• Art Glass Resources, and some business information
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Glass painting information

We found this blog that we posted below, the other day on the IGGA Facebook page.  And when we read it we thought it was so interesting that we also wanted to share this on our art glass blog.  To view more of this blog click here: Joseph K Beyer's Stained Glass Studio Blog.


Although most stained glass studios don't use all of the processes that this large studio uses, parts of this information can also be incorporated into smaller art glass studios.  As you can see, it is helpful to view a painted and/or stained glass image in natural light as well as using a light table.  Since the window will be viewed in natural light once it is installed, it is helpful to see it and work on it in the type of light it will be eventually viewed through!  It is also helpful to lay out all glass pieces together on the original pattern, then paint the smaller fine details.  This is done so that painted details go from one color and piece of glass to another seamlessly.  Once pieces are fired and the entire window leaded (or foiled) those painted details will look correct.


The glass cutting image below shows that you really don't need to use a fancy, expensive glass cutter!  They use a regular pencil grip cutter that you can buy in a hardware store!  Now, we personally like cutters that have a handle, but it only shows that you don't have to have the best, most expensive tools to create beautiful stained glass windows!  Also, most studios don't have large copiers on site but a lot of copy centers do!  


Another interesting method that they use in their studio:  creating shading in certain areas by using flashed glass and etching it with acid.  Working with acid is dangerous but perhaps the same effects (or close to the same effects) may be achieved by sandblasting or by using products such as Armour Etch on flashed glass.


Vitreous Painting in Daylight-Saint Ann Rose window

Much has been accomplished since my last posting but before I go any farther, I have to retract an accusation I made in the last entry.  It seems that the photograph of a Band-aid that was mixed in with the other photos take for this blog was not the work of Simon Grigsby but instead, the mischievous side of Mellisa revealing itself.
Right now Mellisa is painting up in a large window, working in daylight but before the “easel Phase” she worked on the head of God the Father down on a light table.  Here are two shots that show the gradual progress.  She begins with some light tracing that locates the features of facial anatomy.  Next she covers the entire piece with a rather heavy matte of paint.  This matte is vitreous paint applied with water and a thin binder of gum arabic.  This is the binding ingredient in watercolors.  Gradually, the entire face comes into view as she removes more and more of the applied matte.  When she is satisfied, the head will go into the kiln and be fired lightly.  Much more painting will be done before this head is finished.  this head will be kiln-fired at least three more times, maybe more.
Now she is ready to move to the next phase, painting on the entire window, lit with natural daylight.  By now you understand that the window is made up of many hundreds of pieces of glass.  So the question is, how would one manage to view all of these pieces together?  It would be easy if they were all laying flat on a light table but how can they be viewed vertically and in daylight?  Fortunately this problem was solved generations ago and we still do the same thing today.  The full-scale glazing drawing is laid flat on a bench and a large sheet of 1/4″ thick plate glass is placed over top of it.  Next, the individual pieces of glass, some of which have already received some vitreous painting, will be placed in their respective positions on top of the plate glass, using the drawing underneath as a guide.  (See Photo below)   Natural bees wax is heated in a sauce pan till it reaches a liquid state.  An eye dropper is used to drip the melted wax strategically at the edge of each piece of glass.  The wax quickly cools temporarily binding the pieces of colored glass to the large sheet of plate glass.  So now we can see all the pieces of glass, just as they will appear in the assembled window but without the leading between them.  Now we can lift the plate glass sheet and place it on an easel in a window.  This allows us to see the results of our glass selecting for the first time, all together.
  














The first  photo shows the plate glass over the drawing.  Next Melissa uses the eyedropper to drip the hot wax around the colored glass pieces.
The Next photo shows the plate glass sheet with all the colored glass attached in one of our large windows.  You can see that the piece of glass that is the head of Christ is missing from the composition.  Many other pieces already have some amount of painting on them.  Melissa will now begin applying paint to the glass here in the window.  The advantage of this is fresh perspective and the ability to step back and see the entire window at one time.  Note that she has only about 60% of the window attached to the plate glass.  Everything below what you see will be attached to another sheet of plate glass.  Putting the entire window on one piece would make it too heavy to lift.
Finally, one last shot, taken from farther back in the studio.  This shot shows the upper and lower halves of the composition up in the window at the same time.    It also gives you some idea of the size of the studio.  35,000 square feet is just enough for 18 of us to work without bumping into each other.
Stay tuned for more soon and we love to get feedback.

