Adventures in Dangerous Art
I'm learning the art (or is it a craft?) of stained glass. At this weblog, I record progress, note useful links, and document flesh wounds.


The Art League
Where I took a lead class and a 3D construction class.

Weisser Glass Studio
Where I buy supplies, and where I took a foil class.

Virginia Stained Glass Co.
Where I buy supplies if I happen to be in Springfield and if they happen to have what I want.

Great prices on supplies, a lively and helpful Glass Chat message board, and excellent Technical Tips on stained glass tools and techniques.

Glass Galleries Links List
A list of Glass Chat users who've uploaded photos of their work.

The StoreFinder: Stained Glass Store Front
Lots of articles. Tutorials
Even more articles. Particularly recommended: "Anatomy of a design" and "Wood frames."
Courtesy of Google Groups.

Nancy's Beginner Tips and Tricks
Scoring, breaking, soldering, finishing, and more.

Splinter Removal Tips

Syndicate this site
Someone out there is using XML for something... right?

Movable Type
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It's a glass cutter.
Tuesday, October 01, 2002: Second Class Session
Tonight I finalized my pattern for my class project. My instructor recommended only one modification, which was to make somewhat shallower a sharp curve on a crucial piece of the project. "That's a big piece for you to have to try to cut a bunch of times," he said. "That's a money piece." You can see the modification in the photo below---to the biggest piece, number 25, of the flower on the left.

Left to right: a 1/16 size full-color printout of my original pattern design (two purple crocuses); my full-scale 18''x18'' pattern traced onto 1/8'' graph paper; a 1/16 size outline printout and color key

Oh, and I bought glass last weekend too.

Three of my selected glasses. There's also a chunk of deep red glass that's so big I didn't even bother to lug it in from the car for class, so it's not pictured here. Lastly there will be a tiny bit of yellow, which I'm hoping to steal from the class scrap bins, as the ladies at the glass shop would laugh at me if I asked for 3 square inches of Spectrum 161RR

Brands and colors are:
  • B1122F Bullseye Red Orange Cathedral Glass
  • GNA3019 GNA Dark Violet
  • GNA4803 GNA Cobalt Blue
  • SP123W Spectrum Medium Green Water Glass
Pattern shears are really cool things. They're three-bladed scissors that will cut out the lines of your pattern for you, 1/16 inch for lead, to allow room for the lead cames with which the individual pieces of glass are assembled. Jimmy, the instructor, says that he was taught to cut his patterns using two-bladed X-acto knives to achieve the same result, which sounds like a real pain in the ass.

I had printed out my Photoshop design, then taken it to Kinko's to blow it up 400% on the Oce blueprint copier. The result of all that enlargement was pretty ugly, so tonight I traced it onto graph paper and will scrap the Oce print. I haven't started cutting my pattern yet, will do so after making an Oce print of the actual-size pattern. Am sort of reluctant to start cutting, the pattern is awfully neat and tidy just the way it is.
Posted by Michelle at 11:26 PM | Comments (0)
Saturday, October 05, 2002: Picked-Up Pieces
Cut up my pattern today. 69 pieces and it seemed to take forever. Can only imagine how long it will take to cut and grind every one of them.

Pile of pattern pieces.

Lori and Josh were over today, and they and Don sat and talked with me for a while, as I snipped. Lori asked a few questions about how all this stained-glass stuff works, and I, with the depth and breadth of encyclopedic knowledge which comes of the two whole class sessions under my belt, did my best to sound like I knew what I was talking about.

Flesh wound du jour: loosened a flap of skin on my left thumb when my sheet of GNA Dark Violet slid through my hands and onto the floor. The distance it fell was not enough to break the glass, which is fortunate, because for whatever reason, the stained-glass supply place I went to last weekend had less of a selection of purples than of some other colors... as far as I know, I got the only piece of GNA Dark Violet they had in stock. The nice ladies at Virginia Stained Glass Co. say they can order more of most of their glasses, but I don't know how long that takes, and I believe I'm going to want to begin cutting this week.

Also today, I went to Home Depot to buy plywood for a workboard, which is just a piece of cheap wood plus two raised strips along two sides to form an "L" shape into which you can build your stained-glass project, one piece at a time. I think you only do lead projects this way, not copper foil. Not really sure why but I think the instructor will start to show us construction methods on Tuesday so it'll all make sense then. Home Depot doesn't give me the same holy-shit-I-don't-belong-here feeling that I get in auto parts or sporting-goods stores, but I still generally feel like a poser there. Custom-cut squares of 7/16" ply and glossy red lipstick.
Posted by Michelle at 08:56 PM | Comments (0)
Monday, October 07, 2002: What Do You Get When You Cross...
... a stained glass enthusiast with a hardware geek?


... a stained glass enthusiast with someone who hasn't been laid in way too long?

Posted by Michelle at 02:18 PM | Comments (7)
Tuesday, October 08, 2002: This Is Your Only Warning
Friend Eve writes over at Don's site:

What timing! We have a window in the new house that is crying out for a SapphireBlue special.. maybe, when you go pro, we can comission a special design from you.

