Monday, January 5, 2009

Stained Glass Lesson

I wanna start out by saying that writing about specific techniques makes me feel like I’m “dancing about cooking” or something like that. One MAJOR caveat is that, in my experience, a description is harder to follow than a live demo and a live demo is no substitute for hands on experience with the actual materials—generally when I demo, even to artists with stained glass experience, its all a little confusing until they get their hands on the actual glass and can learn from first hand experience.

Second of all—I don’t have set plans and I don’t know how its gonna look when I’m done, I like to experiment and dammitol, so should you!

But here goes!

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The head, hands and foot are three layers of flash glass.
Lamberts Red on Clear B (SA Bendheim catalog #20-1001R/CL B)
Saint Just Blue on Clear FL-110 (this is a VERY light blue flash—lighter than Lambert’s 1006 BL/CL A)
The pink is a DESAG gp/cl which is no longer being made. I would substitute the lightest Lamberts gp/cl.

I worked on the red/clear layer first—I don’t have the layers planned out in advance. I tend to do most of the image on the red because it is very stable and predictable in the kiln. But I don’t have any set ways of doing this stuff...its always subject to change.

1. First I sandblasted the red. I didn’t use a stencil and all I did was set the pressure low enough to frost the surface. I didn’t remove any red.

2. Then I drew the face on with a razor point permanent marker.

3. I mixed up some glass stainer’s colors. In this case about 50/50 Red For Flesh and Stencil Black. I painted the surfaces of the sandblasted glass and then wiped ALL the excess off with a paper towel. So everything that didn’t stick from the natural tooth of the sandblasting gets wiped off. This leaves the glass only a hair darker red than before. This piece is the first time this particular color combination didn’t suck big time and have to be trashed...
At this stage, you can see the pen drawing again and I went in with a liner/tracer brush (right now I use a #2 white nylon) and traced the pen lines I had drawn before with glass paint.

4. Then I fired the pieces. I fire at F 1210. I just go up as fast as possible (my kiln takes 20-25 mins), turn it off when it hits 1210, crack it to F. 1050 and then stick a tiny chunk of firebrick in the oven to keep it cracked about ½” and turn a fan on to vent it out my exhaust window. It cools in about two hours.

5. When the pieces came out, I went into them with a flex shaft engraver. I use diamond ball-shaped burrs, and cold water. On the light table so I can see what I’m doing! And I keep some bath towels around to mop up the mess. SO--I ground the highlights—where her skin is the whitest. NOT VERY MUCH mind you, as one can’t undo a subtractive process! But don’t be a big wuss about it, either. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

6. Now here’s my big secret...listen carefully! After the engraver, I went into the piece and used a 3-M Starlite Diamond File (1/4”—the black one which has the roughest abrasive. You will the roughest as there’s nothing powering this tool but your poor elbow and wrist!)
I use the file to make the shading. Its very delicate, subtle and tonally rich. Gorgeous. And it’s hard as all heck on your arms!
I hold the file as parallel to the surface being worked as possible. Or course, as with ALL diamond tools, lots of cold water is necessary to cool the diamonds and towels so the water doesn’t flow into your light table and electrocute you.

7. Then I paint some of the shadows in. I used a mixture that was much darker—so a greater proportion of stencil black is added. I don’t use gum arabic. Mainly because I ran out in, like, 1985 and haven’t gotten any more....
I fired it again and went back in to make the shadows richer. I forget how many firings but I think only three.

8. The blue layer was an experiment. Usually I would remove the color in such a way that it complimented the red layer. I.e. so there would be blue where there was no red etc. In this case, I tried to remove color to echo how I did it on the red. I was very pleased with the results!! So it’s basically the same idea as the red without the paint. Sandblast, engrave, file till your arms fall off.

9. I fire polished the blue at F 1400. Don’t do this!!!! It’s too high. She looks like she has a 5:00 shadow from the texture in the blue glass at a certain angle. F 1350 would have been more than fine....maybe even F 1300...OK try F 1325!

10. The pink layer is the same as the blue but NO fire polish as it strikes. That is why this layer is the bottom. On the back side of the pink (the NON flash side) I engraved the veins with the flex shaft. I then rubbed some transparent aqua oil paint into the grooves to make them bluish.

So that’s the skin.

The puffy coat is two layers of blue. The bottom layer is sandblasted lightly (to make the toothy surface that’s oh-so-easy to paint on) and painted with stencil black. The top layer was a darker blue (Lambert’s 1006-BL/CL B) that was also lightly sandblasted, more heavily engraved and then filed a bit.

