There are two main techniques that I employ to create stained glass art; Traditional leaded stained glass and Tiffany Lamp-style copper foiled stained glass. These can be used in isolation or combined together to produce a more complex piece and both techniques are explained here. Both are very manual processes using traditional glass that varies in colour across sheets and from batch to batch. This means each finished piece is totally unique, even if similar in style to another.
Each finished piece is made up of a combination of stained glass (often handmade hence it may contain flaws that naturally occur in the manufacturing process), lead which must be handled with care (always wash hands after handling), specialist glass paint (if relevant to the design), tallow candle wax and / or chemical flux, solder, and cement.
Traditional Leaded Technique
This traditional leaded glass process overview shows a commissioned, decorative panel being made, from start to finish. The end result has much in common with traditional church windows, using materials and techniques that have not changed for hundreds of years.
In terms of possible commissions, a design is sketched up after an initial discussion. This gives us a starting point. Designs often develop through discussion during the process.
Once the design is approved I will work up a quotation and estimate timescale. If all is approved to proceed, 25% of the final cost is paid to help with outlay and the design is turned into a formal technical drawing including cut lines for glass and alignments for lead. Formal approval is required to proceed to the next step.
The formal drawing becomes the template for glass cutting. This has to be precise to within 1 mm to ensure the design remains accurate and structurally sound.
The glass may be painted to achieve texture and detail. Glass is painted with professional glass paint (which is essentially ground up glass with vitreous oxides). The glass pieces are then fired in a kiln over night which fuses glass and paint together. Many layers and firings may be used to achieve the correct depth of detail. These painted panels won't scratch or fade.
Leading. The glass pieces are arranged on the workbench and H-shaped lead strips (called 'came') are shaped and cut. Glass and lead are fitted together and pinned securely into position.
Soldering fixes the pieces together permanently.
Cementing. This embeds the glass in place within the lead, adds strength and helps to weatherproof the piece. My traditional leaded stained glass panels are made to hang inside windows but could be used outdoors if you wished.
Polishing is the final part of the process and removes any excess cement, turning the lead from grey to the pewter/black colour that is so familiar with stained glass. Several polishing sessions are needed to give us a clean, burnished panel.
Tiffany Lamp-Style Copper Foiling
Copper foiling can also incorporate the element of painting (if required) and the following process example reflects this.
A design is sketched up. The design may be approved at this stage or a more complex mock up may be made.
Once the design is approved I will work up a quotation and estimate timescale. If all is approved to proceed, 25% of the final cost is paid to help with initial outlay.
A simple technical drawing is made for glass position and glass cutting commences. Glass is ground for a precise fit.
If painting is required special glass paint is applied, often in several layers to achieve the desired effect.
Each layer must be fired overnight at high temperatures in a kiln which makes the design permanent.
When all painting and firing is complete each piece of glass is wrapped in copper foil strips.
Glass is arranged and soldered on both sides. The solder adheres to the foil with the help of flux and forms a raised bead which is typically seen in Tiffany lamps.
Glass is cleaned to remove excess flux.
The solder is patinated with a chemical to turn it much darker to match any leading used within the piece. Patina helps us see the glass colours better.
The project is now cleaned again.
This example is having a leaded edge so the rest of the process is as the leaded technique defined above. The lead 'came' is stretched and shaped to fit the panel, pinned in place and soldered.
The lead is then cemented which ensures the glass is firmly secured.
Once dry, the excess cement is cleaned off and the final piece is polished.
Combining techniques give us a strong yet detailed panel.
I hope you found this overview useful.
Please use the contact form to discuss possible commissions or to find out more.