Bless you, Eve, for saying the magic word "commission." Not because I think I'm going to be good enough to take anyone's money anytime terribly soon, but because it seems that stained-glass artists have many "friends" the same way people with pickup trucks have many "friends."

So let's just get this out of the way right now while it's still a hypothetical: if you're thinking of asking me for a stained glass "favor" or two, don't look shocked when I quote you an hourly rate... or when I tell you that your project will take a whole bunch of hours.

Besides, if I do your project before I do all the projects Don's already assigned me, I'm gonna end up sleeping on the porch.
Posted by Michelle at 08:12 AM | Comments (11)
Tuesday, October 08, 2002: Let The Cutting Begin (Upon Something Other Than Myself)
Am pleased to report I'm feeling less useless with a glass cutter than I was at the first meeting of my stained glass class. Tonight, for a refresher, we started by hacking to death some more window glass, but I think we all quickly grew impatient with that, so the instructor showed us how to set up a pattern for cutting.

There are a few different methods of cutting glass to a pattern. The one we're learning is to actually cut up the paper pattern (called a 'cartoon,' I love that), then glue the pieces to sheets of stained glass, and cut around them. It must be one of the most time-consuming ways to do the job, but it also seems to me it'd be most precise.

A popular alternative is to use a lightbox to trace a pattern directly onto the glass and cut from there (as I understand it) but I can't quite figure out how that would work. How would you make sure the pieces all matched up? When you cut glass, you can't just lay down a single sheet of glass and cut out crazy jigsaw shapes all snug up next to each other the way they'll go into a finished piece---glass doesn't cut that way. Instead, the most complex shapes will require many individual scores and will produce a lot of scrap shards from around the piece being cut.

It does sound more efficient to smack down a piece of glass over a pattern lit from underneath and have at it, but with a pattern cut with pattern shears, you're guaranteed that all the shapes match up perfectly and that there's a uniform allowance for your lead or your copper. Plus, when you actually start cutting the glass, you know at a glance when you're so much as a tiny fraction of an inch oversize, because you've got your precisely-cut pattern piece stuck right there and you can just check for peeking edges.

And when you find them, you take 'em on over to the grinder and grind it down to shape. Need to buy one of those for home. My pattern has two or three times as many pieces as most of the people in my class have in theirs, which means I'll never finish by Thanksgiving if I don't do homework. And we can all cut at the same time but there are only three grinders for all of us, so... I'm doing the math.

I'm thinking also a Shop-Vac is probably a good idea. I suppose I'll be doing my glasswork in the basement, and that's the kitties' turf... it would not do to get glass slivers stuck in soft kitty paws.

Speaking of. Flesh wounds today: a couple of cuts next to the fingernail on the index finger of my left hand, from where the saw hopped off its wood when I was putting together my workboard this afternoon. Also, tiny scratches on the ball of the thumb and underneath the second knuckle of the middle finger on my left hand, didn't notice I had been cut 'til I looked down and saw blood. I expect those were from cutting while bracing my hand on my workboard without brushing away glass dust first. I feel as if I've been let off pretty easily so far where bodily injury is concerned, but I'm told that will change once I start grinding. Says Jimmy: "If you weren't bleeding already, you will be now."

Below: tonight's successful cuts (the paper won't come off til assembly begins, which won't happen until everything's cut). I got through all the green glass in my pattern. 8 pieces down, 61 to go. Notice the proportion of that pile of scrap glass and fuckups to actual usable pieces. I'm afraid now that I don't have enough of the cobalt blue glass. But that's okay, I needed to go glass-buying this weekend anyway, to come up with the three square inches of yellow glass that I couldn't find in the class scrap bin.

Front: cut glass pieces awaiting edge grinding; rear: the scrap glass it took to produce those eight nice cuts.

Posted by Michelle at 11:52 PM | Comments (3)
Wednesday, October 09, 2002: Homework
After taking some time to ponder my options, I decided that I needed to have a shop-vac ASAP so I could start doing some cutting at home. So after yet another trip to Home Depot, I came home and had my way with my Dark Violet glass. There were only four pieces to be done there, but very curvy ones, whereas most of the green pieces were all straight lines. Plus two of the Dark Violet pieces have shapes that end in long, skinny dagger-points, the cutting of which was giving me some trouble last night at class. No matter, things went well tonight, and even better, there is no bloodshed to report.

Finished Dark Violet pattern pieces, and resulting scrap.

Below is a photo of my Dark Violet glass, reflecting a bare light bulb that hangs over the work bench area in the basement. You can see the texture of the glass here---have you ever dragged the tip of a butter knife through a pan of raw brownie mix, and watched a little indentation trail form in its wake? That's sort of what this glass looks like. Subtle, really neat.

Photo of the texture of the DNA 3019 Dark Violet glass.

Lastly, a bonus photo of Don wreaking havoc upon the living room using the blower attachment on his, I mean my, new toy:

You should have seen the mess of papers we had to clean up about 15 seconds after this photo was taken. This sort of thing is probably why we lose invitations to wedding parties.
Posted by Michelle at 11:43 PM | Comments (3)
Thursday, October 10, 2002: Greatly Exaggerated
Don't cry for me, Australia. Sapphireblue is alive and kicking. While Ms. Sinclair is busy being quietly snarky about the content of my erstwhile personal blog, I'll be over here being less quiet and more snarky about the fact that her article ran in The Age six days too late to be any more than 75% accurate.

