Scholarships: support them; apply for them. Don’t let stained glass become a Lost Art!

photo5Thank you Carol Schaller for your delightful comment below. I started this blog as a way for Carol and others at Trinity Episcopal in Branford, Connecticut to follow their commission. Starting with my very first post in April 2013 are dozens of descriptions of  the different stages of making Trinty’s stained glass windows. Type Trinity in the Search box and you’ll be inundated with work-in-progress photos and technical information.  These include glasspainting and design, the subjects of my May 2020 workshops.

It was once feared that stained glass would become ‘a lost art’ but the tide has turned in recent years. Thank goodness! Younger artists are taking an interest, many with the support of two US organizations that work tirelessly to keep stained glass alive and thriving.

The Stained Glass Association of America (SGAA) is a vital community of stained glass artists, artisans and aficionados of stained glass. The American Glass Guild (AGG) is a nationwide group of equally dedicated independent artists and professionals. Both organizations encourage and promote the creation of new work and the conservation of stained glass. Both have also, for 13 years now, generously supported my workshops with tuition scholarships. Please support them if you can.

Donate to the American Guild Guild

Donate to the Stained Glass Association of America

Here’s my schedule of 2020 stained glass workshops for stained glass professionals and serious amateurs. Check out the websites above for info on their scholarships.

ps I will also be offering residential art-making vacations for non-professionals during 2020 but these workshops will NOT be eligible for scholarships from the trade guilds.

pps I do recommend reading The Lost Art: a Survey of 1,000 years of stained glass by Robert Sowers.

 

Oct 2019 Glasspainting Workshops

IMG_2570.JPG

If you know of anyone else who may be interested in taking a weeklong glasspainting workshop with me in October please pass on this message. All the info is on my website, links below. Dates are Oct 21-25 (intro) and Oct 29 – Nov 1st (advanced). Last year I canceled to be with my Dad before he died. It was hard, but the right decision. Thanks for waiting. I am so looking forward to meeting those of you who did.

Luis Gianera, a wonderful stained glass artist from Buenos Aires just posted an appreciation of this 4 minute video showing me painting stained glass roses in real time using my proprietary mixture. This is the technique I will be teaching in October. The image here shows separate pieces of glass on the light table. No lead. In the bottom rh corner the glass has been painted and fired only once. Multiple firings allow you to permanently fix good strong tracelines then -without losing what you’ve already done -experiment with textural effects and matting techniques.
Luis was unable to study directly with me. Instead, we corresponded, he read my Notes for Students and figured out how to use these methods himself. Beautifully. To all my other blog and Facebook followers – now from 46 different countries around the world; Happy Glasspainting!
      Videos of me glasspainting in real time (scroll down past the math)

2018 stained glass design and painting workshops

IMG_2570

I am offering three 5-day workshops in September 2018 at my studio in Vermont. Here’s a schedule and some general information.

For those interested in scholarships, application deadlines for the American Glass Guild James C Whitney Memorial Scholarship is March 19th. And for the Stained Glass Association of America’s Dorothy L. Maddy Workshop/Seminar Scholarship and Albinas Elskus Scholarship the application deadline is April 13th.

September 10th-14th, TRACE & TEXTURE 5-day intro to GLASSPAINTING FOR ARTISTS is open to all. Excellent for artists in all/any media (not just stained glass). Tuition $860, includes lunches and materials.

September 17th-21st, STAINED GLASS DESIGN, STEP BY STEP, All levels. Tuition $825 includes lunches and materials. Check out this post Why Teach Stained Glass Design.

Sept 24th-28th, ADVANCED GLASSPAINTING  is a workshop for those wanting coaching on a specific project or glasspainting topic/subject; familiar with my techniques and wanting a refresher; or simply interested in taking their skills to the next level. Tuition $860, includes lunches and materials.

Above: painted glass on the light table from the Archie Hanna Memorial window at Trinity Episcopal in Branford Connecticut. I started this blog in April 2013 to share the entire process with the congregation. There are lots and lots of posts to read…

Stained Glass for All Saints Chapel at Carroll College

I spent 3 weeks as Artist in Residence at Carroll College in Helena, Montana in February working on the initial design concepts and preliminary drawings for five new stained glass windows. Since then I’ve been back in my studio making shop drawings, scale designs, supporting artwork and full-size drawings with specifications for building the stained glass. Below, work-in-progress on windows based on an analysis of the Medieval geometry of the San Damiano crucifix.

