Let the sun shine through

On this stormy Saturday I did something I haven’t done in several years: tried a new art form. It’s not completely new since I did it in class as a freshman in high school, but since that was many years ago I’m counting it. The medium of the day? Stained glass.

Funnily enough, one of the only things you don’t do when making a stained glass piece is stain the glass. Instead, it’s sold in one foot square sheets in a huge variety of colors and patterns. No one who’s ever visited this blog will be surprised to hear that I decided to make a bluebird, so I picked up blue, orange, white, green, and black. I did put the bird on a dogwood branch this time, so I’m not that obsessed, right?

13866678_10153759523053372_1303012984_nAnyway this piece, like most art, started with a drawing. Drawing for stained glass is really interesting because you have to keep your ability to cut the glass along the lines in mind the whole time. No sharp angles or steep curves, especially when you don’t have a grinder to smooth out mistakes. So you end up with lines in odd places, but that adds to the charm of the finished product in my humble opinion. I only had a pen to hand, so my drawing ended up being super messy as I changed lines here and there. I originally planned on having a background, but realized I didn’t really have a good color for it that wouldn’t cause another part of the piece to blend in (also I got lazy). I numbered the pieces so I could then number the corresponding pieces of glass with a Sharpie and make sure they were going in the right place in the finished product.

Next came the hardest part: cutting the glass. First I cut my drawing into pieces and outlined them on the glass in Sharpie. Then I used a small roller tool to score the glass, leaving a perforated line where I wanted it to break. Then I just used a pair of curved pliers to neatly snap the glass along the lines.

Just kidding, I broke a bunch of pieces in half when they didn’t behave. Such is life.

Pictured: me breaking these flowers into way more pieces than I intended

After getting all the pieces cut out,  I was ready to move onto soldering. To prepare my pieces, I first wrapped their edges in adhesive copper foil that the solder would bind to.

Foiled and ready

Next, I applied some copper flux and “tacked” the pieces together by putting small amounts of solder on the seams. This was just to make the pieces stay put while I tried to build up the solder to get a “beaded” effect. If I did everything right, the solder would end up raised and rounded on the seams, giving the piece a neat look.

Tacking the pieces together

From there, it was just a matter of adding the pieces, including the branch and bluebird.

Almost done

After finally getting all the solder on the edges and spending more time getting that beaded effect, I was finished.

The finished product with some light behind it

All told, the project took about four and a half hours. I didn’t really end up following my original drawing in some places, especially in the flowers, and I wouldn’t want to do it on a super hot day because the soldering iron gets hot. But, I love the hands-on nature of stained glass work, and I think it’s a medium in which a little practice would go a long way. So, I think I’ve definitely found a great new way to scratch that creativity itch and probably produce some good Christmas gifts.

Hope my family members like bird art!



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