Stained glass windows are some of the most unique works of art in the world. But have you ever wondered how they are made? In this blog, we discuss the creative process behind the beauty of stained glass windows.
Short History of Stained Glass Windows
Stained glass windows have been around for generations, but their purpose has evolved over time. It is believed that originally their purpose was simply to let the daylight into buildings through small windows while keeping the building completely enclosed.
Onward from the medieval ages, as the windows became larger and higher quality, the stained glass windows started being used to create religious images and to highlight the wealth of those who owned the building. In more recent times, stained glass windows are used in homes, governmental buildings, and businesses as an element of design.
Stained glass windows for homes are a strong example of how something can transition from being just a functional item into a form of art. But just how are stained glass windows made? Read on to find out more!
Designing the Stained Glass Window Pattern
The first part of the process of creating stained glass windows is to create a window design. A full-size sketch, called a cartoon, is normally prepared by a stained glass artist. This drawing creates a guide for the overall composition of the many pieces of glass that will make up the stained glass window, including the shapes of individual pieces of glass, the colours of glass that are going to be used, and the details to be painted onto the glass pieces.
Cutting and Painting
Once the design is complete, individual pieces of glass are cut and shaped from larger pieces of coloured glass to fit the shapes outlined in the design. This is normally done using special tools, such as dividing irons and grozing irons.
After the glass has been cut, the individual pieces of glass are painted with special paint, called "vitrifiable" paint, to achieve the exact colours and precise details outlined in the cartoon. The painted pieces are then fired in the kiln, which allows the powdered glass particles in the vitrifiable paint to melt, causing the paint to fuse with the glass permanently.
Glazing and Leading
The next steps of making a stained glass window for homes is glazing and leading. The drawing is normally spread out on a table and nailed down along two edges with narrow strips of wood called laths which ensures that it is angled correctly. Following this, the tedious task of cutting and shaping thin pieces of lead to the curves of the glass pieces begins.
Once the lead is cut into the right shapes, long strips of grooved lead are placed along the inside of the laths. The piece of glass belonging in the angle is then fitted into the grooves and a strip of narrow lead is fitted around the exposed edge. The next required stained glass window segment is filled. These steps are repeated until each piece of glass has been successfully inserted and sealed with the lead outline to hold it in place.
Finishing the window
Once all of the stained glass window segments and lead are in place, every joint on the window is soldered, on both sides, to ensure that the window will stay together. Once the stained glass window pieces are joined, the window is usually waterproofed to protect it from the elements and is thoroughly inspected in the light.
The stained glass window is now ready to be packed and transported to its destination where it is carefully installed and secured in place using reinforcing bars.
While the making of the stained glass windows might sound like a simple task, but it is an incredibly intricate and skilled task. Are you interested in making your own bespoke stained glass window? We are offering private lessons to anyone in the UK who wishes to learn about designing, cutting, and piecing together stained glass windows.