 

 

My latest work: please come and visit Weds, Oct 19th, 7-9pm

I’m doing an artist residency at the Studios at MASS MoCA right now and we’re having an Open Studio next Weds, Oct 19th, 5-7pm. You are cordially invited. I hope local folks will drop by. I’m one of 10 artists, location is on the MASS MoCA campus. More info and directions here. I’ll be showing math-based drawings, my stained glass tiling, and sculptural models made with computer scientist Duane Bailey this past summer,

Everyone is welcome, so please share if you wish. The Facebook event is at https://www.facebook.com/events/341789096165887/

Why teach stained glass design?

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

cutline.jpg

 

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.

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…

IMG_1593

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

self-leveling floor compound

Why teach craftsmanship?

Because some things just can’t be learned from YouTube.

Richard and I were reminded of this last week as we wrestled with self-leveling cement for a bathroom floor. We have 15 years of art school education between us, and a broad range of practical skills. Richard has been MASS MoCA‘s Director of Fabrication and Art Installation since the museum opened in 1999, and responsible for building hundreds of extraordinary works of art in a wide variety of materials. But this tiny, 5ft x 8ft bathroom floor was threatening to get the better of us.

self-leveling floor compound second attempt

We’d watched the videos, pored over instructions, and measured everything precisely, but this darn cement turned out to have a mind of it’s own. Plus, a fierce surface tension that made it cure into pahoehoe-like slabs with lightning speed. Self-clumping would be a better description, like kitty litter. Figuring out how to level this lava-like eruption forced me to become more intimate than usual with the subtle topography of our bathroom floor. Eventually, we sort-of won, and the floor was sort-of leveled.

Battle-weary, as we cleaned our tools and tidied my studio for a week of glasspainting, it hit me: I teach in order to save others from this same experience: the demoralizing frustration that results from such a huge gap between what you want or expect, and what the mixture or material appears able to do.

Just a few days earlier, Annie O’Brien had come from Cornwall in England for private tuition. She had heard about my methods, downloaded my Notes for Students and painted glass with my mixture, but had yet to achieve the results she saw in my videos. Annie teaches stained glass at Penzance School of Art and, besides developing her own work, wanted to help her students paint glass more fluently.

Reviewing Annie’s workshop in the light of my floor-leveling struggles prompted me to recall comments such as “Oh, I read about that in so-and-so’s book but it didn’t/I couldn’t/it wasn’t clear…”. Then, as I took Annie through my basic procedures, I began to hear “Oh, this is so different than I’ve been getting… “. Or, as she learned to recognize the correct consistency and viscosity “This is way easier, and so much more fun.”

And this is my point: all the YouTube videos out there cannot substitute for a few hours of hands-on time with the right person.

And so, last week, four more artists drove across the country to take a 5-day workshop, Glasspainting For Artists, in my studio. Marianne Parr from Athens, Georgia, was working on developing a free and more personal style of glass painting and figuring out where she wants to go as an artist. Daniel White of Cain White Art Glass, Virginia came to learn how to create more expressive tracing and textural effects for commissioned work. Carol Slovikosky, who has taken several design and painting workshops with me, was expanding her figurative work to include canine portraits, and Brenda Benson came to the workshop to learn how to add pattern to her sculptural pieces.

photo 1 photo 5

I always aim to teach the individual, and this is easier with small groups. As I figure out each artist’s needs and goals I can be flexible with the curriculum, address specific requests, and encourage exploration. Last week I gave slide presentations that included aspects of stained glass design, including the positioning of support bars, which spurred a spontaneous session I dubbed “Sacred Geometry 101”. Then, since both Brenda and Daniel wanted to use my mixture for figurative work, they chose to paint faces during the workshop. Brenda, whose tuition fees were covered largely by the SGAA’s MalDeb Fund, went on to figure out the precise viscosity of paint needed to print hand-carved linoleum.

My next student, LeaAnn Cogswell, is an accomplished sculptor and painter who has yet to figure out how to use glasspaint as beautifully as she does clay. She has remarkable drawing skills, masses of experience and solid art training. The Stained Glass Association of America awarded LeaAnn a Dorothy L. Maddy Scholarship to come and study with me. With a few days of one-to-one, hands-on instruction, I’m confident that LeaAnn will swiftly become an excellent glass painter.

stained glass painting workshop with Debora Coombsphoto 3