Stained Glass Art Information


Insider Info

dotStained glass is the product of the ancient art of working with color and light. For centuries, artists have been using colored glass to tell stories with pictures in the windows of churches and the homes of important people. Now, stained glass art is something anyone can make and have in their home.

"Stained glass used to be the art of the elite class, and up until 30 years ago, the techniques of this art were still a fairly close secret. Now, however, it's open to everyone," says glass crafter James Roher.

This piece is called Trajectories 1. It features inlaid copper that is leaded into the panel as if it were glass. Sheet lead and large handmade marbles are part of the one-inch zinc frame.
Courtesy of: James B. Furman

dotStained glass crafters are people who make designs and pictures by soldering together carefully cut pieces of colored glass. These designs might be anything from a window to a lampshade to a terrarium.

"I think the strangest stained glass piece anyone ever wanted from me was a tennis racquet for the window of the racquet club," says stained glass enthusiast Stephanie Braman.

dotThe process of making a stained glass piece starts with a design on paper. The design may be one the glass crafters have created themselves or one from a stained glass pattern book.

dotThe pieces of the pattern are cut out and traced on to different colored glass. A special tool, a glass cutter, is used to cut out the shapes traced on to the glass.

dotOnce the glass is cut into the right pieces, the process of reassembly begins. The edges of each piece of glass are wrapped in a copper foil, the pieces are put back together and "soldered" -- a special process which melts the copper foil, causing the pieces to stick together.

"Basically, it's like creating a jigsaw puzzle with glass -- just putting the pieces together," says Roher.

dotStained glass pieces show their truest colors when light passes through them and illuminates the colored glass. One of the things stained glass crafters like about this art is that the finished product is always changing.

"Stained glass is dynamic, because it changes with the light of day. A stained glass window looks entirely different at dawn than it will at 2 in the afternoon," says Joanie Cunningham.

dotThis is a good type of recreation for people with a steady hand and a lot of patience. Stained glass work has to be exact, so experts say it takes time to do a piece well.

"You really do have to be one of those people who likes to pick up a project and put it down and pick it up again. You can't be the kind of person who likes to get stuff done in one shot," says Braman.

dotExperts say $200 to $250 will buy you all the tools you'll need to get started in stained glass crafting. Here's what you'll need:

  • glass cutter
  • glass pliers
  • a grinder
  • soldering irons
  • a large flat working table
  • a ruler
  • copper foil

dotThe cost of a sheet of glass depends a great deal on what color you want. For example, a yellow sheet of glass might cost $8 but a blue sheet can be as much as $20.

dotStained glass is made by combining sand with potash and heating it until it reaches the melting point. Then it's formed into sheets. The glass becomes colored when metallic compounds are mixed with the molten glass. Gold is added to make ruby, so ruby is expensive.

dotIf you live near a commercial glass studio, they may have some scrap glass for sale. That will be quite a bit cheaper than buying it by the sheet.

dotPeople who really enjoy stained glass build their lifestyles around it. For example, dedicated stained glass crafters may open their own studios to sell their pieces or make pieces on request. This business is often combined with teaching stained glass classes and selling raw materials for this craft.

Other enthusiasts may find a career as a museum or art gallery curator enjoyable. Or they may decide to study the history of stained glass as an art historian.

Getting Started

dotIn medieval times in Europe, you had to be a member of an elite stained glass guild to make stained glass. Stained glass crafting skills were passed down from father to son and these people kept the secret of this art guarded.

Thankfully, somebody between the medieval days and today spilled the beans, and the secrets behind stained glass crafting are open to everyone who wants them.

"Anyone can learn how to create with stained glass. All that's necessary to become a good artist is patience and perseverance and a little instruction. The rest will happen with time and experience," says Stephanie Braman.

dotThere are a number of ways to get the instruction Braman talks about. Stained glass hobbyists say taking classes is a good way to get off on the right foot with this hobby.

Community recreation centers, YMCAs, YWCAs, stained glass craft stores or stained glass equipment suppliers may all be good places to seek out instructors and classes.

"The good thing about taking classes is you learn the right techniques from the beginning, because there's a teacher there. Also, it's a lot of fun to learn from the ideas of the other people in the class," says Braman.

dotDepending on where you live, getting stained glass supplies may be as quick as a trip to the "corner" store, or it could involve a slightly longer process.

To find out if there's a stained glass supplier in your town, look in your telephone directory under glass. If there's no ad for a supplier, look for a stained glass crafter's advertisement.

"Try calling someone who sells finished stained glass pieces. They'll probably be very happy to tell you where to find your supplies, and they might even give you a few tips," says James Roher.

dotNever forget to get some inspiration. Experts say taking the time to go look at the stained glass artistry of the greats is a must for beginning crafters.

"If you have the good fortune to live in a city with old cathedrals or old buildings, go look at the glass work in them. Once you realize what goes into a simple stained glass piece, you'll be in awe of what you see," says Roher.

Associations

Association of Stained Glass Lamp Artists (ASGLA)
Internethttp://www.asgla.com

The Stained Glass Association of America
Internethttp://stainedglass.org

International Guild of Glass Artists
Internethttp://www.igga.org

Links

Stained Glass Association of America
Great collection of informational resources, crafting tips, photo galleries, and more

Sarah Hall Studio
Visit this studio that does custom-designed architectural stained glass

History of Stained Glass
Read the story of its obscure beginnings