Last week’s workshop: Intro to Stained Glass Design

The workshop began with slides: How do paintings get transformed into stained glass windows? How does the painting on the left (below) by John LaFarge become the stained glass window on the right?

Dawn Comes On The Edge Of Night. Painting and stained glass by John LaFarge 1903

We looked at the work of John LaFarge (above), Fernand Leger, David Hockney, Marc Chagall, Kehinde Wiley and others. These artists have all translated their work into stained glass, breaking a painting into separate pieces of color separated by black lines. Each tried not to lose the spirit, style, energy of their original painting. We reviewed slides with an eye for line, specifically tracelines (the first stage of glasspainting) and cutlines, the pattern of lead/solder used to assemble separate pieces of glass into a single picture. On Monday afternoon students examined photographs of existing stained glass windows in a variety of styles and traced over (or guessed) where the leadlines were.

Tuesday’s Powerpoint covered the major visual components of stained glass. Besides line, stained glass generally includes color, the manipulation of opacity/transparency through glasspainting, and tone/value/chiaroscuro – the balance of light areas and dark areas. In stained glass these range from the brilliance of sunlight to the blackness of lead. We listed them on the chalkboard, noting especially the different stages, or layers of glasspainting.

In the afternoon students arranged square tiles of glass into a smooth tonal sequence. There are tricks to help perceive value more accurately, including photographing in grayscale. Value is a powerful driver of composition, especially in stained glass.

We also discussed a design for a stained glass window by Michael Oatman. I’d translated Michael’s collage of 1950’s magazine illustrations into a window for a space satellite made from a repurposed Airstream trailer, part of his installation at MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art). Students got to see the cutline and photographs of the design (below left) and work-in-progress before visiting the window itself in situ, 20 minutes away at MASS MoCA.

It was a busy week, with hands-on drawing exercises and more slide presentations. By Friday students had designed their own stained glass panels. Three students cut their panels over the weekend and are staying on to paint them during this week’s Advanced Glass Painting workshop. Here’s a photo taken on Saturday of Mary Hartwig’s glasscutting in progress.

Design Scares Me

‘Design scares me’ was one person’s response to my recent email about workshops. And this is precisely why I teach it! I want to de-mystify the process and make designing stained glass easier for everyone, scared or otherwise, beginners and professionals.

It takes considerable time and effort to make a stained glass window, so the trial-and-error method (make, review, learn, make another… ) is a slow way to learn. It’s quicker and easier to make progress as a stained glass artist when you have a design procedure to follow. You can expand your skills, experiment in a controlled manner, and take your work to another level. You can also broaden your overall art-making skills within the particular context of stained glass. What you learn in a design workshop is transferable to other media, like painting or quilting, and sometimes relevant for other commissioned art projects.

Each 75 min lesson in a 5-day workshop covers a single topic. In Stained Glass Design 101 topics include color & chiaroscuro; transparency & opacity; tracing (solid black lines or areas of glasspaint); and decoration & texture. Topics in the advanced Stained Glass Design 102 workshop include learning how to take measurements on site, make a scale design; and present ideas to clients.  

I generally introduce new topics in a workshop with Powerpoint presentations followed by practical hands-on exercises. In Stained Glass Design 101 for example, the topic of opacity & transparency begins with a 20 minute review of historic and contemporary stained glass that incorporates opalescent glasses. Then we arrange hundreds of squares of different colors, types and textures of glass on the light table. Working as a group, we create a transparency-opacity gradient scale. Next we place our gradient scale up against natural light to observe it in different lighting conditions.

Another Stained Glass Design 101 topic is graphic analysis, where I teach how to break an image down into three stages for glasspainting: trace, decoration & texture, and matte. This is an interpretative process, with no right or wrong solutions. Students practice mark-making for tracelines with non-traditional tools as well as brushes and dip-pens. There is often a tool or technique that feels ‘right’ for someone. This topic is spread over three 75 minute classes, with plenty of time to experiment and absorb, then discuss as a group. These design workshops are great for those who say they ‘cannot draw’ because most exercises involve tracing over existing images. Exercises are often quick and playful. I ward off ‘workshop performance anxiety’ by giving each person different reference material and tools, so you cannot easily compare your work to your neighbor’s. My goal as facilitator is to help you figure out what your own personal style of stained glass might be, and how to make it in your own studio when you get back home after a workshop.

Feel free to email me questions or we can talk on the phone. Send me your mobile phone number via the Contact page on my website and we will use text to schedule a chat. Beginning November 2021 inexpensive accommodation within walking distance will be available for all Vermont workshops. Scholarships are available.

