The “Modest” Improvements which Really Matter

It’s absolutely essential to aim high. Yet it’s also important that, aiming high, we accept fair comment and criticism.

Here’s one of a pair of windows that a priest got his brother to paint for his church. It’s irrelevant that the brother used non-firing glass paints. What matter is the underlying design and the lack of skill with which it’s executed.

It is so bad that it cannot be justified on the grounds that the congregation were usefully being tested for the strength of their human charity …

Here it is:


Until recently, this really did exist in an English country church …

There are, by contrast, hundreds of so-called modest activities which everyone can reallt focus on when they paint stained glass.

For example:

  • Keeping the palette organized
  • Keeping the paint well-mixed
  • Keepting the brush well-shaped

Have a look at the short video below. It shows a single stage from the painting of Saint Martha (whose head is documented here).


From the glass painter’s point of view, the most important activity happens on the palette (not on the painted glass).

Have a look now:

(Video not showing? Just got a rectangular black box? Maybe you need the latest version of Adobe Flash.)

I hope this is useful to you.


Stephen Byrne

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7 thoughts on “The “Modest” Improvements which Really Matter

  1. Dear Stephen,

    First of all a merry Christmas for you, your family and your friends.

    Second I want to thank you for your fantastic Christmas present. This video is again (as always) very useful and I learned a lot. I did my mixing till now on a square inch and very slowly! When I see you swirling and twisting like a fool all over the palette I realised that I was wrong and too modest. Of course it is much better doing like you at high speed. I’ll try this before the new year.

    I know I’m repeating myself but one image is more than 1000 words and a video is more than 10,000 words.

    Looking forwards to the next tip I wish you and your loved ones a nice time.

    • Hi Ivo,

      Thanks for your message. I’m glad the video is useful. We’ve worked with you long enough for you to know our attitude and approach: we simply show and tell you what works for us. That is, we rarely say, “This is the only way to do things”.

      All the swirling and twisting is actually part of the slow rhythm and pace of glass painting. It just doesn’t matter if it takes 10 minutes to load a brush and paint a perfect stroke. If, at the end of a morning’s work, you’ve done 50 perfect strokes, what more can one wish for? Those strokes will last 100 years or more … Wonderful!

      We send you and your family every best wish for 2010,

  2. Stephen,

    Thank you again for taking the time to give us another video tip.

    My heath does not allow me to travel at this time. But I truly look forward to your short but very helpful clips. – Almost as good as being a participant at you studio!

    • Hi Scott,

      Thanks for your message. We wish you well and happy. And, whenever there is something in particular that you’d like us to demonstrate online, please just write and say. So that you know, there’ll soon be a new demonstration in the e-book section, showing everything from laying down an undercoat to copy-tracing, reinforcing and flooding.

      But, as I say, please just write and tell us what it’d be helpful for us to film and you to see. We always listen.

      Thanks so much for your enthusiasm and support.

      All the best from us,

  3. Hello Stephen
    Your messages are most encouraging.I’m working with an artist right now for design help. He is very insistant on ‘museum quality’.
    he wants to Cromwell my work. When should you take criticism and
    man up.

  4. This window reminds me of the comment I most often get at parties. “You do stained glass? My grandmother does stained glass also!” I don’t mind that much, it is a good excuse to have another of whatever is in my hand.

    • Yes, it’s enough to make one weep! I sometimes have to remind myself that it’s just because of their sociable nature that people often end up saying the most ridiculous things: they want to “connect” in some way. At times like these I just breathe in … breathe out …