Showing my stained glass in two exhibitions that open tomorrow, Sat May 21

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Ornithologist

WILLIAMSTOWN MASSACHUSETTS

My stained glass panel Ornithologist is hanging in The Shops at the Library Antiques in Williamstown as part of  IS-183, the Art School of the Berkshires  25 year celebration Faculty Art Show. This delightfully unconventional exhibition takes place in various non-traditional gallery spaces up and down Spring Street in Williamstown Massachusetts.

Artwork by more than 75 artists from across our region will be on show until  June 16. Maps will be provided at the opening reception on Saturday, May 21, from 4-6pm, at the Purple Pub. After that, visitors may pop into any participating venue, pick up a map and take a self-guided walking tour.

MANCHESTER VERMONT

And… as a new member of the Vermont Glass Guild I am showing six of my stained glass panels alongside the work of 30 other Vermont and New England glass artists at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, Vermont. All are from my seven-year long, 14-piece series Menfolk that explores the emotional landscape of men over time and in different circumstances. Included in the exhibition is Sir Edmund Hillary (below, detail). This was the subject of a lovely 13min video made by our son, Jack Criddle that documents my process, showing how each separate piece of glass is cut, painted, fired and assembled.

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There will be an opening reception for “Modern Alchemy – The Art of Glass” in the Wilson Museum and Galleries at the Southern Vermont Art Center, in Manchester, VT on Friday, May 21, from 5 – 7pm. I’ll be there to greet visitors and get to know my fellow glass artists. The show will run through July 10, 2016.

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Why teach stained glass design?

September Stained Glass Design workshop: Step-by-step from idea to finished window

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Do you know how to accurately measure a window opening; take templates; make full-size shop drawings? What if your window needs support bars or has curved perimeters? Are you consistent in coding perimeter lines to prevent installation errors? Is it easy to decide where to position bars and leadlines?

If you’re dedicated to making good stained glass but have answered ‘no’ to most of these questions, please note: I am offering a specialized drawing workshop that shows how to design and build stained glass windows according to a logical, repeatable, step-by-step process.

So how do you birth an idea? Well, drawing is fundamental.

Aside from imagery and subject matter, there are four key visual components to stained glass: colour, line, value and transparency. Exploring options in all these areas is an important part of the creative process, and it’s difficult to do this when ideas are still floating around inside your head. This is where design drawing comes in; making sketches, working to scale, drawing a cutline, and, in the case of painted stained glass, making a full-sized black and white drawing.

And how do you build a window that fits properly; is structurally sound; and works successfully within it’s architectural setting? Again, drawing is the key. It’s much easier to progress smoothly through the manufacturing process (saving time, materials and costly errors) when technical information is clearly set out on paper beforehand. These are called shop drawings.

Even if you use a computer to do artwork, learning the traditional design procedure, and understanding the purpose of various drawings, may be helpful. Teaching will be via Powerpoint presentation, hands-on drawing exercises and group discussion.

September 26-30th 2016 (5-day workshop) General info about workshops here.

Stained Glass Tiling: the process

Williams College student Elizabeth Jacobsen describes the process of designing and building a stained glass window from a mosaic of transparent colored glass tiles, each handpainted and kiln fired to create a unique work of art.

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2016 workshops

workshop(front)This year, I am offering week-long design and glasspainting workshops in June; 3-hour Saturday Afternoon Intensives; and a 10 week series of evening classes beginning March 10th. All at my studio in Vermont. Here’s the schedule. Application deadlines for American Glass Guild and Stained Glass Associate of America scholarships are Feb 28th and April 13th respectively.

 

Hoaf kilns, tracing brushes and puttying

IMG_1592A couple of interesting Hoaf kiln questions came into my Inbox recently (thank you Jeffery), plus a request for help sourcing tracing brushes – something I get asked pretty frequently.

Hi Debora, I am a glass painter and I have a Hoaf kiln. Why do you have the extra fiber material with holes for the vents on the inside?
What you describe as ‘extra fiber’ is the original insulation in my Hoaf “Speedburn II Fuse” kiln, purchased directly from the manufacturer and imported from Holland in 1999. I bought a similar kiln in 1983 which I left in England when we emigrated. I haven’t added any insulation to my kilns, and do not recommend this because it may interfere with the finely calibrated ignition mechanism. I had my kiln serviced a while ago because it was not re-lighting properly at firing temps (when the burners to click on and off to maintain soak temps). The engineer explained to me that the volume of air inside the kiln affects ignition.

Long skinny pieces of glass tend to bow. Is there a work around?
This is because fibreboard kiln shelves wear out in the middle from years of vacuuming. My original shelf did this, and had to be replaced. During January when I was firing a lot of student work I was using the shelf like a tea tray to ferry unfired glass from college back to studio, and it finally broke.