6th Posting- The Rose Window for Saint Anne’s Takes Shape.


Melissa Sieling has been snapping photos of her progress and here are a few more.  This is where things get a good bit more interesting.
In our last posting, we explained the selection of the hand blown glasses and how important that process was to the interpretation of the design.  While Melissa is selecting glass, another craftsman is hand-cutting what she has selected.  This is done by hand, using a garden variety glass cutter, the same as you might purchase in a hardware store.  To be sure, there is a great deal of skill involved.  Some day soon I hope to produce a few videos on the subject of glass cutting but for now, let me explain the tenants of this craft.  Each piece of glass will be hand cut, using the patterns made for this window.  When the exact location within a sheet of glass is chosen, the pattern is placed on top of the glass and the profile or outline of the pattern is “scored” into the surface of the sheet of glass.  Note that the glass cutter does not actually cut the glass.  A tiny wheel of hardened steel at the end of the glass cutting tool is run along the perimeter of the pattern, impressing a line into the surface of the glass.  This score will cause the glass to break along the course of this line.  We cause the break to occur in several ways.  Sometimes we will snap the pieces apart by applying pressure on either side of the line.  Other times, we will tap the glass sharply along the underside of the line, producing the vibrations that will cause the glass to break along the line.  This is a fun part of the practice but it can be frustrating because the glass can seem to have a mind of its own.  Straight lines are easy, complex curves require much skill and practice.The hands belong to Simon Grigsby.  Note that three of the small patterns are taped down to the glass.  This will ensure that they are cut out of exactly the desired part of the sheet.  The hand-blown glass features lots of variation and some areas of a six-square-foot sheet can be lighter or darker. Here you can see a percentage of the glass for the window has been cut and the pieces are laid out over the B & W copy.  Finally all the glass for the entire window is cut.  This much cutting might have taken Simon about two days to complete.  In amongst the photos was one of a band aid.  Simon is the likely culprit for such a prank.  We do go through our share of band aids but probably less than you might guess.
This photo shows an important part of the process that is acid etching.  This is a technique I learned as an apprentice and I have always seen to it that my team knows how to do this safely.  The best studios throughout history practiced this but probably only a few today would attempt it, owing to the danger involved.  Hydrofloric acid has been used in conjunction with flashed glass to produce dramatic effects in windows.  First, I must explain what flashed glass is.  Most colored glass is colored throughout.  This is called pot-metal glass.  A quantity of metal (copper for instance) is added to the formula for glass and the glass is blown into cylinder and folded open into a sheet.  For flashed glass, the glass blower gathers a quantity of clear glass onto the end of the blow-pipe.  Before the glass is enlarged into a bubble, the clear is dipped into a vat of molten colored glass.  So now we have a clear core with a thin layer of a color enveloping it.  As the glass is blown larger and manipulated into a sheet, the result is a full sheet of glass that is clear but with a thin coating of a color on one surface.  There are lots of different colors of flashed glass available.  The most popular are reds and blues in varying degrees of density but there are many other colors available to us, even sheets that feature one color flashed over another, such as red on blue.  The thin layer of color will produce shading in the colors as the flash changes in thickness but what is even more interesting is that we can use acid to etch away the color to reveal the clear glass underneath.  In the photo above, you can see the large dark piece of red flashed glass and across the top of this piece you can see that it has been covered with clear contact paper.  Oddly enough, the plastic contact paper resists the acid and we use it to mask-off part of the sheet we want to remain unaltered.    The surface of the pieces left exposed will be attacked with the acid.  Over a period of hours, the red surface color will become lighter and lighter until (if we wish) the red disappears altogether, leaving that part of the piece clear.  If you have ever admired the best Bavarian windows, they nearly all featured this technique, usually on Christ’s red robe.  One can simply lighten an area to produce dramatic shading or an elaborate brocaded design can be shown in two colors.   Often this method is combined with gold staining but we will leave that for another post.  In the photo, the pieces of glass are resting with acid on the exposed surfaces.  The small piece to the right has been etched completely-see the clear parts?  Melissa is using this technique to produce the rays emitting from the dove.  Where the rays pass through the red drapery (check the design in the first post) the drapery will be lighter, even more dramatically than in the watercolor.  We suit-up for this, wearing eye protection, gloves, mask, etc.  I am minus the fingerprint on one finger because I accidentally touched the bottle of acid with my fingertip nearly 30 years ago.
These last three shot show the beginning of the painting process.  In the first, the border is being painted with fine linear design. She is painting with a long fine brush over a tracing paper cartoon of the border motif.  All three photos show the glass laying on a light-box with the cartoon underneath the glass.  Nearly all the surface of the window will be painted with linear work first, over the light box.
Vitreous glass paint consists of powdered iron oxide mixed with finely ground glass.  The resulting pigment can be combined with various painting media to apply it to the glass.  Finally when the painting is completed, the paint is fired into the glass.  The 2nd and 3rd photos here show Melissa rendering the outline of the clouds, drapery and the feet of Christ.  Note in this last photo how the red drapery appears lighter where the rays are passing through.  This is the effects of the acid etching.  Look for more later.  I’ve got to get back to designing.







