Tag Archives: workshop

Make your own stained glass column lamp – a new 2-day workshop with Vitreus Art

A finished lamp, made to one of the designs we offer on our 2-day workshop

There are few stained glass projects more satisfying than making a piece that’s decorative and practical at the same time!
Our established stained glass mirror workshop gives you a chance to experience this joy for yourself in a beginner-friendly environment.

And now, after quite a bit of planning and thinking and experimenting, we’ve developed a new workshop – 2 days to make your own stained glass column lamp.
We’ve decided to go for a column lamp design for a couple of reasons – it’s a cool, modern design that suits contemporary home decor moods, and it’s a practical project for a beginner with two days to spend, and no prior experience.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to make a lamp like this though – there are some challenges to overcome, and that’s what this workshop is all about!

Firstly, cutting your glass. For lamps, one generally uses opal glass – it conceals the lamp and gives a pleasing, diffused illumination. However, the partial opacity of opal glass means cutting on top of the deisng (how stained glass is usually cut) doesn’t work as the design’s cut lines are indistinct, or more likely, invisible!

Cutting glass using a lightbox – essential for accurately cutting opal glass

This is where the lightbox comes in, as the photo shows. Make sure the lightbox you use is sturdy enough to use as a cutting surface, like the ones we use in the studio. Most art lightboxes won’t be – they’re designed to be used for tracing.

It’s essential to make sure all the sides of your lamp will fit together precisely too. This depends partly on the accuracy of your glass cutting, and how you set up your sections when grinding.
This workshop will share all of these techniques with you.

 

 

Using jigs is the way to make sure all the sections of your lamp will fit together properly!

Take a look at how I’ve set up my grinding and soldering jig here – using pins and aluminium strips to ensure the sides of my lamp sections are parallel, and that the sides end up the same size!
I used this when grinding the glass, and then again when soldering.

All our stained glass classes for beginners include an emailed PDF info pack, sharing with you where you can buy tools, glass and hardware. Many of our students have gone on to set up their own studios and have told us this information was invaluable to them, along with our advice – provided free to anyone who’s attended one of our classes!

 

Now – soldering your pieces together.
This is where things get a bit trickier! It’s not possible to solder foiled glass unless it’s horizontal. Just a moment thinking about how lamps are made up of several ‘sides’ joined togther and it’s clear that some arrangement to hold the pieces together while soldering is needed.

Supporting all the sections when soldering them togther – we make our own jigs for this

This is where a jig comes in!
We make all our own kit like this – you may find something suitable online if you don’t have the resources to make your own kit.

The jig needs to perform two functions – holing sides together to allow them to be soldered on the outside, and then to hold them for soldering on the inside.
The jigs we use do both tasks to make life simpler for our students – and ourselves!

Soldering a lamp like this takes a bit of skill, and rather more patience.
Over the years we’ve been teaching lamp-making on our extended courses we’ve developed some techniques that take some of the worry out of this essential stage.
We share these on our workshops of course, and the aim is for each student to finish up with a well-soldered lamp.

The next stage – soldering a brass ‘spider’ gives the lamp more strength, and a means to mount the lamp holder.

For the lamps made on our 2-day workshops we update this with a modern, low-energy LED lamp, which we provide.
The skills and techniques are the same though, so if you fancy making a different type of lamp, you’ll know how to approach it.

The next stage is to patina the lamp – giving a finish that’s a blend of traditional and modern – enhancing the look and making the solder lines look smoother too.

And then it’s time to mount the lamp on to its base. We provide a stained wooden base to finish off the lamp, and conceal the bottom edges of the glass sections.

Want to have a go yourself on our lamp-making 2-day workshop?
This link takes you the page on the Vitreus Art website where you can check out the details and book your place.

Happy lamp-making!

Mike – Vitreus art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you’d like to really get in to making stained glass?

There’s no question – stained glass can be beautiful to look at and enjoyable to make.

The popularity of Vitreus Art’s one-day beginners classes tells us that there are plenty of you out there who fancy having a go.
And the fact that our 5-day courses sell out each year suggests that some of you want to develop your skills or work on substantial projects in a learning environment.

So what advice would we give to someone aiming to build on basic skills, and what learning progressions are available to the student?

We know from our own experience, and from observing how some of our own students have progressed, that there are three areas to think about when discussing this sort of learning process.

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Learn by doing, but with feedback
  • Design your own projects

Let’s look at these in turn, starting with…

 What do you want to achieve?

We often ask our students this – it’s a great way to open any conversation with a student and the range of answers is wide!

