Sunday, September 15, 2013

Did the Lights Just Dim?

We haven't had a Weekend Workshop in a long time (due to family obligations) but when we received a number of serious inquiries about possibly having one we discovered that the timing worked out wonderfully so the gig was on.  In the end, three of our four interested students made it in but the loss of our fourth just made the atmosphere even more personable.  So without further ado let's look at what was accomplished by three people on a Saturday and Sunday in our shop.

The Cast:
Gerry is from Washington, DC and is a first time Stained glasser.  She's always been interested in the art but never had a way to satify her curiosity since she hasn't been able to turn up regular classes locally.

Becky is from Delcambre, LA and has always wanted to take classes with us but just hasn't been able to clear out time in her schedule to make that happen.  Like Gerry, Becky has never cut glass before but that was about to change...

Lastly we have Martha who is from Franklin, LA and who is actually a regular and ongoing student in our weekly classes.  When she found out we were doing a workshop she called Becky to tell her that this was her chance to 'sample the fun' by joining us for the weekend.  Of course she couldn't let Becky show up alone so Martha decided that she would come in to be with Becky and to possibly brush up on her skills with a refresher course on the basics.

Day 1:

10AM got here faster than expected but by 10:30 everyone had cutters in our hands and we began going over the basics of cutting glass.  Straight lines, curves, complex curves, circles and the dreaded inside curve kept everyone busy but by noon everyone was able to cut out all of the required cuts so we then  moved on to working with the patterns they had each picked out and made copies that they would then cut apart and cut their glass pieces from.

We have a series of 10 patterns to pick from for the Workshop and as luck would have it both Gerry and Martha picked the same Geometric design (although with slightly different color schemes).  Becky chose a Daffodil pattern which had about the same number of pieces in it that Gerry's and Martha's had (just under 50 pieces).

(Every time we see a set of three pictures they will always
be arranged in the same order:  Gerry's first, Becky's in the 
middle and then Martha's on the far right.)

By 1:30 we had eaten lunch and all three of our students were making progress cutting their first pieces of glass.  Confidence levels rose with each successful cut and correct use of the two pairs of pliers.   Also, cheers of happiness would accompany each piece as it was placed on their pattern bring it more and more to life!  Gerry was originally concerned that she wouldn't be able to cut the muster when it came time to cut the glass but she did so with aplomb and a stylish degree of gracefulness.  ;-)

By 4 o'clock everyone had accomplished the cutting phase of their windows.  There were still the borders to contend with but we don't pay borders any attention until the center of the window is cut, ground, wrapped and tacked together.   It took almost 2 hours to get all of the glass ground to fit within the lines of the patterns which was hard work for sure.   Becky, however, showed a stunning ability to effortlessly shape and sculpt all of her pieces on the grinder and by 6pm everyone had achieved our goal for the day at the time we hoped to complete the grinding process.  What you see below are Gerry's, Becky's, and Martha's windows ready to be foiled.

Day 2:
 After a  good night's sleep we resumed our classes at 10am.  There was still a lot to accomplish and the day would be long (but fun).  We went over the process of wrapping each of the glass pieces with Copper Foil making sure that it overlapped evenly on both sides.  It may sound easy but there's a certain amount of skill involved.  Luckily, it gets easier as you go along and no one had any trouble mastering the skill.  Before I knew it everyone was ready to tack their windows together and get to work cutting, grinding, wrapping, and tacking their borders into place.

Once the borders were tacked onto the windows we went around each of them with some brass channel (to protect the edges of the windows) and then began what I think is the hardest part of the stained glass making process--the soldering.  These are our three windows just before they're about to receive their final finishing solder application.  Of course, we don't simply squirt the lead on from a tube, we actually melt it onto the windows using a soldering iron.  It can be intimidating, but only at first.

It takes a while to solder a window-- you can't rush the process because the lead will only flow evenly at one speed.  If you move too quickly you end up with bumpy, ragged solder lines.  On the other hand, if you move too slowly your solder will flow through to the other side and the heat will most likely crack your glass.  Martha will be the first say that there is an art to the soldering process that you can't just learn over night.  But in the end it was surely Martha's moment to shine because her lead flowed like it never has before in a perfect bead of smoothness almost as if it were machine made. 

Gerry was the first one finished with her window and that was right around 6pm.  She gave it a quick bath in the sink and then went over it with Copper Patina to change the color of the lead from silver to copper.  After a second quick bath Gerry's window was dried and then waxed to make it really sparkle.  By 6:30 she was admiring her window as it hung in the quickly fading sunlight and as you can see Gerry did an amazing job. 

Beck completed her window right about the time that Gerry was washing hers.  Becky's Daffodil is flawless as was her work on it.  She came in with a positive attitude which is most certainly a prerequisite to making a great window.  Trust me when I say that if you leave your doubts at the door you will be able to make a stained glass window that looks just as wonderful as Becky's.

Martha has some previous skills when it comes to making windows since she's a regular student in our weekly classes but she said that she was able to pick up quite a few pointers throughout our weekend together.  But it's her soldering ability that that really came to fruition on Sunday.  I'm not sure what it was that she did differently but her window didn't need any touching up at all and her soldering looks like a professional did it.  I was VERY impressed with her work.

And In The End:
Everyone had a great time and the two days (although very full) went by quickly with more laughs than you could ever hope to imagine.  I can honestly say that our classes and workshops are filled with more laughter than broken glass and I think that's a key part of making great projects.  If you aren't having a good time you're doing something wrong.  That said, it's always the people that we manage to assemble that make our classes as fun as they are.  Gerry, Becky, and Martha each made the weekend more than memorable to Russ and myself and we hated to see them leave.

Our students often thank us when they leave but the fact is that without our wonderful students we wouldn't begin to consider doing this again.  And we are setting new dates even as I type this.  Thank you Gerry, Becky and Martha!  May your glass always follow your cuts and your solder flow smoothly!


1 comment:

Gerry said...

I just wanted to tell you guys that I had a wonderful time and a great stained glass class experience! We should do the workshop annually. Even if I lived in Hawaii I would be there. Each year I want to hear the squirrels scurrying across the tin roof as they check on their eggs, smell the rain every day at 3 p.m., and without question, be no where else as the lights go dim!!!!