Also: she got the cat list all wrong.
Posted by Michelle at 02:02 PM | Comments (1)
Thursday, October 10, 2002: Homework, the Sequel
More cutting tonight. The Cobalt Blue pieces, nine of them. Wasn't sure I'd have enough glass, so I tried very hard to cut very carefully. Made it through eight and seven-eighths of those pieces before accidentally taking a small chip out of the back edge of piece number nine. I want so badly to pretend it didn't happen, but I can't: any chip, scratch, crack, or even too-rough edge becomes a stress point which will, two or six or twelve months down the road, be the first place the finished panel will crack.

Just for a moment, pretend with me that it didn't happen:

Over the last three nights, I cut all the Cobalt Blue, Dark Violet, and Medium Green glass for my crocus panel project. I have enough pieces done that it's starting to almost look like something.

21 pieces down, 48 to go. That'll be 2 curvy small yellow bits, and 46 red background pieces, most of which are nothing but straight lines, i.e., harder for me to screw up. Plus, of course, a redo on the one I messed up tonight, whenever I can put my hands on a scrap-sized piece of Cobalt Blue.

Tonight's injury: clumsily poked myself in the cuticle of the index finger of my left hand with a sharp corner of fresh-cut glass. That finger is looking really rough these days.

Also today, ordered a grinder from Warner-Crivellaro. That price matching thing? They really mean it. I ended up with the sort of bargain you almost feel bad about. Almost.
Posted by Michelle at 10:24 PM | Comments (1)
Saturday, October 12, 2002: Please Mister Postman
Hovered over UPS's online tracking system today to see if I'd have my grinder in time to play with it over the weekend. The last line item on the tracking detail used to say that my package was in transit to Landover, Md., at 3:25 a.m. Late this afternoon, that line vanished. Now the last line is a "departure scan" from Lawnside, N.J. at 3:24. In other words: We know it left New Jersey, we just don't know which way it was headed.

[Midnight update: now the tracking detail doesn't show that it ever went anywhere. It's one line: "Billing information received." The hell? Don't make me feign surprise if UPS broke my shit and had to send it back where it came from.]

Made a run this afternoon to Virginia Stained Glass Co., where I bought the smallest piece of GNA Cobalt Blue I could find. 10 inches by 10 inches. Not in the scrap bin. Seven dollars, because I got over-eager with the groziers and made a chip the diameter of the eraser on the end of a pencil. Sigh. The good news is, I also found a 6x6 square of a perfect Uroboros orangey-yellow, for my crocuses' pistils or stamens or whatever the hell they are. ("Genitalia," Don helpfully offers.) So I've got all my glass for the crocus panel... assuming I don't mis-break all my red into scrap.
Posted by Michelle at 07:55 PM | Comments (0)
Saturday, October 12, 2002: No, We Can't Still Be Friends
Apparently, the tenderness I feel for red glass is strictly unrequited. Red glass does not love me, and in fact, only tolerates me for the sake of maintaining social equilibrium among our mutual friends.

Maybe it's a Bullseye thing. Tonight was my first shot at cutting any glass of that brand and right from the start, the sheet was different from what I've played with before. The glass was textured on both sides: an unpleasant discovery. The conventional wisdom says to always make scores on the smooth side of the glass, so as to increase the chances of a break that follows your score line and not a ridge in the texture of the glass; I suppose I assumed that there would always be a smooth side. The sheet also had two rough, poured-looking edges instead of nice straight cuts. The rough edges were raised a bit, slightly thicker than the rest of the sheet, making difficult a good start to a score (you only get one shot, if a score is weak you can decide to break anyway and hope for the best, or call it a loss and work around it). And for whatever reason, I found it tough to start scores on this glass even on straight-cut edges... is it possible Bullseye glass is just, like, harder than Spectrum or GNA?

Lastly, I was sufficiently unencumbered by clues to realize that the sheer size of this sheet of glass might call for a unique approach. Um, probably there are a lot of stained-glass craftspersons who would have no problem making a two-foot-long score on double-textured glass and then getting their running pliers to effect a nice straight two-foot-long break... but I'm not one of them yet. Baby steps, Michelle... baby steps.

Fortunately, I eventually got a handle on things and stopped fantasizing about how nice my crocus panel would look with a background of clear, untextured window glass. In the end I cut fourteen red pieces, plus the redo on the problematic piece of Cobalt Blue from a couple nights ago.

35 pieces down, 34 to go. Ninety-four percent of the remaining cutting will be of the Bullseye red. Ugh ugh.

The photo below, looking as it does a whole lot like most of the photos I've posted here to this point, is interesting for one reason only: my total-area ratio of cut pieces to scrap was way up tonight. (And would have been even more so had I not attempted that two-foot break, ending up with several only-partially-usable smaller chunks of glass.) Alas, the sudden improvement has more to do with my pattern than with my mad skillz: there were only two curved sides involved in tonight's 14 pieces, and everything else was straight lines. If I'd been working with a pattern that called for an equivalent amount of red, except curvy, I'd've cast away the evil bumpy red glass in favor of pillaging Don's basement stock of dusty window glass pretty damned quickly.