For example, some are considering getting in to stained glass as a lifestyle business; I guess they’ve seen our fleet of Lamborghinis outside the gallery and correctly guess stained glass is a path to riches!

Others seek a stimulating artistic hobby, while others yet have a specific project – replace a window in their home is a common project.

The other aspect to this question is – how good do you want to get?
Good enough to make that window, good enough to sell work at galleries or craft shows, good enough even, to make a living?

It’s eminently possible to have fun making stained glass without some higher purpose, and really – you can get as good as you want.
But to get to a standard where you can sell your work – that takes more practice.

It’s also necessary to have an understanding of failure modes so that you don’t sell pieces that will fall apart.
A common issue of this kind is soldering hanging loops to the foil on the edge of a piece; it won’t be long before the foil comes away from the edge of the glass as there’s only the adhesive on the back of the foil to keep it there, and that ain’t that strong!
Better to solder your loops in to a bead (a solder line between two adjoining glass sections).

Or for leaded pieces, a long stretch of U came around the edge of a piece with no joining H cames will also come away from the edge of the glass, no matter how well cemented. Again, don’t solder hanging loops to these cames. Solder them to corners, or to H cames where they meet an edge came.
And we suggest you use silicone glue to secure that long piece of U came to the edge – like on a mirror, for example.

These sorts of tips are often shared in our workshops – we’re always happy to exchange ideas and make suggestions.

If your goal is more lofty than just ‘I want to make glass for fun’ then some business acumen is desirable – and if you’d like to make a living creating glasswork then it’s essential, along with marketing, accounting and selling skills. A realistic perspective on how good your work currently is will help in the long run, even if it seems a bit harsh right now.

Take a look at the work on sale at good craft shows, watch other artists at work if you can (open studios are a good opportunity for this), and ask questions. How does the design, execution, presentation of the pieces you’re looking at compare with yours? Better? In what ways?

Be honest with yourself and don’t be disheartened to discover you’re not there yet – every successful artist and craftsperson had to start as a beginner!
Like all artists, Jenny and I made plenty of pieces while we were novices that wouldn’t pass muster. Even now, sometimes a piece doesn’t work out well enough to sell, but luckily that’s rare or we’d go out of business!

And this follows on to the next element – getting good enough to sell your work if that’s what you want to do, or good enough to make a window that doesn’t let in the rain!

Learn by doing, but with feedback

We’ve been watching the rise of the distance-learning programme for art and craft subjects for some years now.

Indeed, we’ve often thought about setting up our own online course – a structured system with pre-designed projects, each designed to help the student work on a particular aspect of stained glass. Maybe we’ll actually run a course like this one day!

For now, though, there are a few questions we don’t have answers to.

How does the student get real-time feedback on their progress, or on their techniques? I guess the student could send photos of work in progress and finished pieces or share in a closed group, but that just doesn’t seem to provide the degree (and kind) of feedback we like our students to have.

We really enjoy sitting with a student, talking through what they’re doing, showing, demonstrating, observing and providing constructive feedback.
P1010379

We also enjoy having our own work on display in our gallery – we can use pieces as examples of design features, setting a standard of execution, and, we hope, inspiring students on their journey.

We find that it’s so much more effective to give feedback and guidance as the student is working – this is giving feedback the student can use right there and then, rather than after a piece is finished and before the next one is started.

We’ve found, for example, that being able to watch a student position their glass cutter as they prepare to make a score allows us to help them adjust the angle, pressure and placement right there. I don’t know how we would work on that vital skill at a distance!

I could give dozens of examples of this kind of ‘up close and personal’ teaching but I’m sure you get the idea.

As students progress, and especially as they get really confident, or practice at home, we still offer a critique of their finished work at any time – and are always available to talk about displaying or mounting or framing their work too.

Both Jenny and I get a buzz from seeing work produced independently by students past and present.
And we take pride in the amazing pieces many of them have created – often using styles and techniques and materials we haven’t tried ourselves!

Design your own projects

Yes – design your own projects. They don’t have to be complex, or massive. They don’t have to follow a style, or an art era’s visual language, they just need to be yours, like this lovely window, made by Sally on a recent course with us in Porthleven.
12278930_10153495909146284_6444070116217979908_n

There are (literally) millions of projects to find on the internet, many made available free of charge by generous creators. These offer a great opportunity to develop the mechanical skills required for stained glass in your own time but before long you’ll want to make your own designs.

You’ll have to learn about cuts that are impossible or at least very hard to accomplish in glass, you’ll learn about design weaknesses resulting from lead or foil lines that cross the whole piece. You’ll have to learn about balance, colour, manipulating space and creating flow.

