip holder. The glass colour glows nicely when the light refracts through the bevels and bounces off the mirrored bottom. I also had a number of 'globs' to get rid of, so I assembled 8 of them with 4 small bevels to create a globe or ball that sparkles when it spins in the sunlight. I have no idea what to do with it (perhaps hang it from a rear view mirror?), but I like the result.
My mother gave me a stained glass design book for my birthday, so I decided to make one of the projects and send it back for her birthday. It is a fall coloured maple leaf that hangs upside down and is about 6 inches tall. I used Yogi glass that I bought especially for this project (unusual for me - I usually buy glass and later decide what to do with it). This glass is hard to cut, but with some grinding, it wasn't too difficult to complete. I think it turned out well, and I have had a number of requests to make more.
Since I felt I hadn't done many pieces for along while (April to July 2003), I decided to make some small ones to get back into doing glass. For my mother's birthday, I made a small sunflower to go with her kitchen theme and a small abstract bevel piece that incorporated a test-tube that could be used for rooting plant cuttings.
For a long while I had wanted to make this pattern with bamboo. I finally found the time and made this wall-hanging panel for my mother.
I had purchased the fitting to make a lamp many months ago and had never gotten around to making the lamp. I originally wanted to make three panels of the bamboo pattern (above) but I really didn't like the colour of the glass with an incandescent bulb behind it (too yellow). Instead, I found some interesting glass in my cupboard that I hadn't used much, and decided to make a lamp. I didn't have a pattern in mind - I just let it develop as I cut pieces. To make things sparkle more, I added some small beveled clear glass pieces that I had found at a dollar store (I think they were about 25 pieces for a dollar).
After quite a long time of doing no stained glass (yes, sometimes I am too busy or too tired to do glass work...), I got back into things and made a number of small projects to give away as gifts. The first was my
own version of a stained glass Inukshuk that we bought on a trip to Newfoundland - it used a bunch of glass scraps. I made another glass maple leaf (it seems to be popular - this one was a darker orange than my first) and have plans to make more of these in varying colours. They are fairly quick to make (about 1 hr) and I now simply work with a single piece of glass in the shape of the leaf outline then I cut all the vein lines and put the pieces back together after foiling them. This avoids the extensive grinding and fitting that I had to do with my first leaf.
I had a pile of dichroic bevels sitting in a drawer (they transmit yellow light but will reflect violet light) and finally decided to put them together in a panel with more clear glass and standard bevels. It worked well and will benefit from being in a very sunny window. I've done chickadee patterns before, but this one was a little simpler to make and the green leaf and red globs adds an almost Christmas theme to the project.
Since I held a 1-year research fellowship from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - Ontario Chapter in my 'day job', I decided to make a breast cancer pink ribbon with some extra glass that I pulled out while making the last few projects above. It was very simple to make and I think it adds a nice touch to my office at the Cancer Centre.
After A LONG BREAKAfter a VERY long hiatus from doing stained glass (almost 3 years!) due to the minor details of life getting in the way (being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, completing a Ph.D., learning to fly airplanes, starting a major renovation of our house, etc. - you know, all the normal things...), I finally did another stained glass piece. My first stained glass of 2010 was a piece needed for our new master bedroom and ensuite addition. We have two windows that just didn't seem to be the type for blinds, so we decided stained glass would be the best way to finish them. The panel below is in our bathroom and it matches very well with the colour scheme and theme of the room (white, green, glass, grey). The clear glass matches almost perfectly the acrylic in the blinds we have used on another window in the bathroom. The panel itself is about 15 inches by 25 inches and is finished with zinc came around the edges.
Below is the stained glass panel for the window in the master bedroom that faces towards the east. Since this window gets full sun every morning, I decided to make a sunrise with lots of bevels and sparkle around it. The panel is almost the same size as the one above (slightly larger) and it is finished with zinc capping and a black patina on the solder lines.
CHARITY WORKIn 2011, Wendy and I signed on to the Arthritis Society of Canada to raise money and to trek across Iceland in the summer of 2012. We had to raise at least $8,000 each to be able to participate, and we had less than a year to do it. Since I was capable of making stained glass, we decided that would be one of the many ways in which we could raise the funds.
We did a number of (ahem, not very successful) craft shows in the the Hamilton and Oakville areas before we settled on the obvious solution - sell online! We generated a web page on our family site (this blog replaces that site) and populated it with mostly Christmas themed stained glass pieces. Advertising through Wendy's work classified ads, we had great success! Below are some of the many, many pieces we made and sold.
|A friend wanted wacky coloured hummingbirds!|
|As wacky as I could make them!|
|This is my favourite - just scraps!|
|From a bevel kit|
|From a bevel kit|
|Just glass balls from the dollar store|
|Used up some of the bubbled glass|
|My first triangle tree with crinkled glass|
|Glue chip bevels and globs - takes 10 minutes to make|
|From a bevel kit|
|Probably made 20 sets of these|
|These ones didn't look great to me, so they are "originals".|
|Surprisingly popular (8" across)|
|This was really hard to make - the beige piece is an inside curve|
This was made as a gift for a friend who helped run our charity curling bonspiel. We called it the Blue Bird Bonspiel.