Scholarships available for my September 2021 workshops

If you’re interested in taking a workshop with me there’s still plenty of time to apply for a scholarship from the American Glass Guild.  Their deadline is August 30th 2021. You will need to select a workshop (with me or another stained glass instructor) as part of your application. Those who have already signed up for one of my September 2021 workshops are eligible to apply. International applicants are also welcome. Here’s my schedule of Fall 2021 stained glass workshops for beginners, stained glass professionals and artists in any media who might wish to attend. And here’s the direct link to an online application for the American Glass Guild’s James C. Whitney scholarships for 2021.

It was once feared that stained glass would become ‘a lost art’ but the tide has turned in recent years. Thank goodness! Younger artists are taking an interest, many with the support of two US organizations that work tirelessly to keep stained glass alive and thriving.

The Stained Glass Association of America (SGAA) is a vital community of stained glass artists, artisans and aficionados of stained glass. The American Glass Guild (AGG) is a nationwide group of equally dedicated independent artists and professionals. Both organizations encourage and promote the creation of new work and the conservation of stained glass. Both have also, for 13 years now, generously supported my workshops with tuition scholarships. Please support them if you can.

Donate to the American Guild Guild

Donate to the Stained Glass Association of America

If you have questions please send me a message via my website. I spend long days in my studio and often forget all about my social media.

You may also explore my blog for hundreds of photos and articles about stained glass; watch short video clips of me glasspainting and discussing stained glass design; enjoy a 13 minute video of my entire process and learn more about me by listening to this 56 minute interview with Shawn Waggonner from her podcast Talking Our Your Glass.

How to paint stained glass; Stained glass design & painting workshop with Debora Coombs in session

Fall 2021 Stained Glass Workshops

Hurrah! We are beginning to lift our Covid-19 restrictions in Vermont. So if you’ve been waiting to take a design or glasspainting workshop with me you may. At last!

Hands-on, in-person, 5-day stained glass workshops will start September 20th 2021.

Right before the pandemic I created a new curriculum, a series of three stand-alone 5-day workshops. Maximum 6 people per workshop. Suitable for all skill levels with plenty of one-on-one tuition and playful group exercises to counteract any self-doubt or artistic insecurity.

Here’s the schedule. Workshops begin on September 20th 2021 with an introduction to glasspainting workshop followed by a stained glass design workshop and an advanced glasspainting workshop. Those who want to learn glasspainting and design in a single trip to Vermont may sign up for two or three adjacent workshops.  More information here.

Instruction includes Powerpoint presentations, technical demonstration, hands-on group exercises and individual projects. I teach practical skills and repeatable, step-by-step processes that are difficult to learn online or figure out on your own. You can learn how to mix slow-drying glasspaints to optimum viscosity for hand-writing, simple printmaking, wet scraffito and elegant, fluid brushwork; how to paint faux textures like stone, wood, feathers and fabric; and how to design a painted stained glass window from your own reference material.

Tuition costs $860 for each 5-day workshop and includes lunch and materials. Go to for a schedule, workshop descriptions, and general information on location, hours, scholarships, accommodations and more.  If you have questions, shoot me an email. Prefer to chat? Email me your mobile number and we’ll use text to schedule a phone call.

Why do I teach stained glass? In the midst of a glasspainting demo I gave in my last workshop one student said, I just learned more in 5 minutes that I did in 3 years of trying to figure it out on my own! Read this post about craftsmanship. Tip: there are some things that just cannot be learned from YouTube! Having said that, you may indeed watch videos of my beautifully responsive glasspainting mixture in action or read the story of my proprietary glasspainting recipe to get an idea. And if you’re wondering what it’s like here in Vermont, where workshops take place, watch the 11-minute video of me painting a stained glass window in my studio.

Lastly, if you’re curious about what drives me as an artist, listen to this interview about my life’s work in stained glass and how I transitioned to the mathematical work I’ve been doing in recent years. My resume in 57-minutes!  Many thanks to interviewer Shawn Waggonner. She really got me to open up!

Stained Glass Workshops 2022

I’ve just been invited to teach two stained glass workshops at the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York, USA at the Annual Conference of the American Glass Guild. I’ll be teaching a day-long glasspainting workshop on July 8th 2022. On July 9th, I will be one of three presenters in a ‘design circuit’ with the brilliant, and stylistically very different stained glass artists, Tim Carey and Petri Anderson. This is exciting news indeed, with an international team of presenters that include stained glass luminaries such as Judith Schaechter, Tom Denny and Narcissus Quagliata.

