Monday, July 1, 2013

"Spring" in Stained Glass

      In the past year and a half I've taken over 28 hikes at nearby and not-so-nearby nature preserves. I've taken over 36 hours of technical stained glass classes. And my family and I have visited museums and galleries seeking out glass art in 3 states.  The time has come...
Let's get this party started!
The "Spring" panel contains 4 smaller stained glass designs, each containing springtime flowers.  This panel with the Giant Swallowtail butterfly will become the focal piece of this panel. I draw each design, then photograph it to create a small "coloring book" style sheet.  This way I can experiment with my color choices before I buy the glass. begin putting all this inspiration to use!  As my culminating project for the 2012 Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program, I have been designing and creating 4 large stained glass panels, each depicting one of the four seasons.  
This design features the Prairie Rose, a very common wildflower in Indiana.
Each design in my panel is an original interpretation of a photograph, sometimes a few photos, drawn by hand and outlined in Sharpie.  Outlining with Sharpie is important because it effects the size of each glass piece later.   
     My designs have been inspired by Indiana's natural splendor experienced during my hikes and have relied heavily on photos that I have taken, several of which have ended up on this blog.  I have used different glass methods and construction techniques that I've picked up during my year and a half of stained glass classes, and have even experimented with different styles of art as a result of being able to see famous stained glass works by some of my favorite glass artists during museum visits.
The smallest design within the Spring panel features a White Trillium.  
      I decided to begin my stained glass panel making journey with the "Spring" panel because, logically, I began hiking in the springtime and had many photos ready to inspire my designs. Coming up with the designs for the 4 smaller designs within Spring was easy and quick.  (Little did I know that this would be the ONLY panel for which design ideas would come "easy and quick"!)
The final design within the Spring composition features these very recognizable Tiger Lilies, or Ditch Lilies as they are sometimes called due to their prevalence in the ditches of many Indiana roadsides.  The design for this section came easily enough, but I had a couple go-arounds with the color pattern of the flowers.  Interpreting a color-fade using glass can be tricky.
      Once the designs were laid out, I was off and running.  I constructed the Spring panel using the copper foil technique that I've used for the past 15 years. (At this point I had not yet taken the leaded glass class where I re-learned how to use lead came instead of copper foil.) 
After the design is created, each piece of the pattern gets numbered, then cut apart.
Earlier I stated that tracing with Sharpie is important for the pattern's size.  When each piece gets cut apart, the marker line must be removed, too.  The thickness of the marker line translates to the thickness of the future copper foil.  If I didn't use the marker line to allow for the copper foil, my design would "grow" out of its pattern and become mighty confusing!
All those marker lines removed, whew! What a tedious job.  
It's a good thing I enjoy cutting "on the line" and even find it somewhat therapeutic.
I'm weird like that.  
      I first had to cut my pattern pieces, then trace them onto the glass and cut the glass to fit. As with any form of art, there are sometimes instances when the design must change a little from the original plan. In a couple of my Spring designs I had to occasionally make two or more tiny glass pieces into a larger single piece simply because tiny glass pieces will disappear under the copper foiling and solder later.  
The piece of yellow glass labeled "33 34 43" (in the center) was originally supposed to be three separate pieces.  Call it economy or laziness...those 3 became 1!  

