1 Guinea Pig Left

What a sad week, we are now down to 1 little piggy. Wilbur was the first to go followed by his hutch mate Kevin who we think died of a broken heart. Gone to join Skye the first Collie Dog and Indie the first cat in the garden! Bingo, bulging eyes and all is still going. Ahh the joys of Guinea pig ownership……

On a happier note, Christmas is coming, remember this weather? 

Lets cosy up,light the fires and celebrate all things winter. Chocolate, roasted root veggies, scarves, mittens, mulled wine and spices. My children remarked that my workshop smelled of Christmas today ‘cos the kiln was on full blast and stuff is happening a plenty! I’m allowing myself to get just a bit excited, despite the sad demise of Guinea pigs.

Stained Glass Courses, Fused Glass courses and more

It’s not easy running your own business as anyone who does so will tell you. Add in 2 children, a dog, 2 cats and 3 guinea pigs and a husband who often works nights and it all gets a bit hectic around here. Meals are a bonus!
However I like to think have achieved a lot in the last couple of weeks. Christmas stock making is in full swing so the kiln is on every night (yes I said the C word) and I have been working hard on getting commissions made and installed and have 16 on the job board to finish this year. I’ll be working nights then.
But that’s not the end of it….. 
I love teaching and my courses are not only great fun but are providing me with an ever growing family of fellow glass enthusiasts with whom I can share my passion and skills. I am delighted that so many come back again and again to create beautiful things in glass and so pleased that their skills so obviously improve with each visit. Below is just a small selction of some of my students work, some have been before, some complete beginners and all are great at creating lovely original work in glass! 

Roll on the rest of 2011 courses and 2012 is just around the corner!

Been away

This Blogging lark has got me mystified. Could this be the reason I am so terrible at keeping up with it? This is my first Blog in a year! Who is really interested? Unless I can write something of real merit with meaty long, high falootin words (not sure if High Falootin is spelt this way at all and my spell check thinks it should be High Fallopian, that may be better!) You may be able to put me right, however I digress.
Blogging, who cares?? Well, I suppose if I had more time I might like to use my Blog as a way of passing on my skills and tips about stained glass. Goodness only knows, I have a million pictures and notes and jotted things that might be of interest to someone. But I think I may try a different tack this year and use it as a sketch book for me! Not care if anyone else is watching, add notes, pictures and links I think might be of interest to me in the future. They will be dated and numbered and it may turn out to be a diary of a stained glass artist. So forthwith as of tomorrow I am writing a Diary of a Stained Glass Artist in the 21st Century

If I remember………

oh and by the way…. I love it when Autumn is just popping up …

Life Saving Light?

Chartres, France

They were designed as windows unto the heavens adorned with images of the afterlife and the myths and stories of the Christian faith. 

However medieval designers of stained glass windows did not realise they also had equipped their houses of worship with a high tech air filtering system. 
It seems that it’s not just seeing the light in church that matters it’s standing in it and allowing the rays to bathe you.
Australian scientists have discovered that European stained glass windows have powers that are scientific not only spiritual.
In 2008 a group of researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) found that microscopic gold nanoparticles, small enough to pass through human cells, when exposed to sunlight reveal interesting new properties. 
Gold pink glass is known to be the most expensive glass we can buy but what a surprise to find that associate Professor Zhu Huai Yong, from QUT’s School of Physical and Chemical Sciences, says that gold’s ability to act as a catalyst to speed up chemical reactions, worked in the ornate church windows to strip the air of dangerous chemicals!
“For centuries”, Professor Zhu says, “people appreciated only the beautiful works of art and long life of the colours, but little did they realise that they are also, in modern language, photocatalytic air purifiers with nano structured gold catalysts.
Associate Professor Zhu Huai Yong, from Queensland University of Technology's School of Physical and Chemical Sciences, said that church windows stained with gold paint purify the air when they are lit up by sunlight. Credit: QUT: Erika Fish
Professor Zhu Huai Yong
“When people use gold as a catalyst in a reaction they need an energy input to heat it up 100 or 200 degrees Celsius … but when the particles (of gold) show colour they get the energy for the reaction from sunlight already,” Professor Zhu said.

“The electromagnetic field of the sunlight can couple with the oscillations of the electrons in the gold particles and creates a resonance.

“The magnetic field on the surface of the gold nanoparticles can be enhanced by up to one hundred times, which breaks apart the pollutant molecules in the air.”

These pollutants are known as Volatile Organic Compounds(VOC) and are found in new furniture, carpets and paint and give that distinctive ‘new’ smell as they slowly leach from the products and can be harmful even in small amounts. 

“You smell a chemical smell, it’s not good for your health,” Professor Zhu said.
The by product of the chemical reaction with the gold nanoparticles is small quantities of carbon dioxide, which the researchers say is much safer compared to the pollutants.
Perhaps when designing our stained glass windows we should be bearing this in mind and creating works of art which are not only beautiful but possibly life saving!

A Very Potted History of Stained Glass

I used to have this history page on my website but thats so full of ‘stuff’ now that I had to move it. It’s back here with a few updates!

Stained glass is unique in the world of art in that it is the only medium to fully exploit the relationship between glass and light. Light is an intangible phenomenon and since the dawn of time has been associated with philosophies and religions. It symbolizes life, goodness, revelation and beauty.

