The stained glass easel; why?

In the process of making stained glass there are two stages where the glass is easeled up against the daylight. First, when selecting glass, then later, when glasspainting. Easeling glass is time-consuming and thus expensive, so why do this?

Here’s my current work for All Saints Chapel at Carroll College in Helena Montana. Note how the opalescent glasses change at night/dusk. This is an effect that can only be estimated, whether on light table or easel, because my north-facing easel does not precisely mimic the light in Montana. The easel does, however, take out a lot of the guesswork.

 

 

Check a few older posts if you want to find out more about how and why glass is fixed to the easel, and watch the embedded video links. Stage one, selecting glass for colour, transparency/opacity and texture the English way, by fixing it to the clear glass easel plate with Plasticene; about choosing colour for a landscape window with figures; using beeswax and rosin (which fires off later in the kiln) in the process of  waxing up (fixing painted, fired  glass onto the easel for further layers of glasspaint); and details of a specific wet-matte technique that may be achieved with my https://coombscriddle.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/spreading-the-word-worldwide/proprietory propylene glycol mixture.

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Carroll College: Go Saints!

Stained glass for Carroll College, Helena, Montana

Go Saints!

Winter Study 2015: stained glass tiling at Williams College

Ten wonderful Williams College students are building stained glass tilings with me during their month-long Winter Study course this month.

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Each student has designed a panel made from repeating geometric shapes cut in coloured glass using the Morton PG01B glasscutting system.

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Some of the geometry is fairly straightforward, like a panel inspired by a grandmother’s quilt, and a regular polygon.

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Others tilings were more difficult to draw with compass and straightedge, and complex to set up on the Morton system.

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A couple of students wanted specific imagery – a racing shell, birds, leaves, snowflakes…

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One student is creating a 3D model of a particular type of carbon molecule.

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Every tile will eventually be painted and fired at least twice. This last photo shows four different projects on the light table as students shuffle with colour layout and begin glasspainting.

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Thanks to student Ben Hoyle for the better quality photos above.

More soon!

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.

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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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.