14 new red pieces, plus the new blue problem child. Very little scrap. I even shared some edge cuts between two pieces. Yeah, I know I said you can't really do that. I meant, except if you're cutting a whole bunch of like-sized equilateral triangles. Or rectangles.
Posted by Michelle at 11:45 PM | Comments (2)
Monday, October 14, 2002: Good To See You Here, Better To See You Gone
My grinder arrived today. I asked Don to answer the door when the UPS man showed up because I knew before it happened that in between some passive-aggressive bitching about working on the holiday, he'd be overly familiar and friendly. Don says it's just "old-fashioned customer service". Maybe so, but it creeps me out when I am out in the world about my business and suddenly being chatted up by a guy in a brown uniform who can and does rattle off my address by heart, as did happen to me recently.

Did receive an unpleasant surprise in the form of finding that an eye shield does not come standard with my grinder. Um, I don't know, I would consider flying-chip face protection to be pretty much non-optional. So what did I do about it? Yes, I drove to Springfield again to buy one on the spot. Note to any and all DC-area entrepreneurs reading this weblog: if you'll open a stained-glass supply store actually in DC ... or I'd even settle for inside the Beltway ... I'll keep you in business all by myself.

And that's a nice segue into the long comment I wrote in response to a comment of Kim's, asking what glass actually costs, anyway. Short though this entry may be, I've been sitting at this computer way too long already now, so while you're reading all about your options for emptying your wallet in the pursuit of artsy-craftsy nirvana, I'm going to be hanging out on the couch with Don, wondering if it's too late tonight to cut just a little bit of glass.
Posted by Michelle at 11:10 PM | Comments (2)
Tuesday, October 15, 2002: Baby, I'm Ready To Go
At class tonight, I cut 22 pieces. 57 down, 12 to go. I was making good time, but what I made up for in speed I lacked in precision. Some pretty ugly edges, which means I didn't save any time at all, as I'll have to fix them on the grinder. I think I got impatient. A couple of the students in the class were ready to start assembling their panels, so the instructor showed us how to start building the pieces into the lead cames. He demonstrated with one of the students' panels and after he'd put together only three pieces you could really see how it would start to come together. So I want to be done with cutting so I can build too.

A bad precedent. I don't think that stained glass is really an appropriate hobby for the patience-impaired. Well, I'm in learning mode, ready to move on---at this point I'm pretty damned good at cutting.

While chatting with the instructor tonight, I told him about the guilt-inducingly good deal I got on my grinder by taking advantage of Warner-Crivellaro's price match guarantee. He said that Warner is very much known for that, and that under no circumstances would it be a good idea to take their catalog with me to any stained-glass supply stores and stand around comparing prices. "The retail stores really hate Warner because of that whole price-matching thing."

Today I received an email from a nice man named Bruce who is also new to stained glass. Bruce had some tips for me, plus his instructor's take on lightbox cutting as opposed to paper-pattern cutting, and was kind enough to give his permission for me to post his message here:


I came across your web page when doing a search for stained glass techniques. Thanks for the links you had, they helped a lot.

Great weblog. You've certainly picked a challenging first piece. I'm also a stained glass newbie, had two classes so far, and I can really relate to many of the things you've written about!

Our instructor, although initially taught the pattern/template method you are using, is now more of a free hand/pattern tracing aficionado, which is what he is teaching our class. He spends 4-5 hours a day (or more) cutting glass, and would not get nearly as much done if he had to cut templates for every piece. One of his real concerns with trying to cut with templates affixed to the glass (other than how time consuming it is) was if the cutter jumps onto the paper so you don't get a clean score all the way along your cut line. If he makes a template at all (for really opaque glass that doesn't work well with a light box), as often as not he will do so from scrap window glass directly over the pattern, and then trace around this with a black felt pen onto the opaque glass.

I noticed from your pictures that you seem to be using straight type glass cutters. Have you considered a "pistol grip" type cutter? They much more comfortable to use, self oiling, and not much more expensive. You seem pretty serious about stained glass (not many newbies go and purchase grinders!), so you might consider at least trying out this kind of cutter. They're also a lot more durable then regular cutters.

For you long straight lines, don't use your running pliers. Instead, put a long dowel (pencil diameter) under the glass directly under the score line, then press down on either side of the score line from above. It should snap cleanly right on the line. Also, you may want to tap under the score line with your cutter to extend a fissure along the score line first.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to your continuing adventures!

Cheers, Bruce.
Posted by Michelle at 11:02 PM | Comments (1)
Wednesday, October 16, 2002: You Call That a Flesh Wound?
I found an article about an Atlanta stained-glass artist who does a lot of architectural work, reprinted on the artist's site from This Old House magazine. Interesting piece, and a couple of really great photos, especially the one of a shield-shaped window in the very early stages of assembly (that photo makes a lot more sense to me since last night's lesson in leading). But perhaps most compelling is the story of how the artist's apprentice nearly died doing her job:

There is nothing sharper than broken or cut glass; literally a molecule wide, the edge can pass through flesh like a sword through smoke. On December 6, 1996, Vloeberghs’s apprentice, Rebecca Owens, then 22, dropped a 30-by-7-inch freshly cut pane across her upturned left wrist. The glass severed an artery, two tendons and a nerve and chipped the bone. Vloeberghs threw Owens into her station wagon and roared to Piedmont Hospital in 10 minutes as the young woman's lap filled with blood. A person Owens's size-5 feet 10 inches and 118 pounds-normally has about 5 quarts of blood. Doctors estimated that, by the time she reached the hospital, she had lost nearly 3.