Later, I added wire where the separations should have been to maintain the original design.
      When all the pieces were cut, next comes the grinding.  Grinding is like sanding the glass edges smooth (for a good adhesion when applying the copper foil tape later), and at the same time perfecting the piece's shape. I have a special glass grinder that I use for this.  (It also works nicely for filing your nails in a hurry!)  
You can see that my pieces do not fit together very well after rough-cutting using pattern pieces.  
Everything lays flat and fits into the pattern after grinding.
      On this particular section, the Tiger Lilies, I discovered that a couple of my glass pieces were really not the right shape.  Sometimes with the copper-foiling method large gaps of space can be filled in with lead during the soldering process. However, on this piece the gaps where either too large, the fill would alter the overall look I was going for, or the pieces were just altogether wrong.  So...
Pieces 38, 30, and 25 had to be completely remade.
The challenge: all the other pieces are already solder-tacked in place and nothing can be moved.  
...I had to figure out how to re-do several pieces with everything else already in position.  It was a crapshoot, but I got the job done!
I positioned a scrap of paper over the 38 space.  I then did my best to trace the exact shape. Since the paper wasn't see-through enough to just trace it, I rubbed around the edge with my finger just enough to depress the paper into the space and create a line for me to trace with pencil.  
Once I had my new pattern piece, I transferred it, cut it, and ground it as usual.  A perfect fit!  
      When all the cutting and grinding is done, next comes the foiling process. Copper foil comes on a large roll and is adhesive backed. Each individual piece of glass is wrapped with the foil and positioned onto the pattern.  You can see a more detailed description of the copper foiling method here
The gold areas are the copper foil wrapping the edges of the glass pieces.  
      On the butterfly piece, I decided to do a foiling experiment.  The design of the butterfly's wings was so intricate, I knew I would send myself to an early grave if I tried to interpret it strictly with glass. So I decided that the black lines in the butterflies wings would be patina'd solder rather than black glass. This meant that my foil lines would need to be wider in some areas than the usual small strip. In the photo above you can see where I added extra copper, and in some areas I cut the copper to form specific shapes or curves.  
Tacking all the loose pieces together with solder to prevent shifting.
      Once everything is foiled and positioned, it's time to solder. The first step is to tack all the pieces together using a little blob of molten lead.  This holds everything steady when the precision soldering takes place. Because the solder hardens instantly and is almost impossible to remove, shifting during soldering would create a disaster worthy of a Titanic-sized nervous breakdown!  
After the precision soldering.
      After the tacking comes the precision soldering. The goal is to get the lines smooth, slightly rounded, even, and perfect.  It's tedious work requiring a steady hand and an affinity for the smell of burning flux.  And just when you think you are all remember you have to flip it over and do the entire back side.
Remember the special foiling experiment I did to replicate the butterfly's design?  This photo shows how the solder spreads out and covers the foil, no matter what shape it's in.  

      After many designs, cutting, grinding and foiling hundreds of pieces of glass, and sucking in more than my fair share of solder fumes, all four of the Spring sections are done!  Now, I must join them all together into one grand panel.  
There they are: Giant Swallowtail, Prairie Rose, White Trillium, and Tiger Lilies. 
      I decided to add a small border of clear textured glass around the perimeter and between each section to complete the composition. There's nothing quite like seeing a large project come together in the end!  
Dad clamping Spring's frame in place.

      At this point there's only one step left...framing!  I had a good mentor for this step, my dad.  Dad made the frames for all my panels, and between the two of us we got them stained, varnished, and constructed around the glass. With the frame in place the finished product exceeds my wildest expectations!! I am completely thrilled with how this glass creation has turned out.  I've never made something so meticulous, so detailed, so intricate, or as BIG as this.  It's one of those accomplishments that really makes you feel like you can do anything!    
Completely finished!  One step I didn't get photos of was the application of the patina.  All the soldered lines that were once silver are turned black when I brush on a chemical to artificially patina the surface.  The atmosphere and time would eventually do the same, but who has 50 years to wait for lovely black solder lines?

This Giant Swallowtail, photographed at Dygert Nature Preserve in Whitley County, was good inspiration!
Detail of Giant Swallowtail.
Antenna and legs were added by attaching shaped copper wires.

Cypress Meadow Nature Preserve in Allen County was were I found the Prairie Roses that served as my unwitting models.
Detail of Prairie Rose.
The yellow center was layered atop the pink flower, and the bumpy texture around the flower's center was created using a technique I learned in my creative soldering class.
The yellow in this flower is another example of altering the original plan.
The four yellow pieces you see are actually one single piece with wire attached on top for the illusion.  Those pieces would have just been too tiny!
This White Trillium was photographed at Bock Nature Preserve in Kosciusko County. 

Tiger Lily inspiration courtesy of the Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve in Allen County.
      ONE down, three to go! 
Stay tuned to see what seasonal glass creation I came up with next.

1 comment:

  1. You are so talented and this piece is absolutely stunning! I recreated yout tiger lily panel using Plaid Gallery Glass paints. I plan to give it to my sister-in-law as a birthday gift because she loves the color orange. I hope it's okay that I did this? I can't draw, so I looked up Google images of tiger lily stained glass and I just fell in love with yours!