Joseph, a shoe and 3 seagulls

Glasspainting at last! and really enjoying it.

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I started with the three seagulls and then couldn’t stop! I moved on to Mary’s sandal and the head of Joseph, because they were lying on my lightbox after their trip to Bill the sandblaster & glass sculptor.

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Fire-polishing

In England I used hydrofluoric acid to remove the flash, but here in Vermont I sandblast and fire-polish instead. It’s safer. Fire-polishing is making the glass hot enough to smooth out the rough surface of the sandblasting but not so hot that it melts into a puddle. Hitting the right temperature is pretty crucial!

Here are the sandblasted pieces with all their masks removed (above),in the kiln, and back in their spots on the easel, fire-polished (below). The body of the flash is a furiously bright green that I will tone down with silver nitrate (aka ‘silver stain’ – the only real ‘stain’ used in traditional stained glass).

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Also in the kiln are two heads and the sandal, plus a couple of test pieces that Sam prepared to experiment with herself.

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Sparkle & sandblasting prep

Here’s why I use hand-made (mouth-blown) transparent glass in my windows. It’s beautifully sparkly! (watch 12 seconds of video)  As you may perhaps have guessed, this is my first ever movie. Please excuse the creaky tripod. My dear husband suggests I should stick to making stained glass!

Now, on to the sandblasting…
There are thimbleberries in the foreground of the window cut from flashed ruby glass. Yesterday my assistant Sam began applying masks to these pieces of glass to prepare them for sandblasting. Flashed glass is blown with a thin skin of one colour fused into the surface of another, usually lighter, colour. The rubies I’m using for the thimbleberries are flashed onto green or grey glass. Unmasked areas get sandblasted away to reveal the ‘body’ colour of the glass. Masked areas stay ruby. In this case, it’s the little red berries that remain transparent, sparkly red. I will paint foliage on the gray/green areas.

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Today I went to glass sculptor Bill LeQuier‘s studio to sandblast the thimbleberries, Joseph’s undershirt, Mary’s sandal, and the white hair and beard of the grandfather figure……….

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…………….here’s a photo of Grandad under the sandblasting nozzle. This is the view through into the sandblaster as I work, and the blob on the left is the thumb of my rubber glove. The image appears to be reversed. At this point the darker beige is the flash colour (just about to be removed) and the lighter shade is the mask.

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Removing Grandad’s mask to reveal white areas for his hair and beard. You can also see a little pile of thimbleberries on the tray (red glass still masked), and Mary’s sandal with the foot partly exposed.

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Learn more about flashed glass from the manufacturer, Glasshutte Lamberts.

Mothers Day Family Glasspainting Workshop

Come and paint stained glass portraits with a loved one on Mother’s Day weekend here at my studio. I still have a few spots open for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day weekends.
Here are some photos from last year….

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Those who say they “can’t paint” are especially welcome because the process involves drawing over photographs and exploring patterns and textures. Details of when and where, and how to sign up

Snow in April

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I must be the only person in Vermont who is happy to still have snow in April. It has provided me with the best possible backdrop for selecting coloured glass. The window is almost cut, and the snow, right on cue, has almost disappeared.
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The picture so far – my garden…
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… and the window, taken as it was getting dark.

I will post a better photo in a day or so when it’s totally finished. Then I’ll be moving into the glasspainting stage. But before I do I’d like to recommend a couple of books and sites about colour.

Understanding colour is pretty crucial because a stained glass window is basically a huge collage – a combination of pre-determined individual colours. It’s not like mixing paint from tubes where there are numberless options available. To complicate things, every time you add a new piece of glass it affects all those around it. It’s not practical to keep changing your mind (though I do this far more often than I’d like), but on the other hand, I really do want the window to read as a unified scene.

I know only too well the limitations of the medium. As I’m choosing glass I am constantly imagining how the window will look when it’s painted. I stay mindful of the fact that I can make colours appear darker with paint, but I cannot change the hue (the actual colour), the saturation/intensity (how clean or muted it is), or make the glass look lighter. And then there’s that annoying tendency for adjacent colours tend to interfere with one another, sometimes quite a lot.

I remember what an eye opener it was to learn about colour in art school. One memorable exercise from my first year at Edinburgh College of Art was painting a still life (objects on a table) all in the same tone/value. Imagine, the red apple had to be painted pink, and the grapefruit, mustard-coloured. If you screwed up your eyes and looked through your eyelashes your painting was supposed to look coloured but without definition between different objects. It was quite a challenge, but wonderful training.

Music provides a good analogy for colour: some people are tone deaf, a few have perfect pitch, most are somewhere in between. It’s the same with colour. Some can perceive fine and subtle differences between colours, some cannot, and some people are colour blind. In both cases we can learn how to perceive or reproduce notes and colours more accurately through training.