With that in mind, I will forego any serious bitching about the 1/8-inch cut I gave myself last night (while breaking glass, somehow, not sure how that works) on the outside of the middle joint on the index finger of my left hand. I will, however, make the purely anecdotal observation that left hands seem, in general, to be far more imperilled by this glass thing than right hands are.
Posted by Michelle at 10:36 AM | Comments (2)
Wednesday, October 16, 2002: Put Down the Glass Cutter and Step Away from the Workbench
I cut my last twelve pieces tonight.

Sapphireblue flexes
Sapphireblue ripples

I have some concern about the two or three very smallest ones. The tiniest is a triangle about half the size of the pink part of my pinkie fingernail. Depending on the face width of my lead cames, it might be covered entirely by lead and solder in the assembled panel, becoming an unsightly metallic glob. I can and probably should redesign away one of the tiny scraps (and I'm sure it will be a learning experience to try to do that at this stage in the game), but the smallest is just gonna have to be that glob.

Coming soon: many hours hunched over a buzzing glass grinder, pausing every so often to check the bleeding at the very tips of my fingers and to wipe the collected film of flying glass dust from my plastic safety goggles. The glamour is so thick, you could cut it with a knife.
Posted by Michelle at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)
Thursday, October 17, 2002: Slave to the Grind
My pretty new grinder isn't so pretty or new any more.

Remember that big piece with the pointy-cut convex edge?

Ugly cut.

I had at it with the grinder tonight...

Chicks dig the safety goggles.

... and now its edge is nicely un-pointy.

Vastly prettier cut.

Issues with the grinder:
  • They are water-fed machines; a little sponge behind the grinding splindle brings water up from a reservoir underneath, to keep the glass cool so it doesn't crack, and to contain the mess of glass dust so as to avoid silicosis of the lungs. The problem with the water is that it loosens the glue on my pattern templates, sliding them around the glass, making it hard to know if I'm grinding away too much or too little.
  • The combination of water and tiny granules of glass also starts to wear away the Sharpie markings on my individual pieces. If I dally too long on the grinder with any one piece, I'm apt to lose my piece number markings, which would turn my stained-glass project into a 69-piece jigsaw puzzle.
  • And speaking of the Sharpie markings, on template pieces where there is a bit of black line remaining along the edge of the piece, it's tough to see on dark glass where the black line ends and where the glass begins, again making it tough to easily see if I'm grinding away too much or too little.
Don thinks maybe a grease pencil on glass, instead of glued templates and Sharpie, might help. It's worth asking my instructor about, if I can remember on Tuesday.

Bonus photo: all 69 cut pieces. 6 ground, 63 to go.

It doesn't look like much, does it.
Posted by Michelle at 10:39 PM | Comments (4)
Sunday, October 20, 2002: Better Living through Chemistry
Apparently there are specialized chemicals produced to solve the specific problems I mentioned with grinding glass pieces that have paper templates glued to them, and also with the grinding process washing away marks on glass or templates.

There's something called Mark Stay that's said to do just what its name says. And Warner-Crivellaro sells a spray adhesive that, according to their print catalog, is water-resistant.

None of this will be a help to me in my current project, since all the pieces are glued and marked etc., but these things are worth a try, maybe.
Posted by Michelle at 09:00 PM | Comments (0)
Monday, October 21, 2002: Vector-Fu
Today I fixed a problem I've had for a lot of years. The issue? Adobe Illustrator made me feel stupid.

The "duh" effect was doubly potent because I pride myself on being pretty handy with Photoshop. I've been using it for seven years or so. I never took a Photoshop class, but trial-and-error always served me well. Then for icing on the cake, I was lucky enough to work in 1996 through 1998 with a group of really amazing digital artists and animators, who were extremely generous in sharing all their tips and tricks with me.

Trial-and-error got me nowhere with Illustrator, not even when I tried to remember what I'd learned of CorelDRAW at my first graphic artist job in 1994 (sounds fancy, but what I did was to slap together car and grocery ads for a suburban newspaper at five dollars an hour---very little talent or even skill was required). So mostly I stuck to Photoshop, even when it wasn't 100% suited to the task at hand. During the process of first designing and then sizing my crocus panel pattern in Photoshop, I knew just enough about Illustrator to know that it would have been much more suited to the task.

Then I got to looking at some photos someone posted from the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows in Chicago, and realized that for certain types of non-representational stained-glass designs, especially very geometric or symmetrical patterns, Photoshop wouldn't cut it, and neither would my meager freehand-drawing skills.

