Final stages of glasspainting on the two clerestory windows for All Saints Chapel at Carroll College, Helena, Montana.
Glass painting (8 second time-lapse)
setting out ready to fire in the kiln (4 second time-lapse)
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.
Yesterday was a spectacular day in the studio, working with my smart and lovely studio assistant, Katie Bullock. I’m working with Oster’s Ancient Winchester silverstain fired face-up in my Hoaf Speedburn kiln to create a marvelous blue-tinged mirrored image that breathes a golden haze around each individual print.
Both the mirroring and areas of carefully chosen opalescent glass will be visible from inside the chapel after dark, when the rest of the stained glass goes black.
Katie printing multiples of the vesica pisces petal motif using the annotated grid as a guide. The petals are overlaid in a very specific fashion that results in a spiraling sunburst.
Placing painted glass on trays ready to be fired. The silverstain looks opaque at this stage.
Above, a tray of fired glass. Below, various reflections.
Thanks again a hundred-fold to Cliff Oster, who formulated this stain for me back in 2005 when I was working on stained glass for St Mary’s Cathedral in Portland, Oregon. I can control the colour density and value via different methods of application; or by altering the viscosity of the paint; or by shifting the proportions of water to propylene glycol in the paint thinning process. This one silverstain, Ancient Winchester, can create beautiful, transparent colour ranging from a ‘barely there’ pale lemon yellow to deep amber brown. I can also control (to some extent) the different levels of bleed and irridescence or mirroring by changing my kiln temperature and firing conditions. On top of all that, the clay carrier washes off easily and never sticks to the glass. In this particular application for Carroll College chapel the reverse of the glass (some of which may be seen closeup when the windows are installed) looks like mirrored copper. We were made for each other, me and Ancient Winchester, and I never use any other silverstains.
This sculptural, low-relief “slice” of crystalline geometry is a mathematical projection from five-dimensions into three.
When you move from one dimension to another circles become ellipses and angles change. My sculpture mimics a plane cast obliquely through a grid of hypercubes showing the conjoined surfaces. Fragments of the square faces of hypercubes have become skewed into diamond shapes. The sculpture is made from just one identical repeating shape, a rhombus with diagonals in the Golden Ratio.
The painted glass tiles are assembled according to certain mathematical matching rules that I’ve coded into a Baroque design, carved into rubber and printed on the glass. Each tile is printed and kiln-fired with traditional stained glass enamels, then painted several more times before being wrapped in adhesive copper tape. The tiles are then soldered together to build the sculpture. Below, copper-foiled glass tiles stacked in boxes and a small section tack-soldered together.
The tiles fit together easily to form convex or concave rosettes with five ‘petals’. They also form groups of three, either shallow dishes or steeper ‘ears’. When the tiles are correctly conjoined my painted pattern flows through from tile to tile, creating a cohesive overall design. If each tile is also located correctly in three-dimensions the sculpture can grow infinitely without repeating itself, by simply adding more tiles.
When light is cast through the sculpture onto a parallel surface the stained glass projects a two-dimensional image of another geometric pattern. Discovered in the late 1970’s and called Penrose tiling, this pattern is made up from two different tiles. This also is beautiful and fascinating, and I have been obsessed with it since I was a post-grad student at the Royal College of Art in 1984.
I had the lovely opportunity to meet Sir Roger last year for lunch at Yale and show him my model for this sculpture. I also took a stained glass panel I’d made some years before with his famous tiling pattern in it. This was the last of my Menfolk series and the beginning of my full-time focus on stained glass geometry.
I’ve received a lot of encouragement along the way, especially from computer scientist Duane Bailey who has been researching Penrose tiling for decades. When I met Duane almost four years ago we were both working in two-dimensions. This past July we started working together in three.
We have built three sculptural models so far, each with over 500 tiles the size and shape of business cards. We have designed four more sculptures. Each uses colour to explore some particular aspect of the geometry.
The assembly was fiddly and time consuming, but well-worth the effort.
The reverse of the sculpture is beautiful too. Each tile is made from a plain folded business card, and the triangular folded-back corners cluster together like the petals of mountain laurel.
I learned such a lot about the this geometry. That it grows from seeds that change shape depending upon where you begin. That it has kingdoms, worms and skeps, and more rules called inflation hierarchies to be taken into account. The surface can fold up to nest over itself in curious ways.
Remarkably, this pattern also models the structure of quasicrystals, materials that exhibit long-range order at a molecular level but lack any of the classic symmetries that characterize conventional crystals. Quasicrystals are neither amorphous solids (like glass or plastic) or regular crystalline materials (like salt or diamonds). They exhibit a host of unusual physical properties and can be made to self-assemble from nanoparticles to make invisible materials.
Making life-sized models of molecular structures in glass is pretty neat, and building something by hand (rather than modeling on a computer) provides wonderful insights. It may be difficult to visualize a skewed five-dimensional cube being ‘projected’ into another dimension) but the relationship between sculpture and cast image is really quite simple, and elegant to witness.
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.
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.