A golden stained glass starting point
In which you can discover an invaluable technique for using silver stain for a most dramatic effect!
A kind soul commented here the other day that our work was “stunning”.
We salute this generosity of spirit.
And also we wish to add a “but” …
This website is certainly about Williams & Byrne … but only as a starting point.
After that, it’s about ideas which you can use, adapting them to your own specific ends.
In that spirit, with us as the starting point, here’s a hallway door that we recently completed:
At the other end of the hallway there stands a large oak-framed conservatory which serves as the family’s dining room.
Therefore, down the darkness of the corridor, this stained glass door is what catches the eye while family and friends do gather in each other’s company – an illuminated scene, indeed:
Stages within the process of stained glass design
Now you may remember this very design from an earlier post. (The design itself involves a violent theft from Mondrian, who, most inexplicably, loathed stained glass!) There in that post we commented upon a process we often use to make sure there exists between us and our clients a clear understanding and an unshakable trust.
Here’s the process again:
- One or several small sketches which reveal the broad geometry of the window
- A full-sized design in black-and-white (graphite) that articulates the precise geometry and also specifies all the tonal details (vital for the glass painting and silver-staining that we do)
- A full-sized water-colour design which the client sees and – within the limits of the medium (light-reflective paper) – understands to give a good impression of how their stained glass will eventually look
“Which full-sized design comes first – the black-and-white design or the water-coloured one?”
“Either – the main thing is that both of them are completed to a similar level of professional detail so that both of them can properly do their respective work.”
“Painting with light”
Ourselves, we have little time for this kind of talk about the stained glass artist being someone who “paints with light”.
In the right hands, it’s just about acceptable. (And Albinus Elskus certainly possessed such hands. He knew what he meant.)
It’s just that there are many wrong hands which grasp hold of this phrase, find themselves bewitched by it, then rest content with work that is not as substantial as it could be – as if the majesty of the concept of “painting with light” somehow distracted them from pursuing their craft with proper diligence.
Yet, notwithstanding the danger of the phrase, isn’t silver stain the most magnificent way of “painting with light”?
Or so you might think …
For, you see, when you consider the matter carefully, you will find there is a substantial difficulty right here.
It is this.
The legibility of a design is strongly correlated with the existence of bold contrast within the design.
And silver stain merely modifies transmitted light – unlike tracing paint which possesses the means to block it.
Therefore, through its unassuming modesty, silver stain seems destined always to play no more than a supporting, secondary role.
Do you see the problem?
How to make silver stain – and thus “painting with light” – assume the leading role within a stained glass window when it is not by nature a strongly contrasting medium?
To continue the histrionic metaphor:
How to make silver stain move to centre stage, speak up, project its voice and dominate the whole performance?
Sorry! It’s a trade secret!
Honestly! Who could say such a thing? The technique exists for everybody who owns the skill to use.
Being in itself a relatively straight-forward technique (it’s the design which determines how much skill is required), the stained glass artist can therefore spend more time than ever before on establishing a marvellous design.
And isn’t that exactly how it always should be? The design takes as long as it takes – and may take a very long time indeed. Actually interpreting the design onto glass should then be a relatively quick and straight-forward process.
Loads more information on insider techniques for using silver stain right here.
Technique for using silver stain in a leading role
Here’s the core procedure:
- Apply a light- to medium-density water-based tone (by preference with a haik brush) and allow it to dry
- Pick out shapes within the tone
- Apply silver stain and allow it to dry
- Pick out
Here you see the result of step 2:
And here you see step 4:
So the essence of the technique is, of course, that you use a semi-transparent half-tone undercoat to “beef up” the subsequently-applied golden silver stain overcoat.
Depending on the requirements of your design (which will themselves be driven by the specifics of the architectural setting), the core procedure can be elaborated in various ways.
- For instance, before the first firing, you can also chose to apply tone to the reverse of the glass.You can also apply and shade an oil-based tone as explained in Glass Painting Techniques & Secrets Part 2 – Oil
- And, after the first firing, you can also apply more tone and fire again before moving on to silver stain
- And, with silver stain, you can do a second application to build up strength of colour within specific regions
Here you see some silver stain we’ve “doubled up”:
Postscript on the design itself
Techniques are servants, not masters.
Here, this technique with silver stain was made to serve a design whose brief included these items (amongst others):
- The Fibonacci sequence 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 …
- The Malvern hills in Gloucestershire
- Local fruits and berries, and their leaves
- Furrowed earth
- Falling rain seen through bands of sunlight
It’s only the long, exhausting, questioning process of design which integrates these separate items within a single and particular design – a design which then says to anyone who really listens:
To call me into existence, I, the design, command you, the glass painter, to use these specific techniques …”
Truly, everything is determined by the design – or, to be precise, by the designs, for it is they who determine the servants that you and we must call upon in our work:
And what do you think of using silver stain in this way? – That’s the really important question!
Also, isn’t it interesting that so many books say to use water, not oil. Can it be that the authors’ have just accepted what they’ve been told? Shame!
Our advice is:
- Always push the boat out, always explore, always find the waters in which you alone can sail.
How much time and money are you wasting by using the wrong techniques with silver stain?
Get your own copy of “Silver Stain – How to Trace, Blend, Shade and Flood from a Reliable Batch that Lasts for Months” right here.
Also comes with many video demonstrations for you to watch and copy. Right here now.