The wonderful Craigie Aitchison Chapel Window, Birmingham

Craige Aitchison known for his flat, colourful and economic style of painting designed this window just before his death in 2009. In fact he only designed three church windows one of which I helped with at St Mary the Boltons in London and his last was one which I made and installed in St Martins in the Bullring, Birmingham, 2015.

This spotlight is on the process of making the window, firstly a single panel was a fusion of a clear base glass with broken yellow glass and frit to define the background. Then more frit was applied to add flecks of colour to the background which the client wanted to come through the black paint. It was fired in a glass kiln several times until ready to install into a bespoke metal frame fitted to the inside of the existing float glass glazing attached to the stone tracery. The pre-existing external glazing was already divided by a lead line so the fused glass I made was divided at the same height. The window overlooks the Bullring which is an open public space and can be viewed at night as well as from inside the church when open.

The Amazing Blackpool Library Windows

Blackpool Central Library Windows

In 2011 Rainbow Glass Studios were approached by a London based architect to make eight large windows for the Blackpool Central Library. Each window measured 2m wide x 3m high, and we had 3 months to make them ! This was a very short lead time for such a large and complex project but it was an exciting challenge and we were ready. The designs were generated from the input of Blackpool Library users and brought together by Nick Robertson, it was then over to me to use whatever glass making techniques to enhance the design. My team for this project was Shane Moore, Scott Brown and Zhanna Foglietta. The images below puts the spotlight on of one of those windows, the illuminated train, a feature of the annual Blackpool Illuminations each autumn. This section was made using traditional stained glass method, etching, painting and leading. Here are some pictures showing the process.

In time I’ll be posting more about the various techniques used in making these Blackpool Library windows which included, glass fusing, laser etching, screen printing, kiln casting, verre eglomise to name a few. Looking back I’m amazed at how much we achieved in such a short time but sometimes it takes a tight deadline to focus the mind and get things done. I couldn’t have done it without Shane, Scott & Zhanna.

A Myriad of ways to Cut Glass (part 1)

types of hand held glass cutter

There have been several methods used over the centuries to cut glass. When stained glass was first made it was shaped using a ‘grozing iron’ which was a rod of iron with bent hook at one end or both ends. The hook overlapped the edge of the glass and a small piece was levered off, repeating this motion created the shape required with a nibbled edge all the way around.

The lead calme (came) hid the edge of the glass replacing the roughness with the straight lines of the lead. However, this cutting method was time consuming so to save some time to get the general shape in the first instance a hot tipped iron from a coal furnace was used to draw a heated line on the surface of the glass, the heat made the glass expand in a very localised way and crack was induced by ‘thermal shock’. It was then nibbled (grozed) to size. Later diamond tip cutters were used to get the general shape which were good for straight lines but not so good at going around corners, a solution to this was later found in the wheeled glass cutter we know today.

These two types of cutter (diamond-left, wheel-right), can still be bought today and have notches which can be used for nibbling (grozing).

Today most glass cutters have tungsten carbide wheels which last a long time and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are some examples we use in our classes which aim to make glass cutting easy to use and a comfortable experience, hence the various shapes to fit different sized hands with different pressure points.

various types of glass cutter available today

After scoring the glass with the glass cutter and breaking it, the new edges sometimes need to be lightly grossed to get rid of sharp edges using growing pliers. This is the standard style of grozing pliers available today which are relatively cheap to buy.

In the second part of this topic I’ll go through the best methods of cutting glass including straight edges, curved edges, circles and holes.

grozing pliers

cutting glass, stained glass, how to cut stained glass, stained glass technique, glass cutters, glass tools

Stained Glass Conservatory, Wow!

This project was designed and made by Rainbow Glass Studios over the course of a whole year, 5 people working full time to produce 300 butterfly panels set into a conservatory roof and 3 large double doors. Each of the butterflies are identifiable species from around the world and non are repeated, in fact I made a book which is used to identify each of them. Because this was made for a private client (who will remain anonymous) it is sadly not able to be seen by the public. This was certainly the most technical and logistically challenging projects I’ve delivered but in the end it was a great success.