I’m looking forward to meeting up with old friends, gloating over the success of past students (including some who will be speaking or leading workshops), and meeting newcomers to the stained glass community. The American Glass Guild have generously provided financial support to many of my past students, and this past week two more people received 100% tuition scholarships for Spring 2022 workshops. On Monday my first group of 2022 students will arrive in Vermont, and on April 25th-29th I will repeat this 5-day beginner glasspainting workshop with a new cohort. There’s still one spot available so please pass the word along if you know of someone who might be interested. Accommodation is available. Open to all skill levels.

September 19-30, 2022 I will teach my first 12-day STAINED GLASS MASTERCLASS. This intensive, structured course of study covers step-by-step methods for creating original work in stained glass. I teach via a combination of Powerpoint presentations, demonstrations, group and individual assignments and coach each of the four students toward discovering their own unique style of glass artistry by designing, making an accurate cutline, cutting and painting a panel of their own. This is a great workshop for those who find design a challenge, or want to learn more about color selection, or using the stained glass easel, or wet matting, portraiture and other advanced glasspainting skills.

glass painted during with propylene glycol during an intro workshop by student Chris

The pandemic seems to be settling down at last. Hallelujah! This makes springtime seem especially joyous, with workshops and opportunities for everyone, and I’m inviting stained glass makers and glasspainters to reconnect.

Come to Vermont to take a workshop. Checkout our beautiful accommodation. Watch this old faithful about why I love stained glass. And come to the AGG conference too! Corning is a marvelous place for glass lovers. Here’s a quick tour tour to whet your appetite. I hope to see you there!

Scholarship deadline August 28th; new series of workshops begin Oct 25th 2021

Kiln loaded with glass painted by students on the first day of this week’s workshop in Vermont

Here’s a kiln-load of student work painted on the first day of this week’s intro to glasspainting workshop.

Trace & texture: an Introduction to Glasspainting with Propylene Glycol is a hands-on, in-person, 5-day workshop in Vermont on painting and kiln-firing stained glass using my proprietary recipe, tools and techniques. It is the first in a series of three consecutive workshops. The second is a rigorously structured 5-day Stained Glass Design workshop. The third and last in the series of 5-day workshops is Advanced Glasspainting where students paint and fire a panel of their own design. Instruction flows seamlessly from one workshop to the next over a three-week period. Students often sign up for two or three consecutive workshops. Extended hours and optional open studio time at weekends is available.

I’ll be teaching this 5-day workshop twice again this year, on Sept 30th 2021 and Oct 25th 2021. Here’s a schedule. Move quickly if you’re planning to apply for a tuition scholarship from the American Glass Guild. The deadline is Aug 28th, a week from tomorrow. Find out here about the AGG James C Whitney scholarships and apply online. US and non-US residents are eligible. Both the American Glass Guild and the Stained Glass Association of America have generously provided financial aid since 2007. Support them if you can. It’s important to teach these traditional skills, and I’m one of just a handful of artists who offer stained glass painting and design workshops in the US.

The workshop series beginning Sept 30th is fully enrolled. The workshop series beginning Oct 25th 2021 is still open for registration. Class size is limited to 4 students due to the pandemic. Places fill quickly. You must be fully vaccinated to attend. Accommodation within walking distance is available Oct 24 – Nov 13, 2021. Private room. Huge beautiful kitchen, lounge, deck and bathrooms shared with workshop cohort. Inexpensive.

For latest schedule, individual workshop descriptions, or to learn more about my techniques go here and follow the links. Be sure to read my general information about location, hours, etc. If you still have questions email me Photo below, this week’s workshop in progress.

During the first 17 minutes of this week’s introductory glasspainting workshop students learned how to sign their name and trace images with a dip-pen.

2021 Joint Mathematics Meeting

I am feeling a little giddy because I just won an award for the first mathematical artwork I’ve ever exhibited. “Laura’s Flowerpot” is a collaborative work made with my friend Duane Bailey, a mathematician and professor of computer science at Williams College, Massachusetts. The exhibition was curated by the Bridges Organization for the 2021 Joint Mathematics Meetings, an international conference of mathematicians. You may visit the exhibition here, and watch a 9min video of Duane and I discussing our sculptures.

The Artist Reception is today, Friday Jan 8th by zoom. All are welcome. Time: 4pm EST, 9pm GMT Information on how to attend the reception is below.

Join the Zoom reception via your web browser, the meeting ID is 867 8631 2058, and the Passcode is JMMbridges. If accessing by phone, the Passcode is 7707585650. Find your local number here. There will be Zoom breakout rooms so that small groups can split off to discuss particular topics in more depth. To access these you must have version 5.3 or later of the Zoom app. Please upgrade before the meeting if needed, at

Happy New Year indeed! I’m looking forward to connecting with old friends and meeting some new ones.