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 propylene glycol mixture.

Glasspainting at the easel (videos)

IMG_2609As promised,  here’s a little insight into my wet matting technique. Propylene glycol allows the glasspaint to remain wet (“open”) for much longer than a traditional mix, so I can create graduated shadows while the paint is still wet. I can also leave some areas of the glass completely clear to maintain the sparkle. Watch me apply and manipulate a wet matter in real time in this two minute video  Glass Painting at the Easel Part 1 and brush back the dry matte to remove highlights in Glasspainting at the Easel Part 2 (2.5 mins).

I am painting glass that has been previously painted, fired and fixed onto clear glass easel plates with a mixture of beeswax and rosin (how this is done). Working at the easel with my painted glass up against natural light (not on a light table) allows me to manipulate the transparency/opacity of each piece, add final shadows, and see the window as a whole.

Pics and a video from Arrowmont

Last week’s Arrowmont workshop included slide presentations, design seminars, instructions on mixing, thinning and applying glasspaints and several painting demos.  You can also watch a brief (2.5 minute) video of me painting basket weave with my fingers and printing with plants. Enjoy!

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This next slideshow shares some of the work completed by students last week. All photos by either Ginger Ferrell or Laura Goff Parham. Thanks both!

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I just have to end with this picture, taken behind my back (ha ha) by my long-suffering Teaching Assistant, Ginger Ferrell. Thanks Ginger for minding the kilns and taking some lovely photos.

early morning yoga

early morning yoga

I had a really great week at Arrowmont. My mornings started at 7am with yoga on the screened porch with Jean Campbell, one of the nine other instructors.

I got a real buzz from being in such an intensely creative community – the staff, faculty and students at Arrowmont. I came home energized with creative batteries recharged. I’ve already started planning my next series of stained glass exhibition panels and looking for somewhere to exhibit new work in the spring.

There are classes scheduled at Arrowmont right up until the end of October.

class photo

class photo

Another milestone…

Glasspainting on the lightbox is now complete. Hurrah! Here’s one of the last panels I finished, with the little girl in her blue dress. You can check back and see some photos of her at an earlier stage with just tracelines and one layer of matte.
Connie, ready to lead up

Mary to the hair salon, Joseph gets a facelift!


The window is still 1,200 little pieces of painted glass lying on transparent bottomed trays on my light tables. It is progressing slowly and surely toward completion. My current work consists of a lot of running up and down stairs to the loft area of my studio to review my glasspainting from a distance.


Looking down at the work from above is crucial for assessing how well the modeling is working. It also mimics a viewing angle from the inside the church.

Stained glass people of old used all sorts of tricks to do this. Looking through the wrong end of opera glasses, crucially placed mirrors, standing on a stepladder…. The camera (or even your cell phone) helps a lot too, especially if you view your work at different times of day and in different lighting conditions.


Here’s Joseph during a facelift, and some of the steps it took to get him there.
1) the glass was masked and sandblasted to create a white area for his undershirt, then firepolished in the kiln.
2) I painted his features as a black line drawing (the ‘traceline’).
3) textured his hair and beard.
4) covered the entire piece of glass with a thin layer of smooth even brown glasspaint (the ‘matte’) and stippled it while wet to create a manly texture (!).

Now, here’s the ‘facelift’!
5a) in the first photo I’ve started to remove the matte to create highlights in his hair and brighten one side of his face.
5b) in the second photo, an hour or so later, you can see the form of his face beginning to emerge.
6) in the third photo I’ve textured Joseph’s undershirt and popped him back in place for a review. Another run upstairs to the loft!

Now, check out Mary before and after her visit to the hair salon.

Note a couple of areas where I’ve laid on mattes and not yet removed them. On the left, Mary’s stole is still dark. On the right, I’ve brushed it back to create highlights.

In the left photo, baby’s blanket has been textured and lightly matted . In the right it’s dark where I have laid on the matte and picked out just a few of the brightest areas. There’s a lot more to be removed (more brightness to be revealed). This is the classic ‘painting with light’ of stained glass.

Visually, the blanket will create a bright starry area around Jesus, the focus of the overall composition. When I’ve finished, the white and pale amber glass will be sparkly once again.

These are the same glasses used in the nativity star at the top of the window.

Painting people; first matte on flesh

Here’s who I spent my day with today, and what I’ve been doing  – removing mattes (applied yesterday) to all the faces, hands, knees and bumps-a-daisy, from baby to grandfather.

Matting is the application of a thin layer of glasspaint with a flat squirrel hair brush that is immediately ‘badgered’ into a smooth, even coat. The glasspainters most expensive brush, a ‘badger blender‘ is hand-made from perfectly set badger hair.

Here’s a sequence showing how I gradually ‘take back’ the matte (remove the smooth unfired layer of glasspaint, tiny areas at a time) to create the modeling.

It takes great care to remove precisely what I want and achieve an even texture. The first layer of matte always looks a little clutzy and imperfect because it’s the most challenging to work with. When it’s fired on to the glass it creates a ‘toothed’ (slightly rough) texture that subsequent layers cling to. This makes it easier to achieve smoother, more precise effects.

Here’s my little north African boy. I love him!

And finally here’s Constanza again in all her (first matted) glory!

Learn to paint figures in stained glass with Debors Coombs

Little Constanza, first matte applied and (almost) ready to fire