Common Questions About Stain Glass
Isn't cutting glass dangerous?
Safety is an issue in any work space or shop. And your most important tool will always be your common sense. Yes the glass edges are sharp but if handled properly your cuts will be kept to a minimum, a few are inevitable. Also keeping your work surfaces clear of small shards and learning proper handling of large sheets of glass is all part of injury prevention. If you have particularly soft hands you may find using rubberized gloves useful when moving large glass panels in & around your workshop. Is it a good idea to have band aids handy? Absolutely!! We've yet to read any beginners' manual or booklet that doesn't instruct you to have a 1st Aid Kit handy.
To Came or To Foil?
Foil, also referred to as "Tiffany" style, requires wrapping the glass edges with copper foil which allows the use of solder to attach and/or combine project pieces together. It also generally allows the use of smaller & perhaps more intricate pieces of glass. Traditionally used in lamps, boxes, and other 3d projects as well as panels and suncatchers. Foil is more meticulous work, requires more skill in soldering, and is more difficult to repair.
Came, consisting of lead, brass, zinc or copper, is used by placing glass pieces inside the channel of a strip of metal to build a project. The came is then soldered at the joints to combine the pieces. Faster, no grinding, and neater (less soldering). Traditionally used in windows (particularly churches) and other architectural projects. Came uses bulky metal, harder to develop sharp curves and is impractical for many 3d objects.
So it really comes down to what you are trying to accomplish and which method you are skilled in. Using both in the same project can be an interesting artistic element.
How do I price my work?
A good point of consideration is what appears in your market. Is your work as good?...better? Do you offer custom work? Quality workmanship (attained through skill) and quality materials command higher prices. Higher piece counts and the addition of a frame command higher prices. Selling at garage sales you will have trouble commanding a good price. If your work is good enough for a gallery consignment the value goes up. Work commissioned (ordered before actually building) means you can discuss & set the price, then build to the quality ^ price agreed upon. We frequently give clinets options like "for x dollars it can be built such & such a size. If you'd like it larger or smaller or more elaborate the price can be adjusted accordingly." Again, many Stained Glass Start-Up books state that it's often difficult to recoup the time you might invest in a project.
Can anybody do this kind of work?
With knowledge and practice most anyone can create beautiful works of art. It does require some dexterity and little patience.
Can it be repaired?
Yes. I've never seen an art piece made of glass that couldn't be repaired. It may not be exactly the same after the repair since matching glass identically is seldom easy & with a true antique piece it maybe virtually impossible to find the glass. It can also be very expensive. Sometimes on a smaller panel or suncatcher it's easier and cheaper to rebuild from scratch.
How do you determine quality?
Ask yourself, "is the piece appealing?" Do you like the basic overall design, color choices and subject matter? Are there lines in the piece that have no value to the picture? If the piece is foiled check the soldering, is it a nice attractive small bead with no points, pits holes or excessive ripples? If the piece is done in came are the joints neat and strong? Has the piece been attended to after construction? ie: are solder spatters and drips cleaned up and is the piece nicely patinaed, waxed & cleaned? Are there cracks or scratches in the glass?
Is it an expensive hobby?
This art form does require a small investment in tools, materials and perhaps some initial instruction. These beginning costs can usually be recovered in just making the gifts you give to family and friends for birthdays, graduations and holidays. Which will also provide you with the opportunity to invest small monies while determining whether or not you want to pursue Stain Glassing further. Win-win situation, yes?
How long does it take to learn stain glass?
It will depend on the individual and how much time you are willing to dedicate to it. If you take some basic classes you should be capable of at least simple projects immediately upon completion. Practice in cutting the glass to minimize glass waste and learning strong yet attractive soldering may be the largest hurdles.
Where do I learn to work with glass?
Some people are lucky enough to get a class in high school or college. Cities of any size generally have local glass shops that offer classes. Most artists are willing to tutor individuals and although it may seem expensive this one-on-one time can prove to be cheaper in the long run. If you are adept at learning via hands-on from a book just dive in. It's not all that hard to learn. Lastly the internet is a great source of learning aids and information.
What tools and materials do I need to get started?
Minimum tools are: glass cutter, breaking pliers, soldering iron and a work surface. Minimum materials are: glass, copper foil, solder, flux, and patina.
Feel free to submit any questions you may have. If we've not encountered your particular situation, perhaps we can learn together. We will attempt to answer your questions or at least perhaps point you in the right direction.