57 sheets of glass delivered to the studio since January: 33 from Germany, 8 sheets from France, 10 from Poland.
And – in 4th place – 6 (just six sheets: the pity of it!) from our own dear England.
Let’s say: 16 square metres in all.
And now, two months later, only a handful of the 57 sheets remains intact:
… while most of it is cut.
From scale designs to full-sized cartoons
Yes, late last year, David took forward these scale designs:
… and developed them into full-sized cartoons:
I’ll return to this big theme another day but for now I will say that, on purpose, absolutely on purpose, large areas of the cartoons remain gestural and under-determined:
This is paper, after all. And paper is not glass. You might say the paper is a recipe; it is not the meal itself. Therefore we decided it was important to leave large areas under-determined. Our job as glass painters, when the time comes (which it will do very soon) is to “think on our feet” with glass paint and various liquids, and develop the images for this specific medium. Sometimes (not always, sometimes), if too much is resolved on paper, it can hinder what you want to say on glass. And here is one of those times. It would cramp the actual performance.
Working with raw glass – unpainted colours
Now these past two months have required a particular kind of thinking: working with raw (i.e. unpainted) glass, imagining their potential, creating new colours by plating:
It’s not a peaceful experience because we are happiest only when an undercoat goes down and we begin to take control of the ‘canvas’.
And testing is tiring: you’re always probing, asking questions, then waiting for particular replies; replies which, sometimes – that’s the point: to learn – you simply do not get.
Test #1 – does it cut well?
Not all glass is equal. To my eternal embarrassment, the worst offenders are the English. It sometimes seems they imagine it is sufficient that the glass be beautiful. But, horror of horrors, the practical reality of earning money as a glass painter requires that the glass, however seductive, is considered little more than a means to an end.
(Oh yes: dear glass blowers, whatever your undoubted talent, please remember that, when you work for glass painters, it is we who are the artists.)
So if the glass cuts unpredictably, or if it costs us our peace of mind – neither of us, despite the isolation of the studio, enjoys being brought to a state where we use intemperate language – then it is scarcely any good at all.
But I gladly admit some shapes are more difficult to cut than others. And so, if the requisite depth of colour can only be achieved by thicker glass than usual, I will be unsurprised when some spires or curves prove hard to cut with one glass by comparison with another. We will not accuse a glass on that count alone: we are realistic here.
All along, the main task here is to discover or remind ourselves how each glass likes being cut. (And the less we cuss the better.)
Test #2 – how well does it take silver stain?
A second test has been: establishing how well the glass takes different kinds of silver stain:
When a result was disappointing, we might adjust the schedule. Or leave the kiln lid a little over so that more oxygen gets in. (That’s why, above, you see several samples for each kind of glass.) Or try a different kind of stain.
Test #3 – how does it cope with sand-blasting and fire-polishing?
Another kind of test was: how well will the flashed glass ‘survive’ sand-blasting then fire-polishing? (We plan to sand-blast and fire-polish first; then, once the ‘gross’ work is completed, use acid for the subtler variations.)
Some glass (as we knew it might) changed colour with the extra heat which fire-polishing demands. This purple shifted unacceptably towards brown:
Some glass just couldn’t take the strain:
Do you see the frightful cracks?
Now I assure you we annealed it very well ourselves. So my suspicion is, it wasn’t well-annealed when it was made. It is just as well David discovered this in time. This glass was not robust enough to endure the treatment we proposed for it, so he chose a different orange.
(Note: a tough test this one, because sand-blasting, even with fine sand, is fairly punishing. So we are careful: we simply want to know what the glass is capable of.)
David even found good use for some glass we wouldn’t usually dream of working with:
Look closely at the fillet borders:
Do you see the dark borders on the inside and along the bottom? Well, that glass we wouldn’t usually work with is perfect when slapped down with an uneven wash of paint, badgered roughly, then rubbed by hand when dry:
Test #4 – (finally) painting …
And as soon as the glass passed these first two tests (staining and sand-blasting/fire-polishing), then onwards to the next level where (thank goodness) we can take the raw, crude colour like the sand-blasted, fire-polished off-cut on the left …
… and AT LAST start figuring out the techniques to use when painting it.
Tests, tests, tests and more tests. All the time we are surrounded in the studio by those painfully raw, bright, vulgar colours which (speaking to you as glass painters) we are just longing to cover with vitreous glass paint and silver stain.
Experimenting with techniques – watch the high-speed video
Here’s David, working with propylene glycol on top of unfired water-based (traditional) glass paint, exploring the opportunities for shading; and also finding out how well the sand-blasted, fire-polished ‘canvas’ takes paint:
From January till today: a restless time.
But now we’re nearly at the point where we can start to paint. And not stop till the work is finished.
Rehearsal, preparation, testing, solving problems before they rear their head – and then to work.
I wonder what takes up most of your time before you do the work itself. I’d love to know!
P.S. Very soon, we’ll re-open our video course for intermediate glass painters. These demonstrations, discussions and designs are based around the course we ran at Bryn Athyn college in June 2014, which sold out just two hours after booking opened.
Those of you who already joined, you’ll hear from us just after Easter.
There’s also room for a few more: we’ll send out details next month.