I made some larger panels and these brought in proportionally larger amounts of donations. This one was a bit difficult to make but turned out quite nicely.
I made some larger panels and these brought in proportionally larger amounts of donations. This one was a bit difficult to make but turned out quite nicely.
|This one was popular - from an internet pattern|
Wendy absolutely loved the first nativity scene that I made, so we decided to make another to keep for ourselves.
A friend of ours gave us an old window frame with some really cool patterned (pressed) glass in it. The glass itself is such a nice pattern, I made simple square panels (I know, stretch the difficult factor here...) and added zinc channel to finish the edges. These were big sellers.
|Made with antique pressed glass from a reclaimed window|
AFTER ICELANDAfter the Iceland trek fundraising, I took a long break from stained glass. In the winter of 2012 and spring of 2013, I was commissioned to may a special gift piece for Wendy's friend from work, Laurel. She had an heirloom crystal pickle dish that she wanted to display but was afraid to use since it was so precious. Over many months of back and forth concepts, we settled on a design and colour scheme to go with the pink/vaguely orange crystal dish. The muted green is English muffle (moss green, I think), the background is glue chip, and there are glue chip bevels in each corner. The finished product is about 20" high and 14" wide, and the dish extends about an inch behind the panel.
|Laurel's pickle dish panel|
Here is a small project I was able to complete in about 2 hours on Feb 2/14. The first hour was almost fully dedicated to putting my workbench area back together and finding all of my stained glass tools. After finishing the pickle dish panel (above), I guess my workbench became a catch-all for anything we didn't want to put away. This fish is a version of something I saw online that was quite nice yet still easy to put together. I used an orange glass that is mostly red on the back - this koi will look very different depending on which side you are facing. All the glass is mostly opaque, with the black being completely opaque. It swims about 8" tall.
Below is the project that Wendy wanted me to complete for a very long time. We had been making many of the maple leaves (one of the most popular items we made) and we started making them in different colours. Our friend Carolyn gave us the old window frame but we didn't know what to put into it. With four separate panes, the idea came to us that four different leaves of the same design but different colours would work. Clockwise from top left, if you haven't guessed, is spring, summer, fall, and winter. Now we can have these hanging in our winter all year long and it won't look out of season!
|Maple leaf through the seasons|
August 2014I made a special one of a kind piece for my nephew on his wedding day. I call it "Tree of Life", primarily because it was designed to welcome the bride to the (family) tree. It is supposed to evoke an African feel with its colour scheme, one that goes particularly well with their decor. I combined several images I found on the internet and re-designed the lines to fit the size/shape that I wanted. It is about 14" wide with a zinc came as a frame.
|Tree of Life (in progress)|
|The happy couple!|
Wendy and I started making more stained glass pieces for a small church sale in October. She wanted me to make another Nativity panel, but this time I used a jewel and some clear crinkled glass for the star.
|Nativity panel v.2|
Here are another couple of pieces that were made for the sale.
I made this much larger panel with Wendy's foiling help to sell at the craft sale. It is based on a pattern I found on the internet and modified to fit a reclaimed picture frame (17"x20") that we got from a good friend. Turned out quite nicely. Wendy doesn't really want to sell it now...
|Tree with leaves in frame|
Wendy and I picked up at Christie's antique sale an antique stove pipe standoff - a piece of cast iron that has an 8" hole in the centre for a wood burning stove pipe (an heat) to pass through the ceiling. These things are very popular as art pieces because they are usually quite decorative. We decided to do one with a stained glass insert. Although I wanted to put in a Victorian rose pattern, one of Wendy's friends saw it and decided she would buy it with a red cardinal in the centre. It turned out pretty well!
|Heavy cast iron with cardinal|
I recently completed a commissioned set of two small panels inserted into a pair of old snowshoes. Our friend wanted to hang these snowshoes as feature pieces in her home and was interested in somewhat northern themed patterns. We worked to develop image ideas and settled on two patterns and a set of preferred colours. I wanted the background to include elements from the original gut pattern of the snowshoes in a way that respected the original use of the shoes.
|Snowshoe stained glass panels|
|Inuksuk (right shoe)|
|Northern tree (left shoe)|
|Here they are installed in some new windows in a cottage.|
This next one requires a little explanation. My wife and I were on a vacation in Europe and we stopped in Barcelona on the way home. While visiting many Antoni Gaudi designed places in the city, I noticed that they had a chandelier crystal for sale in the gift shop of the famous apartment building called La Pedrera/Casa Mila. I bought it as my only souvenir from Barcelona, knowing I would make a Gaudi-inspired stained glass piece that would use the crystal. This is what I came up with.
|Gaudi-inspired design with a crystal from La Pedrera in Barcelona.|
I'll post more images here as I add more pieces. Again, here is the online photo album showing some of the stained glass pieces that I have made (without all the text descriptions):