The desire of the early architects to bring this light to life and to educate a mostly illiterate congregation brought about the golden age of Gothic architecture and stained glass.
The Medieval Christian Church used coloured glass deliberately, aware that colour and light are both spiritual and sensual.
We still look in amazement at the beauty of a rainbow and marvel at the pureness of its colours. The rainbow, according to the book of Genesis, was Gods covenant with man after the Flood.
At the end of the Dark Ages there was a boom in church building and these churches and cathedrals were filled with colour and light. Difficult to imagine what the people thought of this as they gazed at these pictures and stories brought to them in this way. They would have never seen any thing so beautiful or spiritual.
It is hard to trace the exact origins of stained glass. It does have some similarities in materials and techniques used by the goldsmith for cloisonné enamelling. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloisonne 
Its not beyond imagination to think that the first stained glass artists saw the goldsmith running his band of gold around glass or filling it with enamel and decided to try it with glass. Using a cheaper alternative, lead, and with the advent of the invention of lead milling and casting, it was then possible to hold the glass together in large portable panels.
These artists then discovered that iron filings ground together with flux and powdered glass could be painted onto the surface of the glass pieces. When fired in a kiln to melting point and cooled they were able to produce glass pieces with detail on such as faces, hands and drapery.
The earliest surviving examples of painted stained glass are the head of Christ from the abbey church at Wissembourg in Alsace from around 1060AD
and the famous five prophet windows in Augsburg Cathedral Middle of 12th Century.                          
  These windows show us that there are already styles and techniques being used that one would expect from a practised artist.
This is a detail from a 16th century window in St Marys Church, Fairford and depicts a two headed Satan illuminated by the glow of hell. Love these windows!
There was a revival of stained glass in the nineteenth century. With the advent of the Gothic Revival the artists and architects of the time designed using forms and patterns that had been used in the middle ages. They combined serious study with romantic visions of romance and chivalry. Two major artist of this time were William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.
Edward Burne Jones was the most influential stained glass designer of the late 19th Century.
The link below will take you to a brief history and some pictures of his work.
The techniques and materials I use differ very little from those used by the earliest stained glass artists and craftsmen. There is a larger colour range of glass available, the tools have been improved with time and designs and styles change year after year but the basics are still those of an ancient tradition. That being the case I feel honoured to be following in their footsteps. We stained glass artists of today are taking stained glass to a new dimension. Adding fused and textured detail and also by encapsualting the panels into sealed units to save energy. As with any craft it is evolving year on year and we embrace change with great enthusiasm, as it will bring yet another way of working or another style to our work. And like all artists it is this that keeeps us awake at night designing!

Repairing our little gems of Domestic Stained Glass

Stained glass is the term usually used to describe highly elaborate painted church windows and domestic leaded glass is generally called leaded light. However now there are occasions when stained glass is used to great effect within a domestic setting. 
In 1840 the Gothic Revival was just beginning with renewed interest in all things Medieval. Very soon the Arts and Crafts movement were promoting the use of leaded lights in a domestic setting and this was usually around the front door. These panels most usually depict floral motifs and natural forms. Some stained glass in the more grand houses, had painted detail too such as birds or local scenes depicted in roundels. These days we take this form of decoration in domestic architecture very much for granted in buildings of a certain age. Of course being a stained glass artist myself, I am still excited when I am asked to work on these little historic gems! Lead cames have a life of approximately 100 years so its no surprise that there is a steady stream of front entrance panels in need of some tender loving care and expertise. A recent project I have worked on is just one of these beautiful windows dating from the 1890’s. 

Taped to avoid falling apart

The door had recently slammed and as the lead was very weak the centre had ‘popped’. There was a risk of the whole painted bird roundel dropping out and so, as I was unable to get to site for a few weeks my customer took the sensible decision to apply a sticky tape to the inside and out to protect it from falling! 

A comprehensive rubbing, much like a brass rubbing.

Once in the studios my first jobs were to remove the tape and to take a rubbing of the panel. The lines represent the centre of all leads and I use this as a guide to cut new pieces of glass and to lead the panel back together. On this rubbing I made notes on the lead sizes, the position of the strengthening bars and the sizes.

Taking apart the old lead

Then I started to carefully dismantle the stained glass. There were some previous repairs and also a few badly broken pieces of glass. I wanted to retain as much of the original glass as possible but in some cases this was out of the question. I was able to source glass of the closest possible match for these areas. 

All glass cleaned and new pieces cut

Once apart I can recut any badly broken pieces and clean the glass ready for leading.

Leading can begin, note the traditional horseshoe nails used to hold the glass and lead together in progress.

I lead the panel together using leads of the same width and profile as the original. Then I apply a tallow flux to each joint in preparation for soldering.

Tallow to act as a flux for the solder

I use a gas soldering iron for soldering my stained glass. The electric soldering irons are great for a hobby and for copper foil work but when faced with acres of leaded lights to restore I need the constant heat from a traditional iron. Standing waiting for the electric iron to re-heat is not an option in a professional studio! I show the iron here with a yellow flame so you can see it but usually I have it on full with a hot blue flame.

My treasured glass iron!
When the panel has been soldered I can then cement it and give it a final clean before soldering on the copper ties. We use these to fix it to the bars withing the door as added strength.
Then we fit the panel and it is back to its former glory. Hopefully it will be good and sturdy for another 100 years or so (door slamming not recommend!)
And the window is in.
Sparkling and looking great.