Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Winter" in Stained Glass

      Over a year ago I embarked on a journey that would take me on many nature hikes during every season. The visual images that filled my camera have become the inspiring fuel powering 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. My last blog post detailed how I created an homage to springtime using the copper foil method.
Tree of Life window by Frank Lloyd Wright
DarwinMartin House, 1904, Buffalo, New York
      When I had finally completed "Spring," it was time to move on to the next panel.  Logically, Summer would have been next, right?  Not so if you are the proud owner an ADD brain like mine. I was beating my head against the proverbial wall attempting to force onto paper something resembling a summery design. So I procrastinated - my preferred coping mechanism.  In the meantime, my family had taken a trip to Chicago (read about that here and here) where we visited the Art Institute. While there I stumbled upon some leaded glass windows by several Craftsman style artists including Frank Lloyd Wright, one of my favorites. From then on, I was determined to create at least one of my panels using characteristics of the Craftsman, or Prairie, style...strong geometric lines and shapes, earthy and neutral colors, lots of symmetrical patterns.
It didn't take long for me to abandon realistic designs (that weren't flowing very freely anyway)
 for a more geometric interpretation of nature.  
            Since I was failing miserably at coming up with a great realistic interpretation of something summery, I decided to abandon that approach and try a complete reversal...a new season, and a new style. It was kismet. I had recently taken a winter hike just down the road at a nearby nature preserve, and had some fresh photos on my camera. (Yes, I procrastinated right through Autumn!) I got lucky; I took only one winter hike and from that hike had the photos I needed to formulate a design plan for "Winter!"  
This picture contains the color palette that I would use in my "Winter" panel:
white, grayish, light amber, and dark amber.
      The winter landscape lends itself nicely to a Craftsman style interpretation in many ways.  The colors of an Indiana winter are very neutral with lots of white, grays, and various shades of amber or brown.  The absence of most foliage and undergrowth allows the geometric lines and patterns of the tree branches, fallen logs, and naked plants to become the main scenic focus.  
I liked how these dead, snow covered leaves took on a diamond appearance, and decided to use the diamond shape in a pattern in my panel - amber on the bottom, white on top.
The strong diagonal angles in this photo would be almost completely hidden from view on a summer's day.  The angular elements of this photo inspired the structure of my "Winter" panel.

            After perusing my collection of wintery photos and determining how I would use them in my design, I came to the conclusion that this would be a good time to part ways with the copper foil method of making stained glass.
The challenge in constructing a stained glass design in this way is that all the pieces are somewhat mobile until the solder is added last.  You can see that I've used horseshoe nails to hold everything steady until then.

       Luckily, I had recently completed a class at GlassLink in Fort Wayne where I learned (or rather, re-learned) how to create a stained glass panel using the leaded glass technique.  You can read a detailed description of this method here and here. Rather than using adhesive copper foil tape on each glass piece, I would be using lead came to interlock all the glass pieces together, then solder them in place.
"Winter's" design is taking shape.

       One of several advantages of the leaded glass method is that there is very little need to grind each piece of glass after it's cut, since the edges will be hidden inside the lead channels. With no grinding and no foiling, this panel went together rather quickly. After all the pieces are locked in place with the lead came, it's time to solder.
The only soldering needed is at the joints. 
Where each section of lead came comes together, a blob of solder is added to cover the gaps and create a permanent connection.

      Another advantage is the soldering routine.  When surrounding each piece of glass with lead came, it eliminates the need to add more lead solder as in the copper foiling method. Therefore, the only soldering necessary is at the joints.  A panel this large done in the copper foil method would take at least a couple of hours to solder just one side.  Using this method, I was done with both sides in just under 30 minutes!
The magical chemical that changes all silver to black with just the swipe of a paintbrush!

      Only one step left before framing: patina!  Lead in it's natural state is generally silver. The stained glass artist has a choice of leaving it silver or chemically altering it to look black.  Most of the time the artist makes this choice based on how it will effect the overall look of the design.  I decided my lead needed to be black.  
So easy...brush it on - instant black! 
I've learned to avoid too much skin contact, as it will turn your  hands black, too.  And not in a patina kind of way, in a chemical burn kind of way!

      After a quick wash, and some help from my Frame-Guy (dear old Dad), I have successfully completed panel #2, "Winter!"  So very different from the "Spring" panel, but a tremendous learning experience!

I love how this Craftsman style panel interprets winter imagery in a geometric, abstract way.

This multiple personality panel looks very different when viewed in different environments and lighting.  This is a view with the light source from the backside. 

There are areas of a special iridized glass in this panel. I think the trickiest part of the entire project was getting photos to show the iridescent shimmer!   

TWO down, two to go! 
Stay tuned to see what seasonal glass creation I came up with next.

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