And that was what it took to get me to call New Horizons and inquire about Illustrator classes last Friday. It turned out they had an Illustrator Level 1 class today. So I hopped on it. I'm glad I did. The Pen Tool no longer makes me want to throw things.

My Illustrator instructor---a freelance cartoonist---took the time today to plug his own personal website, so I will too. It includes several tutorials on Photoshop, Illustrator, and other stuff... mostly Photoshop, unfortunately for me. Maybe if a whole bunch of y'all click through, he'll be grateful enough for the site traffic that he'll be moved to put up some more Illustrator material.

(I am as subtle as a blunt trauma injury to the head.)
Posted by Michelle at 04:42 PM | Comments (4)
Monday, October 21, 2002: Math I'd've Been Better Off Not Doing
Finished grinding all my edges on all my pieces tonight. There is one piece of green waterglass I will have to recut because the grinder chipped a tiny piece out of one corner. Not sure if maybe it was a bad cut to begin with, or maybe I caught the glass against the grinder head at an angle, or what.

The lead cames I bought Friday night lurked ominously on the basement's cement floor, taunting me as I tried to grind good true edges, exactly to the edges of the glued paper templates. 5/32" face width minus 1/16" heart width divided by 2 sides of the "H" leaves me with a margin for error, in cutting and grinding, of forty-seven thousandths of an inch.

On the left, my lead ''H'' cames. Each side of the ''H'' is a 3/64'' channel where the glass slides in and is later soldered firmly in place. On the right, sturdier zinc ''U'' came for the outside edges of my panel. The channel in perimeter came is bigger, at a whole 1/8'' inch, plus there's a hollow air space whose purpose is... uh... something, I'm sure.
Posted by Michelle at 11:44 PM | Comments (2)
Tuesday, October 22, 2002: Get the Lead Out
Busted ass Friday night and last night in order to get all my grinding done so I could begin leading tonight at class. There was no time over the weekend proper---among other things, our friends Kim and David got married in New York, so we took the train up to help them celebrate. Congratulations, you two, and many wishes for a long happy life together: if you can compromise on wedding-reception formal vs. jeans, you can get through anything.

I finished the grinding last night at about eleven. Spent much of tonight's class washing templates and glue from my glass pieces. V-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y: one piece at a time so I could renumber each piece immediately, directly on the glass. Then I found out that the edge strips of wood on my workboard weren't square, which is what I get for just assuming that the schmoes at Home Depot can cut a straight line in plywood. So I managed to pry up one of the edge strips and its nails and re-assemble---without the benefit of a hammer, even.

And then---and then---I started leading.

The first seven pieces of my crocus panel are now in place. I'm totally psyched. Also: a great big nerd.

Incidental note: spotted a tiny jar of Mark Stay in my instructor's toolkit tonight. That answers that question.
Posted by Michelle at 10:39 PM | Comments (6)
Thursday, October 24, 2002: Quilting in Glass
As far as I can tell, stained glass work seems to be best approached as a solo sport. Come to think of it, I can't really come up with any examples of a visual art form that generally works better when done by teams instead of individuals, but the methodicalness, precision and concentration required to do stained glass, plus the sometimes wildly diverging array of techniques employed, makes it seem likely that any effort at group glassing would quickly... um, go to pieces.

Glass quilting presents an interesting exception. It's just what it sounds like: putting together a big project using many smaller, individual panels. The Association of Stained Glass Lamp Artists has been doing community quilts since 1994. In these quilts, members are invited to complete a specified pattern for inclusion in the finished quilt. More recently, the global stained glass community (who knew?) pitched in to create a "Colorado Fire Quilt". The project was conceived as a charity effort to benefit people who lost their homes in Colorado wildfires this past summer, and differs from the ASGLA quilts in that each of its panels was unique. The theme was Colorado woodlands, wildlife, or flowers, and each contributing artist designed his or her own 6-inch-square panel. You can view those online (the password for the guest login is cac2002).

The organizers' original plan was to set a late-August deadline for finished panels, then assemble them into one "quilt" for sale on eBay in September. They did receive sixty-some panels by August's end, but found that some had broken in transit. The need for pre-assembly repair work has pushed out their timeframe for the auction, but it's expected to hit eBay soon.

It sounds like it was a fun project, and hopefully will prove profitable as well. A five-foot-by-four glass project done by one artist would be a pricey commission, but doing it as a quilt allowed all the contributing artists to share the cost and have a little bit of creative fun to boot.

I wish I could find a little more more information on glass quilting (is this something a lot of groups do? would it be at all feasible done with panels in shapes other than square? does everybody have to agree on specific techniques beforehand or could you, say, mix lead-came and copper-foil panels?), but alas, it turns out that there is a technique for actual fabric quilts called "stained glass quilting". Poor Google is simply overrun.
Posted by Michelle at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)
Thursday, October 24, 2002: Eight Steps Forward, One Step Back
Leaded eight more pieces tonight.

15 pieces leaded, 54 to go.

Maybe I'll regret all the work I plan to have done by my next class session. Wouldn't it suck to walk in, show the instructor what I've done, and have him say, "That's great but that piece three rows in is all wrong, you need to take it apart to that point and redo"? Still, I won't be able to leave it alone for four whole nights. No way. Even though there's a couple of gaps at my joints which I know are pushing the acceptable limit.