5th Posting- Work on the Saint Anne’s Rose 

Continues

It’s Wednesday March 21st and Melissa is making serious progress but in the meantime, I want to relate some modifications we made that will ultimately make the window much better.  To design the window, I used an image of a crucifixion (an oil painting i found on-line).  In the last posting on this, Melissa was cartooning the major elements of the composition, including the figure of Christ.  Realizing how important to the finished window the execution of the Crucifixion would be, I was looking over her shoulder, suggesting a tweak here and there, when I realized that, instead of her working from a small print-out of the painting and cartooning by hand, it would be far better if Neil could replace the crucifixion I drew in the in-scale design, with the image of the Crucifixion from the painting.  Of course this requires some serious Photoshop skills but in no time at all, Neil had accomplished this substitution and I was very pleased with the results. We did much the same with the dove, finding and substituting photographic imagery of the actual dove I used to draw the design, into the composition.  Now Melissa will be painting from a much better sources of information, which will vastly improve the final results.  The skill of painting and drawing is the ability to notice and record subtle changes and, the better the information, the better the final results.  Making this change meant that some time and effort had been wasted but I would rather be thrilled with the results.  I’ll take that trade any day.  Some time we’ll have a discussion about the conflict between striving for excellence and making a buck-another day.
Neil uses the plotter to print-out two full-scale versions, one in black and white and one in color.  Here Melissa is numbering the black and white.  This b & w copy will be the permanent road map for the window and it will eventually be assembled on it.  Next, she numbers the color copy before cutting the color version into the patterns.  She has hand drawn the lines that will be the leading in the window, making countless small decisions along the way.The color copy is cut into patterns using a special three-bladed scissor.  This curious tool punches out a narrow strip of the paper between the patterns, thereby reducing the size of each pattern, just enough to allow for the heart of the leading (cames) that will run between the pieces of glass, holding the whole window together.Once all the colored patterns are cut, they will be laid out over the black and white copy.  Now the selecting begins.  I mentioned in an earlier posting about how Melissa and I had agreed on the color palette we intended for this window.  Here, in one of large windows we use for selecting, a variety of reds and blues, purchased specifically for this window, are on view.  The Selecting process is immensely important to the process and the final appearance.  If the window’s designer is the composer of this composition, the artist selecting the glass for each piece in the window is the conductor.  Their interpretation will greatly influence the window for better or worse.  Every piece of glass in the window will be chosen based on how it reacts with the choices of the surrounding glass.  Said another way, we don’t pick individual colors, we choose ensembles.  Consider the music reference again.  Every note on a keyboard sounds nice but heard in pairs, in threes or complex chords of four or more notes together, yields a more complex result.  The sound can be pleasing and interesting, suggesting emotions and feelings or be dissonant or confusing.  It is exactly the same with colors.  I am constantly prompting my artists to stand way-back from the glass and take in the whole. Like a musical composition that is cast in a specific key, we will choose to eliminate some colors and rely on special relationships between secondary and tertiary colors to give the composition character and emotional content.  To complicate things further, this rose window will be placed high in the wall above the altar and will receive full-sun so with no trees to block the view of the sky.  We must be sure that the window is dark enough so it is not blown-out and overwhelmed by the powerful light.  Still more, it is important that we keep control of the color, ensuring that the color does not upstage the draftsmanship.
The last photo I have time to include here shows a sheet of Lamberts purple, (one of hundreds of choices from this, the premier glass maker) with the patterns placed very specifically.  Melissa has chosen carefully what part of the sheet she wants this or that piece to be taken from.  Each sheet of hand-blown glass is a little different and, within a sheet there will be lighter (thinner) and darker (thicker) parts.  In the photo above you can see where she has taped patterns to specific parts of one sheet.  She is exploiting a passage in the sheet where the glass moves from dark to light.  If she were to rotate one of these paper patterns around, and you have a very different look in that part of the sky.Stay tuned for more progress.

