Well, as 2021 approaches, we’d like to say thanks once again for your support.
We’d also like to say we hope 2021 offers some glimmer of easier times for all of us.
As this is our last email of the year, there are just a few pieces of news, starting with our opening and closing times.
We re-open for visitors on January 7th, subject to any new restrictions from the government. We’re open from 10am to 5pm weekdays and Saturdays, from 11 to 4.30pm on Sundays and closed on Mondays in January.
Nominate a hero to receive a free glass workshop with Vitreus Art
A reminder from last time – we’d like you to nominate just one person you know who you think has gone ‘above and beyond’ during the time of the pandemic who would appreciate a free craft workshop next year.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org telling us what they have done.
The competition will run until close of business Christmas Eve (16.30Hrs); nominations received after this time will not be included (sorry).
Mike and I will make a short list and then the final 2 winners will be chosen by 2 independent judges
The winners will be offered their choice of any of the beginners glass workshops run here at Vitreus Art for free, with the workshop being taken between February and April 2021.
We will announce the winners in the mid-January newsletter.
So once you have finished reading this one newsletter please get your thinking caps on!
We’re getting a great response to the new design for our vouchers.
Why not give the gift that shows you have great taste?
Vouchers can be printed here in the gallery right up until we close on Christmas eve at about 4.30pm, or can be emailed as a PDF you can print at home any time.
Vouchers can be purchased for a value, for a specific workshop, or for a special project by arrangement with us.
Workshop vouchers can be purchased directly from the website page for the workshop you’re looking at; or vouchers for values from £25 to £100 can be found here:
Next, we’d like to celebrate some of the new art just arrived.
You’ll find updated online galleries for Richard Ballantyne, Lesley Passey, Tina Ashton, Marlene Snee, Penny German, Graham Lester, Julissimo Jewellery, Clare Tebboth, Niki Thomas, and Jane’s Inky Arts on the VA website, and a whole host of new work on show at the gallery.
We’re steadily adding more new work to the website too.
And thanks to Lesley and Richard for being the latest artists to being brand new work in. As you can see, Richard’s quirky style is still in evidence with his Angry Battery Hens and Raku Pig series , and Lesley’s new, contemporary depictions of cities, skies and woodlands are just as captivating as ever.
And now, before wrapping up for this last newsletter of the year, here’s a special offer for you if you’re thinking of joining us for a workshop in 2021.
Please note – we haven’t said anything about ‘new year, new me’!
The offer is this:
If you book any of our beginners workshops in stained glass or fused glass, or Precious Metal Clay or Silk Painting, you can bring a friend for half-price!
This offer applies to workshops due to be held between 1st April and 30th June, and the offer closes on 15th January at 6pm.
The way it will work is:
- Decide which workshop and which day you’d like to attend
- Check with your potential second attendee
- Book your own place and then email us at email@example.com to request an invoice for the half-price second place.
- We’ll confirm your second booking when payment is received.
- Please note – if it’s necessary to issue a refund or a credit note, this will be for the class fees paid.
- Our usual cancellation terms apply – these can be found via the link on every workshop web page.
- As all our full-day classes are limited to 4 attendees, please make sure there are enough places showing as available on our website before booking if you’d like to book for a friend.
Finally, many thanks to the many folks who attended our charity glass upcycling workshops this year. We’re just about to send off your donations to Myaware, and there’ll be some more money to send to Macmillan too, thanks to your generosity.
This year we made mini ‘Christmas wreaths’ from offcuts of glass.
Photos chosen purely on the basis of which could be cropped to fit the format of the newsletter – there are more over on our Facebook page!
If you have an idea of a mini-workshop you’d like to try next year that we could run for charity, we’d like to know your ideas!
Well – it’s time to say stay safe, and we hope you can enjoy some down time or family time when Christmas finally arrives!
Thank-you for your support this year – Jenny and I really do appreciate it.
Best wishes for 2021,
Mike & Jenny
P.S. Please do keep sending photos of your lockdown / Christmas / arty projects – we love seeing what you’ve been up to, and so do our Facebook followers!
The photo here shows an amazing glass advent calendar Alison made here over a few project days, using glass in layers, with wire work to add details, mounted on a base made by her hubby.
The whole concept was designed to be posted to Alison’s daughter in Dubai, with the base made in two halves, and with bespoke fabric pouches for each of the ‘days’ to allow the secret to be revealed one day at a time. Brilliant!
Have you opened up a magazine or Sunday newspaper supplement lately to find bold claims being made about the power of creativity to boost wellbeing?|
There’s a good chance you have – it’s one of the most written-about topics in the health world at the moment and there’s a growing appreciation that enjoying a creative pastime or artistic activity can indeed improve that sense of ‘living well’.
It’s not all anecdotes –creative experts worked with civil servants to research a report in 2017 with findings that agree – being creative helps keep us well and socially engaged.
And in 2018 age UK released its own study – Creative and Cultural Activities and Wellbeing in Later Life. This considered the links between participation in artistic activities and the wellbeing of 15,000 respondents aged over 60.
Overall, these and other studies conclude that being involved in art activities or belonging to creative groups has real potential to enrich all our lives, at any age.
To get our own informal insight, Jenny and I at Vitreus Art asked some of our students how they felt they benefited from the art workshops they attended at our studio.