Unanswered questions of the night: If you have a lead line that's straight until it angles off at twenty degrees or so, is it advisable to bend your lead to fit, or to cut and fit two separate pieces? What if the angle is more than twenty degrees? And what's the best way to bend lead to achieve some degree of exactitude, especially with angles as opposed to soft curves? How much "wiggle," exactly, is permissible between pieces, to be filled in by solder later? Whose bright idea was it to design lead clippers that cut one side of the came in a straight line and the other in a 45-degree point? All this and more will have to wait for Tuesday.

Something I did learn tonight: It's a good idea to restrict access to your glass workshop to people you really, really love. That way, when they fumble and break one of the pieces which you've already cut and ground, then soaked off and trashed its paper template, there's some chance they will survive to tell the tale.

I'm not naming any names, but his URL is
Posted by Michelle at 11:01 PM | Comments (9)
Friday, October 25, 2002: The Crazy Cat Lady Rides Again
An all-noise-no-signal forum thread filled with confused and/or frustrated messages from people learning how to post images to the web is salvaged---for me at least---with the appearance of a gargantuan, orange, stained-glass kitty. Heh.
Posted by Michelle at 03:07 PM | Comments (0)
Saturday, October 26, 2002: Bitch, Whine, and Moan
Leaded some more pieces last night and today. Dunno how many. I could count but I'm too cranky to bother. Here, you count:

Assembly continues.

Why cranky, you ask?

It turns out that when that piece got fumbled and broken the other night, it hit and broke another piece on the way down. I didn't notice it til this afternoon. The piece that hit the floor isn't too difficult of a cut, so no big deal... the piece that stayed on the worktable waiting for me to notice it is going to be much more of a pain in the ass.

If you squint real close at the above photo, maybe you can see which pieces were broken. Both of them are just to the right of the blue flower pieces that I've got leaded; both of them have their numbers circled on the building pattern.

The piece that hit the floor is piece number 31, partially obscured by my mallet; it's just a wedge shape with one curved end, otherwise all straight lines. The piece that broke on the worktable is piece number 16, immediately adjacent to that big blue petal there. It's sort of like a crescent moon, stretched out to a long dagger point on the bottom end. Very curvy piece, and worse, it's got a huge inside (or concave) curve. These are the hardest lines to cut; you've got to take the curve out in a bunch of skinny, careful curving strips, one at a time, in order to make it work.

On top of the difficulty of the cut, I'm going to have to take out a couple of the pieces I've already assembled in order to trace that piece from the building pattern. And any time you have to redo a cut without the original paper pattern piece, there is some risk of not ending up with precisely the same shape you got when you cut up your original pattern, depending on how closely you followed its lines. I know that when I was cutting my pattern, I wasn't 100% on the lines, but I thought it wouldn't matter too much, because with the pattern scissors that automatically remove 1/16" edges to allow for the lead cames, everything would fit together anyway. Now I know that that assumption only works for as long as you've got all your original paper pattern pieces. Mine, alas, are all landfill now.

I will be much more careful to follow my pattern lines on my next project... but that doesn't help me today.

All this is why I'm putting down the lead clippers and stepping away from the worktable. It's a sunny, warm day---the first we've had in D.C. since summer suddenly became winter a few weeks ago---maybe if I go outside and play, I will feel better.

Or maybe it's just a way to put off tracing and recutting those damn petals. I don't even know if I have enough scrap Dark Violet and Cobalt Blue to redo them. I could go back downstairs now and look, I guess. But I won't.
Posted by Michelle at 03:38 PM | Comments (1)
Monday, October 28, 2002: Shiny, Cheery Copper-Foil Swastikas
Posted a question to Warner-Crivellaro's Glass Chat regarding how to cut lead came at a sharper angle than my lead clippers can handle. Received in return some very useful pointers, plus one not-really-germane-to-my-actual-question rant on the existental nature of a snug lead joint and the foolishness of those who would spend their time trying to achieve such.

It's good to know that if I've really really got a hankering for a knock-down-drag-out online argument about some utterly irrelevant point, that even a venue so seemingly innocuous as a stained-glass forum will provide numerous opportunities from which to pick and choose... I guess.

Curiosity led me to search the Glass Chat archive for any instance of the word "Hitler". I received zero results. I elect to believe that this means the Search function must be broken.

But here's a fun trivia fact: there is at least one stained-glass portrait of Hitler in existence. An Episcopal church in Tulsa apparently has a heaven-and-hell-themed window depicting "evil leaders of the 20th century," and what such window could be complete without the inclusion of the Führer?
Posted by Michelle at 11:40 AM | Comments (2)
Monday, October 28, 2002: Life, the Universe, and Everything
42 pieces leaded.

Assembly continues.

That includes one of the two pieces that were broken last week. In order to replace it, I traced its shape from the building pattern onto clear glass, cut and ground the clear glass to fit, then traced around that piece onto Dark Violet glass and cut and ground that. For the other piece that was broken, I have the clear piece cut and ground, but I think I'll see if I can shape the lead using the clear glass before cutting the stained glass. I'm finding that with curvy pieces, their fit may be altered by how closely you're able to curve the lead around them. With wavy or squiggly lines of multiple small curves especially, it's tough to make precise bends.