Also I noticed you only putty the back side of your window. Do you always do that with your painted pieces?
I always putty both sides, very thoroughly. My video must be confusing. Puttying, or ‘cementing’ is structurally important, not just an aesthetic consideration.

Last question – Do you know a source for good tracing brushes. I am having a hard time replacing mine.
My old quill brushes are very precious and irreplaceable (as far as I know… please share if you know where to buy them). I also use Mack or Xcaliber sword stripers. Great for tracing with my propylene glycol mixture, they have long, soft, beautifully matched hairs. I do recommend these, and they’re easy to find online and at art stores.

My workshops generally end with a handout of notes gathered during class, which help to keep the ball rolling. I just incorporated some notes from last September’s  glasspainting class (brushes, carving and printing rubber stamps) onto my Resources page. My June 2015 Oregon students have continued networking since their workshop last summer, sharing technical advice, design ideas, and more and I get a great buzz out of this. Thanks to everyone who has contributed questions and shared their own sources and ideas over the years.

Photo is of last month’s Williams College student work, on trays waiting to be fired.

In Praise of Morton

Impeccably cut glass tiles. All precisely the same size. Clean, perpendicular edges. No shelling, flares or ragged grozing. Much is handmade antique glass, including Lamberts, Blenko and some ancient English Hartley Wood streakies. Some is almost 1/4″ thick, yet the craftsmanship is exemplary and, believe it or not, cut by complete beginners – mostly without using a grinder. All thanks to the wonderful Morton glass cutting system.

I have been teaching Stained Glass Tiling at Williams College in Massachusetts every day  throughout January. Here’s the glasscutting in progress, plus some of the geometric constructions done during the first week of the course.

Students had to use a straight-edge and compass only (no rulers, protractors or computer printouts) to draw precise, accurate polygons that would nest together to form a tiling without gaps. Along the way, they figured out how to set stops and cutting bars on their Morton surface and cut multiple identical copies of the same shape.

Today, students finished copperfoiling and soldering, and started to frame their panels. Every tiles was painted and fired. More  pictures soon!

Even better, if you’re nearby, do come and see their work for real, on display in the science building at Williams College. We will be holding a reception from 1pm – 2.30pm this coming Thursday, Jan 28th, on the third floor corridor between the Physics building and the Chemistry building, above the Eco Cafe. Enter through the cafe from the Science Quad and look for signs.

 

More craftsmanship…

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At this time three years ago I’d just finished cutting 200 mirrored glass stars for table decorations at MASS MoCA‘s annual NY City gala. A few months earlier I’d cut 230 much, much bigger ones -some as big as 4ft across- in 1/4″ thick mirror for Sanford Biggers exhibit “The Cartographer’s Conundrum“. I cut glass by hand. No waterjet, no bandsaw, just a glass cutter, a sturdy pair of running pliers, and my hands.

It was a happy week of pure craftsmanship. I needed to work carefully and sensitively with the glass, paying careful attention to the way it wanted to break. I was observing how it responded to my pressure (1/4″ plate glass is very different to 1/8″, and different yet again to hand-made coloured glasses), and how the precise position of my pliers would result in a successful break (or not!).

The 1/4″ mirror arrived in 5ft x 10ft sheets and I had to cut it right there on the A-frame before lifting sections with suction cups onto my work table. I had the help of a young intern to help lift the mirror, and later take back the sharp edges with a carborundum stone. Mostly, he watched, fascinated.

I was using all my old, familar, glasscutting methods, my knowledge of the material and how it behaves, and pushing the craft of glasscutting to it’s outer boundaries. It was a real delight for a very small person like me to carve into this strong, dense, yet delicate material, and create pile after pile of five-pointed stars.

Hundreds of 5-pointed mirroed glass stars hand cut by Debora Coombs stained glass artist  Hundreds of 5-pointed mirroed glass stars hand cut by Debora Coombs stained glass artist

Hundreds of 5-pointed mirroed glass stars hand cut by Debora Coombs stained glass artist Hundreds of 5-pointed mirroed glass stars hand cut by Debora Coombs stained glass artist Hundreds of 5-pointed mirroed glass stars hand cut by Debora Coombs stained glass artist

Here’s a final photo, of the Cartographer’s Conundrum. Note that the colored light you see in the gallery is not stained glass. They are colourful plaxi-glass pews made by Richard Criddle and his crew, the fabulous art installation and fabrication team at MASS MoCA (in 2 mins).

As part of his aesthetic and artistic message, Sanford Biggers smashed around 60% of the stars with a huge iron pole. In the light of the pride I’d taken in my craftsmanship, and the sense of achievement I’d gained from cutting the stars whole, it was a curious thing to witness.

Sanford Biggers at MASS MoCA. Handcut mirrored glass stars by Debora Coombs