Getting Started in Stained Glass
This "How To" consists of 11 sections, in addition to this introductory page, "Getting Started in Stained Glass". You can read them in order, or jump to the ones that interest you most.
1. Helpful Stained Glass Books
2. Locating the Work Place
3. Stained Glass Tools
4. Glass Cutting 101: Scoring the Glass
5. Glass Cutting 102: Breaking the Score
6. Glass Cutting 103: Grozing and Grinding Glass
7. Glass Cutting 104: Glass Cutting Problems
8. Glass Cutting 105: Cutting Glass to Patterns
9. Glazing Stained Glass
10. Soldering Stained Glass
11. Cementing Stained Glass
A few fairly well chosen words by Early A. Consternation, Director of Externals.
Just what is "stained glass"?
When I tell somebody that I work for a company that sells stained glass supplies to folks who do stained glass work as a hobby, they usually stare blankly, and politely change the subject.
I'm sure that most of them visualize our customers tinkering around in some church some place, high upon a ladder, paint brush and glass cutter in hand, creating some ecclesiastical masterpiece. That would be enough to make anybody stare blankly.
Stained glass is much more than that. Most well-built houses constructed in the USA between 1880 and 1925 had stained glass windows (it was called "art glass" back then) on the hall landing, or above the library windows, or as sidelights flanking the entrance door. More substantial homes, the ones that were custom-built to the design of an architect, contained many fine examples of Art Deco and other style stained glass windows which were focal points in the more important rooms.
As an additional feature, most of the homes were furnished with lighting fixtures which had stained glass lamp shades. At that time, these fixtures may have been lighted with gas.
The popularity of stained glass windows and lamps was so great during that period that an entire industry sprang up which responded to the needs of the builders and home owners. These "art glass" studios employed thousands of artisans who turned out hundreds of thousands of windows and lamps, which became artifacts of the times.
I can remember when the whole shebang came almost to a screeching halt. Tastes in decorating and furnishing had been pointing in another direction during World War I, but the Great Depression was the coup de grace which put the finishing touches on this part of the home decorating field. (The studios that specialized in church windows still continued producing their great memorial windows, as the demand for this type of stained glass didn't begin to slacken until much later).
Strangely enough, in the mid 1960's, American's began to notice stained glass lamp shades once again, after discarding hundreds of thousands of them in the previous 30 years.
The modern stained glass hobby movement had its early beginnings then, in the 1960's, and because of that phenomenon, asking prices for antique stained glass pieces began to increase. Obeying the law of supply and demand, the cost of the old stained glass pieces rose, so that the hobbyist soon became a semi-professional, and then a professional as the demand for stained glass lampshades outpaced the meager supply. This is where the stained glass industry stands today. There are many hobbyists, many semi-professionals, and quite a few full time professionals. The construction of stained glass windows and lamps is so labor-intensive that it will almost certainly remain a small and exclusive craft, with skillful and devoted practitioners making these beautiful objects mostly as a labor of love.
The biggest differences between today's stained glass artwork and those of earlier days are in scope and in equipment.
We are no longer limited to making windows and lamp shades. Stained glass boxes, window hangings, mosaics, jewelry, fused glass pieces and many other useful stained glass decorations compete for space in our homes.
The best incentive I can give you to take up the hobby is the fact that glass and metal have a permanence. If the work piece is initially desirable, it should last for generations to come.
I have seen a well made, well designed piece, signed or initialed, displayed in a place of honor in a home, where I knew that it would remain, to be passed down to succeeding generations. Other well made pieces are acquired by discriminating collectors and turn up in museums. A good example are the original Tiffany lamp shades, which are priceless works of art.
Thousands of stained glass artisans have increased the value of their homes by incorporating stained glass windows, skylights, or sidelights. Those who do not own their homes make windows to hang in front of the existing windows so that when they finally move into their own home, they can incorporate their work of art into the new surroundings.
A stained glass work is a marvelous gift. A wedding invitation framed in stained glass, a small stained glass boudoir lamp, a stained glass jewelry box -- all of these things and many more are small enough to be useful and functional. I have seen $25.00 to $75.00 worth of glass and metal turn into a lovely gift which would have cost $200.00 to $500.00 if bought in a gift shop or boutique.
You can sell your really good pieces to those same gift shops and boutiques. After all, it is quite apparent that somebody has to make those stained glass art works. Granted, you will be competing with mass-produced pieces from China, but slap a "Made in the U.S.A" sticker on your creation and you're bound to sell.
Above all, stained glass work is fun, and a wonderful creative outlet. It can be done by young or old, and is so structured that the material costs are only a fraction of the value of the finished piece, so if you have a strong work ethic and like to see results for your efforts, you will need no more convincing. Stained glass work is for you!
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