A Geometric Solution

The Journalist Rings

Bless her, she’d been asked to write an article for next February’s Homes & Gardens (and she’d rung us five months early because she knew how busy we get …):

“I’m writing about buying and using stained glass and I’ve been looking at your website with great interest

(What a lovely journalist, I thought.)

… I need to find out about the various options available to buy, and also who can restore them …

… Can you help me please?”

Her voice was friendly enough, but I must admit I was immediately on my guard.

Like you, I’ve seen plenty of cases where words have mysteriously changed their context, or had their qualfications left out, and that’s the last thing anyone needs when the subject’s stained glass restoration.

So we proceded as gingerly as Kennedy and Khrushchev discussing missile placements on the lovely island of Cuba.

And one of things we talked about was how stained glass can be re-sized.

It’s a familiar problem.

A piece made for one particular setting has been removed and must now be made to fit a new setting.

And I was duly reminded of this classic example from our casebook of stained glass adventures and challenges.

The Loving Couple

Some time back, our client approached us with two magnificent pieces of painted stained glass. Here’s one of them:

before

“Please make me 60 inches taller!”

Naturally, this elegant gentleman was accompanied by a demurely blushing damsel.

The task:

To transform these two pieces, each one measuring 12 inches across by 18 inches high,  into a pair of stained glass windows, each one measuring 26 inches across by 78 inches high.

Now, to perform this kind of operation, you have to respect the spirit of the original, whilst also taking into account the new location.

If I tell you that the new location was an ornately gilded dressing room within an 18th century mansion across the sea on mainland Europe, then you’ll see that a great many options were swiftly ruled out.

Our client being a person of considerable influence, we gave the matter our deepest thought.

And then we remembered our priceless book of leaded light designs from 1615.

Our personal copy dates from 1895. Here’s the splendid frontispiece:

frontis

How we found inspiration in an ancient Manuscript (and you can too)

Let me translate:

Book of sundry drafts

principally serving for glaziers

and not impertinent for plasterers and gardeners

besides sundry other professions

Surely this 400-year old collection of leaded lights would prove to be our inspiration!

We spent a happy hour reminding ourselves of these exquisite designs.

And then we came across this one here:

design

“Eureka!”

We were away!

The first task was, with surgical precision (not to mention our ruler and set square), to use the original scale drawing to map out the full-sized cut-line. (Those of you who’ve mapped out “simple” diamond quarries will know that a job like this takes time and patience.) You can see here how, in the middle, we prepared a space for the original stained glass (from which we had taken a “rubbing”):

cutline

The full-sized cut-line

The second task was, with equal care, to cut the glass. Here we used glass that was made specially for us by our nearby glass blower. (Machine-rolled glass would all have been too uniform and lifeless.)

Finally, the assembly: with a geometric pattern like this one, the leading had to be exact

km2

Careful leading for …

… with neatly abutting leads (or else the soldering will fail):

km1

… a client of considerable Influence

Once cemented and polished, we had a look:

finished

Finished

Our lips began to quiver. Our eyes went moist. We knew the day would soon come when we would be obliged to return the glass to its rightful owner.

It never gets any easier to say goodbye!

At least these windows had once been ours to look at.

Original Designs from 1615

It’s no exaggeration to say these designs are extraordinary.

Just imagine if more stained glass windows had such richness and complexity.

Are you interested?

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7 thoughts on “A Geometric Solution

  1. Dear Stephen,

    Thank you for this nice tip! It’s beautiful. I hope you client agrees with me.

    I’ll remember this example when I have to resize a window of this style.

    My best wishes,
    Ivo

  2. Dear Ivo,

    Thanks for your message. It’s always good to hear from you. (And, as I mentioned in an e-mail, we’ll soon finish preparing a guide to painting stained glass heads. More in this post here.)

    We hope the set of windows will be collected this weekend. And then we’ll know!

    Every best wish to you from us,
    Stephen

  3. That is a very nice piece. Good job. The design fits the gentleman. Anything less would not have worked. The subtle colors are perfect. You are lucky to have someone close who will blow glass for you. We are not that lucky.

    Laura Goff Parham
    State of the Art, Inc. Stained Glass Studio
    SOTAGLASS.COM

    • Hi Jody,

      Thanks for your comment, and that’s a pleasure on our part, certainly. And I hope you also see that the largest part of this website is less about the work we happen to do than the techniques we use which people can also learn and adapt to their own ends.

      If there is any image of our work about which you have any question at all, then please just tell us, and we will always provide you and others with the best information that we have.

      Your questions do all of us a huge favour. They help us understand what we need to say, and then we can respond by providing tips and ideas which you and others can use.

      All the best to you, Jody, in 2010 (and beyond)!
      Stephen