This post isn’t the place to teach these skills – they take time, and are often best acquired in the company of skilled tutors,

You could start with a main design element – like a rose or tree, or sun – and build a design around this – one way to design from scratch.
Study existing designs – why do the cut lines go where they do, how are the spaces and shapes balanced, do the proportions please the eye?

Read up on  golden ratios, learn how to draw circles, and find the centres of those circles (use the ‘box’ method – Google is your friend here), and get a book or two on the subject.

Maybe take elements from existing designs and incorporate them in to your own designs and discover how those elements themselves were created

And one further recommendation – learn to make those tricky scores work. Practice cutting deeper and deeper concaves, learn to cut circles accurately; this way your designs won’t have to be limited by your mechanical skills.

We often encounter novices who’ve avoided having to learn these skills by only making pieces with straight lines. Feel the fear and do it anyway!

If you lack confidence at first, use a flexi curve and a French curve, or circle stencils to develop abstract designs to make and thereby hone your skills. Some of the best stained glass we’ve seen was conceived this way. If it looks good and you enjoyed making it, nobody needs to know how you designed it in the first place!

Learning progressions with teachers – where Vitreus Art comes in!

We love what we do, and we want to help others get enjoyment from making stained glass.
This is the ethos behind out programme of classes and courses – take you from beginner to whatever level you aspire to reaching.

You won’t be surprised that  we suggest a beginner’s class to start with. In most counties you’ll find stained glass makers who offer classes – some off classes as an occasional adjunct to their main business while others (like Vitreus Art) run programmes of classes as an integral part of their operation.
Dscf7666

At the risk of appearing to sell you two classes where one might suffice, we usually recommend trying both traditional leading stained glass and then sampling the more modern ‘Tiffany’ or foiling  method. Unless you only intend to make foiled pieces we feel having at least a little competence in both methods hugely broadens the range of projects you can take on, as well as growing your appreciation of the history of stained glass, giving you more confidence in your abilities and aiding your understanding of the design constraints of stained glass.

But then what?

If you already have a project in mind you have two options with us –

If you’re feeling confident in your abilities you can hire a space to work in and the tools you’ll need by the day – as many days as you need to finish your project. These sessions are un-tutored but of course one of us will always be on hand to offer guidance or encouragement. You can buy your own materials or use ours, charged at cost.
Many of our students have made some fantastic work in this way and we like that way our gallery feels when students are working here!

If you’d like to combine working on your own design with a full workshop level of tuition, and with all the glass you’ll need provided, we offer weekend project workshops twice a year (and at other times by arrangement). We set a maximum size for your project in these courses to ensure you can achieve your aims without too much pressure!

We’re flexible about the kind of project you choose to work on  during our weekend workshop but we do ask that you’ll have done at least a beginner’s class in the method you’ll be using for your piece. We’re always happy to talk through your plans before you book to make sure you’re getting the best value from your course place.

And then we have our legendary 5 day courses – held in Porthleven, Cornwall and at our gallery-studio in Northamptonshire, near Milton Keynes.

Open to beginners and those with all levels of experience, these course give you the scope to tackle some really adventurous projects, or make a number of smaller pieces to develop a whole range of skills in one week.

On recent courses students have made projects ranging from highly complex mandala designs, to kaleidoscopes, to prairie-style 4-sided or 6-sided lamps, garden sculptures, windows of many shapes and sizes through to a life-size stained glass sheep to be displayed in the student’s garden!
12141798_10153436528056284_6975931116524733741_n

As with our weekend project workshops, our 5-day courses are fully tutored – and with a student to tutor ratio of 1:4 at the most there’s the scope for a really intensive learning experience.

Our course in Porthleven can be equally thought of as a artistic retreat, a creative holiday and a stained glass course!
We love teaching this course as the range of challenges our students bring to us broadens our own experience, and the environment of our studio right by the sea in a delightful Cornish fishing harbour inspires us as well as our students…

And back at our studio, our October 5-day course gives us the scope to host smaller class sizes for even more personal attention, usually for the most sophisticated projects. As with our other courses, we’ll work with you on your design in advance – to make sure it’s achievable and will withstand transport, hanging or mounting.

The final option for budding stained glass artists is to work with us to develop a programme of learning focused on achieving exactly what you want to achieve – which may involve exercises to develop skills, joint projects where we work with you on your project (like the 4 door windows below) or a weekly or monthly series of projects to test particular aspects of the art (and craft) or stained glass.
Dscf0733So there we have it – if you want to get in to stained glass – for a hobby, to make a project with sentimental significance, for your home, or even to sell, get in touch and we’ll help you get started on your journey!

