A practical tale of silver stain
No, I haven’t forgotten how, a while ago, I promised you the low-down on the techniques we used to silver stain this gorgeous window on the left.
OK, maybe it’s more than a while, but good things come to those who wait …
The client’s brief was, his window had to have the ‘”Wow!” effect’.
And the ‘”Wow!” effect’ was what our client got.
If you’re interested in the story of its design, then see here now – and just be sure to come back afterwards to learn how it was done.
Here now are the techniques.
There’s nothing magical.
But the effects you can achieve are extraordinary.
Glass is your canvas – sometimes it’s coloured, sometimes it isn’t: sometimes it’s textured, sometimes it isn’t. Always, the glass must support your work – and the big point is, this is absolutely not a partnership of equals: after all, if someone looks at your painted window and comments on the glass, that’s a real pity. So really, you choose the glass which best allows your planned techniques to “sing” as the design requires – because, when your techniques are triumphant in this way, it’s not the glass which people see, but what’s been done with it, which is how you want the tale to end.
This is a tricky balancing act because of course the glass can either be too weak or strong. If it’s too weak, you end up doing more work than necessary, and it’s very easy to go too far. If the glass is too strong, then you the glass painter end up fighting it, shouting over it (so to speak) in order to make your own voice heard. So like I say, choosing glass is tricky.
And yes, it’s very easy to be led astray by colour.
Indeed, colour is a bit like the sirens which Odysseus heard – you remember that story? These sirens were enchantresses. They sat on dangerous rocks and sang bewitching melodies. When passing sailors heard the sirens’ song, desire drove them mad – they wrecked their ships upon the rocks, and the sirens dragged them to a watery grave. But wily Odysseus was determined to hear the sirens’ song and live. So he blocked his sailors’ ears with wax and had himself lashed to the mast, to prevent him diving overboard.
Now here’s the point. You, the glass painter, when you choose your glass, are like Odysseus listening to the sirens: you must experience colour’s full seduction, yet you must also control yourself and allow wise judgement to prevail. Tricky! – But hey! that’s your job.
You just look at the design, consider the techniques you plan to use, then choose the glass accordingly – and very, very carefully.
So you remember the coloured sketch which David made:
Here’s the glass we chose for section 2 – it’s hand-made, streaky amber:
What we did was cut this glass so the streaks coincided with the areas we planned to shade with silver stain.
That’s how we used the glass to support our work: we made sure that our work appropriately controlled and mastered the underlying colour, and I’ll take you through the steps in just a moment.
For now, and for the record (though I’ll leave their techniques on one side for now), for section 1 we used a darker streaky amber which also contained some gold-pink (so called because the pink colour is literally derived from gold, which means it’s kind of pricey). For section 3 we used a streaky red (and acid-etched, amongst other things).
So here’s the cut glass with nothing done to it yet. That’s why it all looks thin, washed out and insubstantial:
But it’s section 2 I want to focus on right now.
And this is what we did.
First we covered the whole surface of each piece of glass with a light coat of Lavender oil. You just sprinkle it with oil, then use a wide brush to spread it evenly:
Sometimes you also need to use a badger and blend it smooth, sometimes you don’t. Only you can be the judge of that by checking there’s just a thin film of oil over the entire surface of the glass.
Next, we used silver stain plus Sandalwood Amyris, thinned with just a little Lavender. (The DVDs show you exactly how this is done.) And we applied this thickish stain wherever the “golden shadows” were meant to fall:
Then it’s just a question of blending stain and undercoat together …
… – until you create the gentle shapes and shadows you want:
And yes – it’s the undercoat of neat Lavender oil which allows you to soften and shade your silver stain like this.
Then you fire the glass – and that’s it.
There you have it. Yes, simple steps - undercoat: stain: blend – but magnificent effects. Here I’m absolutely not talking about the particular window which we made (although I myself like it very much). I just want you to get the message how you can use these same steps to enrich your very own work:
Now it’s your turn. I hope you adapt these techniques and use them in your own way. If you need more information about mixing and using silver stain, then sign up for the free newsletter.