The 42 pieces now in place also include two that just didn't fit right, so I recut them. One of those was due to the squiggly-lead factor above; the other was all straight lines so I'm attributing its bad fit to straightforward screw-up on my part, somewhere in the cutting or grinding process.

I'd feel better about the progress I'm making if not for these three gaps:

Here there are lots of curvy shapes and squiggly lines, making good leading really tough. I adjusted and re-adjusted and every time came up with a different but equally flawed result. The cover for this gap won't be too ugly: a decently shaped but slightly too-big glob of solder. I have glass gaps just above and below that tight 'V' joint. The cover will be a long unsightly smear of solder, immediately apparent as a newbie flaw to anyone who knows how to look for it. As with the first gap, I tried this a bunch of times, and this is as good as it gets. It's hard to see, but my glass doesn't actually slide into the lead channel here. I should recut that piece of red glass so as to take up the slack. We'll see if it happens.
Posted by Michelle at 10:18 PM | Comments (5)
Tuesday, October 29, 2002: Devil in the Details
Had class tonight. Came in with 35 more pieces leaded than I had when I left the last class, and was subject to much gratifying oohing and aahing from classmates. Even the instructor seemed to approve. Go me.

I fixed one of my gaps tonight---the one where the edge of a red piece was refusing to slide snug into its channel---didn't even have to recut the piece, just did some grinding on the one I had. As for the other two, the instructor was optimistic about their hideability. One, he said could be filled with putty and covered over with lead joints without too much obvious fudging... and the other he said could be filled in by cutting a piece of came in half down the heart to make little lead plugs and soldering them into place. Just like Bruce said. Nice.

There was little visible progress made, but it was good progress just the same. I spent a lot of time working on fitting a replacement for the second broken piece from last week. I think it was a good strategy to shape the lead using the clear piece, before tracing it to cut the Dark Violet glass. I actually did a pretty bang-up job tonight of figuring a way to create lead joints at a place where a the widest point of a curve sits right up against a straight line. The conventional wisdom for this kind of thing seems to be to use two separate strips of lead, side by side, for the line and for the curve, but just envisioning that, it sounds awfully vaguely-artistically-talented-kindergartener-with-no-real-sense-of-depth-or-perspective. So I opted to try to create the illusion of those two lines overlapping, by cutting the curve in two, cutting a bit of the heart from its lead, and trimming the face into a nice sharp point. I think it turned out pretty well, and will look even better once it's soldered.

Removing some of the lead heart is proving to be a most useful trick. They say it makes for a weaker joint, but I don't know... it's going to be filled in with putty anyway, isn't it?

You can see that some of the heart of the lead has been cut out here. This allowed me to cut the piece that fits into this lead (this is one of the pieces that was broken last week) with just a little tab sticking through the curved lead and into the channel of the straight lead just beyond---without that tab, this little trick would have gotten me nothing but a glass gap at the blanked-out part of the curve.

Not too bad, and will be even better once it's soldered over (will look less like the straight line is visually 'on top', which would really only work if these were crocuses by MC Escher).

For those of you keeping track at home, I should now be all done having to replace broken pieces. I hope. It's so time-consuming to do all that tracing and checking and adjusting, over and over again.

Also: not one, not two, but three flesh wounds tonight. One well-skinned knuckle when I slipped trying to stretch a too-short strip of lead, one medium-long cut to a finger due to careless handling of just-cut glass, and one instance of Mystery Injury, which wasn't there before I started helping clean up the classroom grinders but was bleeding pretty well when I was finished.
Posted by Michelle at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)
Wednesday, October 30, 2002: A Stained-Glass Window Into My Future
The stained glass world is abuzz and agog with enthusiasm and anticipation for the just-announced Battlefield Glass 3 competition.

This is where people with lots and lots of spare time on their hands engage in a stained-glass-building contest that runs five rounds and seven months, done tournament-style, with a Grand Prize of a $1500.00 gift certificate good for purchase of stained glass supplies (what else?).

I found the website for Battlefield Glass 2 a while back and browsed through it, marvelling at the time people put into this thing and at the incredible level of kitsch displayed in some of the entries. To be fair, the rules of the contest require the use of special "theme items" sent to each participant in each round; if the theme items are tacky that's just very sad because if you don't use them you get disqualified. Still, I had expected some level of ironic self-awareness of the utter arts-and-craftsiness of such an endeavor from, if not the deadly-serious participants themselves, then from the contests' onlookers. My expectations have proven groundless.

It occurs to me that I am not the target demographic. I'd love to know the median age of stained-glass hobbyists, for one thing. There came a moment of recognition for me this week when, upon starting to read The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, I encountered on the third page the character of an old retired guy who keeps himself busy by playing with stained glass. It's left me wondering if this is how aging begins: you wake up one day and realize you're 26 years old with a sincere and abiding interest in shuffleboard... or polyester highwater pants... or Big Band music... or building stained-glass baubles in your basement. Also: many cats.
Posted by Michelle at 02:08 PM | Comments (2)
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