The yellow and red drapery coming out from the coat is plain yellow Lambert’s Antique (72xx, I think) that, once again, I sandblasted to make it paint-able. I screwed it up because the first layer was brown (like on the face) but it looked like crap and I eventually went over it with all black. I filed the highlights into the paint because it looks so damned good! The red layer is a photo sandblast stencil. Easy peasy and heavy fire polish.

Any questions class? Please ask in comments I would be happy to answer!!!
e ask in comments I would be happy to answer!!!


Jx said...

Me Miss! Miss! I've got questions, Miss!

What shape is that file? Cos we can't get 3M starlites over here...

And - I don't have a kiln - yet - so I don't understand what you mean when you say you don't fire polish the pink layer 'as it strikes'. Is that because of the aqua oil paint or some property of the pink?

And - I notice your firing temperatures are very specific. A potter friend is going abroad for a while and has offered to lend me a nice kiln but it has no controller - she's been using cones since the controller broke. I don't have much money so was hoping to get away with the same system, but do you think it would be too hit and miss, Miss?

Last question - do you stick the layers together with anything before you foil and solder? Or does the foil hold them firmly enough?

Oh- and - stupid last last question but the type of thing you can't tell without actually seeing the real live pieces - is the engraved/flashed side uppermost in the finished piece?

I know what you mean by dancing about cooking, but I suppose all teaching is like that, isn't it? When I ran multimedia design classes I found the best format was 5 minutes gabble, 20 minutes demo, and several hours of the students doing their thing while I hovered.

Your online demo has been excellent. There is some fine detail there. And the pictures are wonderful. I expect over time, as we follow some of these processes, or make up our own versions of them, we might find interesting things to ask and share with each other here.

A thousand thanks, Judith.

Judith Schaechter said...

Hi Jx!
Hey did blogger toss you off as a follower of this blog when I changed the template? I had too...I'm sorry!!!!!

Can I just say my HTML lesson was really insane? It was like a blind person learning to speak martian from a deaf person who only knows Chinese. Arg!

I'll put up a post about the diamond file next. Its widely available here--if worse comes to worse I'll send you one! Or two... they are cheap.

The pink strikes because of whatever minerals they use to make the pink. Strike means it changes color and, in this case, the pink doesn't really change so much as get opaque--its awful. The oil paint is put on last as it will probably burn off in a firing (although some colors in oil paint will fire on. Cobalt, most notably.)

Foil and solder are plenty enough to hold the whole thing together--try taking one apart to empircally prove how impossible this is (not to mention damaging to whatever flesh remains on your hands).

As for what side is facing up: well I always decide as I go and make different decisions all the time. In this particular case: the pink faces UP, the Red faces UP and the blue faces DOWN.

Hey--I redid the blue layer and over fired that one too! Someone stop me beofre I try to fire plolish again!!!! HELLLLLLLP!

I promise I will try to dance about cooking real soon...How hard can it be, really?

Jx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Judith Schaechter said...

I am trying to fix the broken toggle link!!! I'm no good at HTML!
Love, Judith

Oisín said...

I've been without internet for well over a month now...and I come back to all these wonderful posts from you! Just finished my first commission using flashed glass, working on another, and plotting out a stupidly complicated third for my own twisted pleasure.

I will have questions, once I wrap my mind around all that's been added since the last time I saw this page. I'll be falling asleep to images of diamond files tonight, I'm afraid.

TaraTaraTara said...

Howdy from Amish Ohio and I'd like to give you an A+ for your written effort Judith! It's truly coherent!

In my own words as I contemplate all of your lovely and fun to read blog writing, you clearly and considerably tell us that ADAPTATION is "THE" earthshaking attribute for both sanity & success with this arm breaking timeless work.
Your work style, which you alone have crafted as "MY WAY" gives to you a VERY favoring and powerful workability. It seems to give you a magical golden energy!

Is mentally allowing and accepting the multitude of true and real challenges of this art, stained glass, a more or less learned discovery? (Dewey was the master of changing the teaching world into allowing learned discovery to operate in the students' favor in public education.)

Mentally speaking what is still so difficult today after years of studio experience and how do you learn to see and anticipate invisible pot holes? Maybe start a titled "tip of the day" answer to this question!

Judith, I am riding your wave once again, this time from your blog! As a learner for life, as a visual arts teacher, no matter what our specific trade is, it's important to feel EAGER to learn and to feel the viability of success. You have it!

I do hope to get my Penland application with 2 reference letters in by Feb. 23.
Tara Jeanne The Blueberry Queen

Judith Schaechter said...

Hi Tara--
I am going to think about your questions and answer at some point--keep on me if I don't!!
And thank you, darlin'!!!!!!
Love, Judith