I found this brief, neat explanation of colour theory and descriptions of some of the exercises we learned in the stained glass department at Swansea College of Art, like contrast and dominance, and figure-ground relationships. I read the famous books, “Interaction of Color” by Josef Albers and “Elements of Colour” by Johannes Itten from cover to cover, and remember how exciting it was to perceive coloured after-images for the first time. If you’re not familiar with Itten’s theories you can read more here.

Pure indulgence!

Today I finished cutting glass for the rugosa roses and thimbleberries at the bottom of the window. Some of these tiny pink and green pieces of glass are smaller than my fingernails… and so extravagantly labour-intensive to build into the window.  I have to admit that this is pure indulgence.

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Trinity Episcopal had asked for what seemed like an impossible list of things to be included in one small window -the Holy Family, worshipers, mountains, apple blossom, a river leading to the sea, an anchor (the mariners cross), some seagulls in the dawn light… but not thimbleberries or roses!

Aside from my love of roses and of beautiful colours, I did have artistic/compositional reasons as well. I brought them in to help make sense of the apple boughs which enter the scene from stage left, as if from a tree growing nearby but out of the picture plane. I felt that I needed plants of a similar scale in the foreground to balance the composition and help the viewer ‘read’ the picture better. Since the window is dedicated to Deacon Archie Hanna, who wrote the definitive book on the history of the Thimble Islands, and since the islands are named for the abundant thimbleberries that grow there, they seemed the obvious choice.

I also wanted more pink in the window to balance the sunrise and the apple blossom. Some years ago I made 20 windows for St Mary’s Cathedral in Portland, Oregon. Each one had at least 3 roses in it (symbol for Mary and Portland, the City of Roses) and I found lovely ways to paint them in stained glass. I love the colour and scent of these wild seaside roses, and they seemd so perfect for a church near the seaside in Branford Connecticut.

Here are a couple of photos of glass fixed up on the easel with blobs of Pasticene. Please use your imagination and/or watch this space to see how those red blobs of glass become delicate thimbleberries (they will!) and how the roses turn out. My last post may help a bit.

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Yes, the size of a fingernail!

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Can you spot them?

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Here’s the right lancet, photographed against a shockingly blue sky.

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Figures & Models

Here’s a quick run-through of the process I use for the figures. First, a section of my cartoon for Trinity Episcopal with the little Chinese girl (actually, she’s 1/2 English) followed by a photo of the model and a snapshot of the glass she will be painted on.

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Cartoon

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Chirpy little Constanza, my model

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Bare-naked glass on the easel
(Ignore the fuzzy horizontal band, it’s just the transom on the window behind the easel).

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The separate stages

I do the drawing in 2 stages; a sumi-type calligraphic line drawing in black ink that I photocopy before shading with charcoal or graphite. I keep copies of my line drawings for all the figure, to be used later on for glasspainting, which is also carried out in stages. This slide shows the separate stages: the model, line drawing (we call this the ‘traceline’), cartoon and finished stained glass. Detail of 25ft window for Marble Church in Manhattan, the scene is the Anointing at Bethany.

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Woman at the Well, pondering

This pair of images shows just how much the glass is transformed by the glasspainting. On the left, the bare-naked glass was photographed on the light table, hence the flat no-textured rather boring look, but it’s easy to read the tone/value. On the right, the painted glass is waxed up against daylight for the last time before leading-up (assembling into lead cames/strips) so you can see white lines of daylight where the lead will go. The colours are much more accurate in this picture. Notice how the subtle shading in the glass contributes to the overall coherence of the painted picture, even without any lead and all those (Note for Margie -it’s my favourite Lamberts 1067 peach flashed glass.) Notice how the hand and face are all one piece of glass -if I’d added a lead between them I would have lost that pondering look

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3 men in a boat

And just one more sequence (yet another slide from a teaching Powerpoint), again from a window for Marble Church. This shows a section of the cartoon, the just-selected bare-naked glass on the easel with blobs of Plasticene, and the completed stained glass.

Open Studio, May 25th & 26th

A wonderfully busy studio!

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Please come and visit me on May 25th & 26th as part of Vermont Crafts Council’s statewide Spring Open Studios event. I’ve almost finished the colour selection and glasscutting for Trinity Episcopal and will be painting glass by the end of May.

The hours are 10am – 5pm both days. Address: 359 Rue Madeline, Readsboro VT 05350. Download a map of our area. Visit other studios too, including Readsboro Glassworks for some spectacular glass sculpture by Bill LeQuier, and Mary Angus’ perfume bottles and more.