Stained Glass Design – Variety (Part 1)

Me again - but this is all about variety ...

Hello again!

Thanks for coming over.

The reason is, here it’s much easier to show you pictures and things like that.

Sorry about the one on the left but but I don’t like newsletters which are really jumped up corporate brochures, and I do like honest-to-goodness straight-talking discussion between real people.

So I want you to know I absolutely am writing to you and all our readers as personally as I can.

Right, we were talking about the “sacrificial fillet” around this set of windows we’re making for a stately home a few hundred miles away across the country.

So here’s the water-coloured sketch proposal, including indications about where we intend to place the painted diamonds:

Sketch proposal for set of painted diamond stained glass windows

Sketch proposal for series of painted diamond windows

And the thing about the border is we’ll use maybe 6 or 7 different tints of red.

Randomly arranged. So we’ll cut plenty of each tint, then shuffle and lead them up.

And this will enchant the eye.

Isn’t there something about the eye which would stop it registering things if there’s no motion? The relevant nerves would stop firing.

With humans, though, the rods and cones within the eye are themselves always moving so that we can still continue to see immobile objects.

Which is a very neat survival advantage of ours.

All the same, I don’t like to leave things to chance. I don’t just want the eye to see the red fillet border. I want the eye to love it.

I don’t care it’s “just a red border” (sacrificial or not): it’s got to sing.

Same with the diamonds themselves. Some white glass certainly, but as you see from the design, plenty of tints as well. Yellow tints, green tints, even some blue tints.

With the light pouring through as it will, a lot of the colour will be washed out.

And all the eye will see will be a subtle and fascinating ripple.

Plus some exquisite painting on the diamonds themselves.

So I reckon variety is wonderful. Yes, I do mean subtle variety. It has almost got to work submiminally. Which is great – often you don’t want people to notice the tricks of the trade. You just want them to stand and stare at the window, and be enchanted by it, and it doesn’t matter that maybe they can’t say why.

That’s what variety can do. In the nicest sense, it can take folks’ breath away.

And when you just spend time looking closely at really well made stained glass from earlier centuries, that’s what you’ll find: huge and subtle variety in the colour of the glass itself.

An example … here’s the church I cycle past each day during the summer when the weather is good enough. It’s heaven on earth. It’s almost everything you imagine an English country church to be. It’s the church of Saint Michael at Downton-on-the-Rock.

Saint Michael's, Downton-on-the-Rock

Saint Michael's Church at Downton-on-the-Rock, Shropshire

That’s right: this church is set in the middle of a huge field of English oak trees, and it overlooks fields of corn, and sheep and cattle. Heaven on earth.

And inside, every window is a gem.

Here’s a detail from their Saint Cecilia.

Saint Cecilia

Saint Cecilia

Hard to show on film but all the different bits of green are slightly different from one another, none of the reds are exactly the same as any other piece, and so on.

They really knew what they were doing. It wasn’t seen as glass that was going to be painted on. The glass itself had to be carefully chosen. (And the whole church is full of windows like this.)

This takes time of course but I reckon it’s just the respect that is due to the craft.

Now this has all been about glass

Next time let’s talk about variety in glass painting (and after that we’ll get back to accuracy). Yes!

Until then all the best,

P.S. You know how we always “go on” about techniques. Well, techniques aren’t are the masters here. No, the techniques are the servants.

Techniques like undercoating, copy-tracing, reinforcing, softening, blending, reinstating, spottling, reverse painting and softening highlights to name just a few.

And these techniques all help you bring variety to your glass painting – that’s their whole point.

That’s why we go on about them and take every pain to explain and show you all about those details which really make a difference like how to mix paint properly, or the best way you should hold a bridge.

Things which get forgotten by bad teachers because bad teachers take them for granted.

Which is not our way.

Day-by-day we help you master the techniques because this mastery then gives you the power to decide when and how to use them, and wow! your painting then take on the most amazing life and (yes) variety.


Thanks for your time