One said, “I lost track of time, I was so engrossed in what I was making”. Another said, “I haven’t learned something totally new for years – how refreshing”. A third said, “I love being able to forget about work, the cold, dark winter and home chores”.
And then there’s the new vogue of TV programmes devoted to traditional crafts and restoration skills, along with painting and pottery competitions pulling in sizeable night audiences!
This, plus the rise of the maker-movement and growing appreciation of traditional skills means the idea of making one’s own craft or art is more appealing and more accessible than it’s been for years.
And independent shops selling hand-made or upcycled goods and craft-collectives where makers collaborate to supply and sell are injecting some much-needed vibrancy and variety to our town centres.
We’re are all better served than ever when it comes to places to learn new skills, or to discover the joy of making now.
There are friendly card-making and stitch-and-bitch groups in towns of any size now, there are independent shops and galleries selling hand-made goods and art close at hand, and several art workshops running craft courses in just our area alone (Northants, UK).
At the Vitreus Art craft & art studio, you’ll find stained glass courses including traditional and modern styles and glass fusing classes using a kiln to melt and manipulate glass in to unique pieces of art.
You can also discover the amazing properties of Precious Metal Clay, allowing complete beginners to create their own pieces of 99% pure silver jewellery.
Students keen to develop their painting and drawing will benefit from our tutor Clare Tebboth’s lively and productive teaching style, producing work to a high standard while having fun!
A working glass studio and art gallery as well as friendly art workshop venue, there’s always glass work being created by resident artists Jenny and Mike, or craft workshops being taught. Visitors are welcome to call in during gallery hours to find out more.
Vitreus Art is located at Wakefield Country Courtyard, just off the A5 a few miles south of Towcester. On site you’ll also find the ARTtea Room and plenty of free parking.
So if you’d like to learn a new craft or create your own art, visit the studio in person or online at www.vitreus-art.co.uk and make 2019 the year you improve your own wellbeing!
It’s a good question – who would start a gallery with the economy the way it is?
I intended to write this a year ago, when our gallery-workshop was just a few months old.
Back then we felt full of optimism but still heard nagging inner voices telling us we were a bit daft for even thinking of setting up what was effectively a shop, just when so many others were going to the wall.
On top of that, it was necessary for Jenny to leave the stability (and predictable income!) of a regular job. What were we thinking?
One year on from that part-written blog post and nearly a year and a half since we got our slightly sweaty hands on the keys to unit 4 Wakefield Country Courtyard the optimism is still there, the inner voices have been quelled and our early marketing efforts have paid off.
We’re delighted to have regular customers who seem to come in just after we’ve put new stock on display.
Our classes are steadily drawing new would-be and established artists and crafters keen to develop their skills or gain new ones.
Our studio is being used to create interesting (sometimes amazing) projects by students.
And we’re finding that folks who used to visit the Courtyard have started returning, having discovered that there’s more to see, do, eat and drink than there used to be.
So of course we’re optimistic – we’re working hard to make our business a success and seeing that pay off.
Some of the things that have really worked for us include:
Having a mix of income – we sell our own stained and fused glass, we sell other artists’ work for a commission, we run a host of our own classes in fusing, stained glass, glass appliqué and more.
We also have a talented band of artists who teach their own art forms to students for us, and we make our space and facilities available for a small fee to those who want to create but lack the tools or a suitable place to work at home.
We’ve built up a really good mailing list over the years. Our regular emails get open rates and click-through rates (which is actually much more important than opens) that are significantly higher than is common in our line of business.
A testament to this is that we’ve just taught a couple of ladies who joined our mailing list after attending our third ever class about 10 years ago; they’ve been receiving our monthly emails ever since and got in touch to ask for a private class at our studio this year.
We keep up our advertising in local magazines. When we get visitors telling us they saw us in a local magazine we know our adverts are being seen. Of course this doesn’t translate in to ROI, but we’re still ‘young’ and working to build our footfall.
We’ve also taken a leading role in encouraging our neighbouring businesses to join us in co-op advertising and that’s making a noticeable difference to the footfall across the site. It’s tempting to ease off on the advertising now we’re in our second year –it costs money after all – but we plan to keep the momentum up.
Running demo days and taster days to show visitors what we’ve got going on. These have been a huge success for us, and are a blast to run too. We invite our artists to join us for our demo days, and show off their skills.
Visitors get to see artists in action and are often inspired to join a class and have a go themselves.
The outcomes of our taster days are similar – we give customers the chance to try one of our glass crafts in a short session for just a fiver. Many then book a place on a full class knowing that they’ll enjoy it, thus reducing the risk!
Listening to customers and hunting out work we think they will like. We’ve tried hard to find work that synchronises with what our customers tell us they like, or actively looking for. We’ve also had to learn that what we like may not appeal to our customers. We remind ourselves every now and again that we are not our own customers!
Of course there’s a lot more we do that’s helping bring in customers – giving talks at WIs for example.
It’s all part of doing what we can to build our gallery, grow our reputation and help our lovely customers own or give art as a present, or even make their own art.
We’d love to hear from you if you’ve seen art you like, have tried a class and enjoyed it, or if you’re an artist yourself.
If you’d like to visit and find out about art and craft classes or check out the art we’ve got on display you’ll find us here:
Vitreus Art, Unit 4 Wakefield Country Courtyard,
Off the A5, near Potterspury, Northants NN12 7QX
Tel 01327 810320
Join our email newsletter group here…
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
So 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!