I have booked on a two day stained glass course in the Malvern SWORCS summer school. I have wanted to try stained glass for ages, just being put off by the need for the wrists to work adequately to cut the glass. I am hoping that, with the aid of a wrist brace, good tools, and some help, I will be able to do enough to enjoy the session.
I have a need for a stained glass piece. Our living room is overlooked by a balcony, and it would be useful to keep something on the window sill that blocked this view without blocking our view or the light. I have a pot of snapdragons I got from the farm shop yesterday in that position - it gives colour and shape but isn't too intrusive.
So, planning ahead. Looking at the kind of stained glass pieces one can buy at craft markets I suspect my aspirations will be too high - I don't want a tile shaped piece made of three blobs of colour. I'd like to have a piece at least 30cm high, and something I am happy to look at everyday. I have been looking at the photos I took of reflections and ripples in the canal basin in the spring, and have been working on designs based on this.
There is a form of quilting called stained glass, where you lay fabric pieces on a background and stitch in place using black bias binding. Each piece has to connect to the others. I thought if I rustled up a quick one of these I would get some ideas for the glass piece.
I started with this photo:
I then drew a sketch and coloured it in with pencil crayons. I liked the shapes but thought that the intricacy and number of shapes would make the project impossible. I simplified it and coloured in with felt pens. Some of the plain pieces I lightly stippled - imagining textured rather than coloured glass. Frank Lloyd Wright used stained glass pieces where a lot of the glass was clear so that the view wasn't obscured, and I am aiming at something like that.
I started cutting little bits of bright fabric out of the old hand-painted ties I have, but the silk was too slippery and hard to control. I switched to some cotton sheeting I dyed a few years ago. This seemed appropriate for the colours. The rather livid colours I had available needed a foil, and I found a small piece of what looked like black hand dyed fabric at my local sewing store, and a mottled pale blue for the background. I used some fine wrapping paper to take an outline and used this to cut out the shapes in the fabric. I didn't pin or tack, so a loss of precision occurred at this step.
I should have course have been more careful. I should have ironed the fabric first. I should have numbered the pieces, or at least laid them out one by one on the drawing so I knew where they went. I piled them onto the drawing, but having to tidy things away in the middle meant that I ended up not being too sure where all the little bits belonged. I used the drawing to position the larger pieces,and then placed the others where they seemed appropriate, and to fill large gaps. At this point I lost sight of the fact that these colours were part of a real scene, and each piece should have been connected back to a real object.
I started stitching these bits together, just layering the slips of colour on the blue fabric. After a while it started bunching so I cut out a piece of thick felt ( some fabric they use for making tennis balls, got from the artist scrap store during Wimbledon) and this made the fabric easier to manage. I stitched pieces on, I stitched between pieces, imagining they were pieces of glass that had to be held together. I forgot about the image, and lost the vertical and horizontal nature of ripples and reflections.
I don't think much of this piece. It is rough, flawed, and doesn't look very interesting. It has lost the ripple effect because I thought of the black lines purely as holding lines and not as image.
This little project has made me think a lot about how the line, colour and space need to be managed in stained glass. Rather than thinking of colour first I need to think of line and then infill with colour as needed. From that respect it was a very useful thing to do.