4TH Posting: Saint Anne’s San Diego Rose 

Window Fabrication Begins

My first posting in this blog featured the design process for a new 6 foot in diameter rose window for Saint Anne’s Church in San Diego California.  I decided to follow this window through the process from start to finish so that the parishoners at Saint Anne’s could follow the progress of their window and also, so that other congregations, that may be considering new stained glass, can follow the process and become better informed about the process, materials and techniques involved.
I would have liked to have painted the glass for this window myself but it is nearly impossible for me to paint on glass in the studio.  I spend far too much time on the phone and doing spread sheets.  What portion of the week I can devote to art is usually spent designing.  It takes me forever to paint on glass  because of the number of unavoidable interruptions.
Melissa Seiling is going to paint this one.  Melissa is one of the very best glass painters working today.  Years ago, I recognized that taste in the sacred arts was moving into a post-modern period when traditional imagery would again be favored.  (This is why the demand for the best old windows is so great.)  So I embarked on a program of skill-building so that my studio could make new windows that were every bit as good as the work of the Munich studios.  Melissa (along with Bryan Willette and Rachel Reinfurt) has been at the forefront of rediscovering the materials and techniques that were all but forgotten.  I understood that, to achieve this level of proficiency, it would be necessary for my artists to gain lots of experience.  They would have to be painting like this all day, every day- there is simply no other way to get this good.  It’s just like shooting foul shots, if you want to be the best, you have to practice every day.
Melissa and I spent some time together discussing my concept of this window and we were instantly on the same page about color palette.  Working with so many Munich School windows has afforded us valuable insights into the way they made windows.  They very deliberately turned-down the volume on the color to allow the draftsmanship to come to the fore.  For this rose window, we would do the same-more about this when we get to the glass selection process.
The process begins on the computer.  Neil Cippon (studio I.T. guru) had already scanned the original watercolor design into the computer.  Father Gismondi provided us with the exact measurements of the window opening, high above the Altar.  So in this first step, Neil combines the digital version of my watercolor (in Adobe Photoshop) with the vector-oriented software that all architects use (CAD).  In this way Neil can enlarge the window to exact full size.  He can even make improvements for instance, in my design there is a border that runs around the entire perimeter and consists of numerous pieces of a regular size and shape.  Using CAD, Neil made certain that each and every one of these border pieces is precisely the same.
Next he sends the full-scale image to a Hewlett-Packard plotter, which is really nothing more than an enormous  color printer.   He made two copies, one in black and white and one in color, the reasons for this will become apparent later.
Whenever a small-scale design is blown up to full size, we must go back and invest the enlarged version with all the of detail that would have been impossible working in scale.  In this photo, Melissa is using images from a variety of sources to improve the full-scale version.  This is called Cartooning.  Sometimes we will draw directly on the drawing that comes out of the plotter but in this case, Melissa has layered some fine cotton tracing paper over the enlargement. On this, she begins drawing in charcoal, which is very easy to erase and change.  Some of her information is coming from renaissance paintings of crucifixions but for the hands of God the Father, she had done something we do quite frequently here.  She enlisted one of our craftsmen, Simon Grigsby, to model the poses while she photographed his hands with a digital camera.  With such technology instantly available, why not make use of it.  You can see how the hands have become well defined and dramatic.  This cartooning is still in process and she will take her time with this and I will be weighing-in too.  This step will influence the final appearance of the window more than any other part of the process because Melissa will be using her drawing here to guide the glass painting process, as you will see.
In the meantime, we received a shipment of glass from S.A Bendheim.  We have been buying hand blown German glass from Bendheim for 31 years.  We buy so much of it that they deliver it to us in Philly all the way from Passaic New Jersey.  Passaic is just across the river from New York City, about a two-hour drive to our studio in Germantown Philadelphia.
The glass for this rose window was only a part of the shipment and Rachel Reinfurt is unpacking several crates to separate the glass for her project (7 windows for Saint Clare of Assisi in Surprize AZ).
Check back here again soon for more progress.

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