Mike

 

 

 

 

Would you like to learn how to make stained glass on holiday in Cornwall?

Boats in the harbour at Porthleven, venue for our stained glass holiday workshop

Porthleven - venue for the Vitreus Art 5-day stained glass workshop - October 2011

Learn to make stained glass in an inspiring setting in Cornwall

Well, painting holidays are all the rage – enjoy a holiday and improve your painting – so Jenny and I (Vitreus Art) decided late last year to set up a 5-day stained glass workshop in Cornwall.

We’ve been consistently delighted by how many people sign up for our one-day classes.
And we’ve always been surprised by the variety of folks that come along – young and old, male and female, artistic or just plain interested, well off folks for whom the £120 we charge is nothing, and people who have saved up – there’s no pattern, and we welcome you all!

But who will come on our 5-day workshop?
Well, we know they have the money – and time – to spend on something that is, frankly, an indulgence.
We hope it will be a holiday too – although in October the weather in Porthleven, very near the furthest southerly point on mainland UK, won’t be summery!

But what is a holiday? I’ve always thought of a holiday as a time to unwind from the strains of modern living, maybe leave the car alone for a few days, and the chance to switch my mind off from the routine. Oh, and I like to discover new things. What about you?

A venue by the sea in Porthleven Harbour

We can certainly promise you that you’ll discover new things if you’re able to join us in October in Cornwall. We pride ourselves in creating a fun, inspiring, and creative environment on our one-day classes, and down in the Lifeboat House art studio that will be our venue, the group will be able to savour the salty air and ever-changing colours and light of the ocean – for the studio is right on the edge of the rocks in Porthleven Harbour.

We’ve experienced the quality of the light one gets in West Cornwall to0 – the light that inspired Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson, and so many others. Indeed, the Tate St Ives and Newlyn art galleries are both about 20-30 minutes from our venue and we’ve allowed time to explore in the itinerary. After all – it’s a holiday!

Time to unwind – it’s not all about stained glass!

We’ve chosen Porthleven as our venue for some very good reasons!

  • It has a good range of smart accomodation – a far cry from much of tourist Britain!
  • It has some lovely restaurants – for all budgets and levels of formality.
  • We know the area very well and can advise on things to do and places to go in the downtime.
  • It’s a great place, with a sense of art and real life at every turn.
  • It has the Ship Inn – my (Mike’s) favourite pub in the country!
  • Oh – and it has the perfect venue in the Lifeboat House Art studio – converted from a lifeboat house (you guessed!).

So if you want to learn to make stained glass (or improve skills you already have), have a break away from regular life, get some refreshing sea air in your lungs, enjoy fine food and nice pubs in a fascinating setting, we’d love to hear from you!

Full details, including what we do on the workshop, where to stay, what there is to see and do nearby, plus info about the venue itself is all on the Vitreus Art website – link here.

Do leave a comment or get in touch if you know this part of Cornwall – it’s special to us and we hope it will be to you too!

Mike

Thanks Monty Don, Mastercrafts Stained Glass

Yes, thanks to Monty Don – much admired by green-fingered housewives (so I understand).

On the 19th April 2010 the BBC broadcast an episode of Monty Don’s programme Mastercrafts, following 3 stained glass novices as they  learned how to design and construct stained glass panels. The programme concluded with a competition to win and create a commission for a local school.
BBC programme link here…

The students were taught by hugely experienced artist Sophie Hussein over a period of 6 weeks. Naturally the 1-hour programme condensed the processes and left much out – but it was still a very interesting piece of TV.

For me it was good to see genuine crafts being given a respectful airing, rather than the superficial ‘here’s one I made earlier’ treatment by another programme last year. (No names, no pack drill…)

Why do I bring this up now, 6 months after the show aired?
Because yet again, at the weekend as Jenny and I were teaching a class of beginners on our one-day stained glass workshop, a member of the public visiting the adjacent gallery (Rowans Galley, Brackley) said to me – ‘Oh, I saw that programme with Monty Don and I thought – that would be nice to try.’

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said something like that to one of us when we’ve been exhibiting or demonstrating since the programme went out.

And a number of those keen, arty folks have signed up to one of our classes to find out how it’s done;  some have since gone out and bought the tools and got started on their own projects.

So thanks Monty, Sophie (and the 3 talented students featured)!

If you’ve been stimulated by the programme, or would like to try stained glass, we offer our Introduction to Stained Glass course just for you!
Get in touch to find out more or visit my stained glass website.
www.vitreus-art.co.uk/classes

I’d like to hear what got you started with your craft or artistic passion – leave a comment!