There was a very specific reason I decided to learn stained glass, and I get to see it every day. I had been enjoying making mosaics for a few years, and stained glass looked to be much more complicated and to require many more tools and more space. (Turns out it isn't as complicated as I thought- and I have another post planned to talk about required tools and supplies.)
My husband and I had moved into our Baltimore City rowhouse (complete with a mosaic entry floor I made), and had a plain glass transom above both the front and backdoor. Many rowhouses in the city have a colorful stained glass transom with the house number in the glass above the door, and we wanted our house to have one too.
Off to Glass School
My husband suggested that I should take a class to learn how to make a transom with our house number for us - so a few months after moving in, I did. I found an introductory copper foil class at The Glass Key, which met one evening a week for 6 weeks. We completed a basic project in that time and gained the skills needed to do more projects.
As part of the class, I bought a basic toolkit and bought my grinder the night we learned to grind. I loved the class! We had "homework" each week to complete the step we had just learned so we could move on as a group together the next week. Now I'm the type of student who always does her homework, plus I was motivated to learn so I could work on my transom project. I'm not sure why all the other students were there, but let's just say they weren't as conscientious... the second week, I was made fun of by the others since I was the only one who completed the assignment! Sigh.
Here it is, my very first ever project, in all it's uneven-lines,, badly-cut, bumpy-lumpy-solder glory. This was our practice piece, and at each step, we'd make a mess out of this sad little square before continuing on to our 'real' project.
Here are the two 'real' projects I completed during the class. These patterns were both pretty easy for a beginner:
I don't really know what to DO with these projects now; they're not pretty enough to hang up (tons of flaws when you see them up close, the Koi one even has a broken piece where I let the hot soldering iron sit too long, and the heat caused a crack), but I don't want to get rid of them, so they sit in the basement wrapped up under my work table. I learned a ton making them though and had the confidence to continue on to my...
I couldn't decide what our transom design should be. I looked online at pictures of others that I liked, and ultimately drew a simple geometric design that I hoped wouldn't be too hard for my third real project.
I thought it wouldn't be hard, but it turns out I didn't plan it very well- my design involved having to cut half-circles into several pieces of glass, and this was not easy for a beginner! I kept breaking the glass in bad spots and having to start over again. I ended up ruining enough of the clear pieces that I had to go back to the store for more glass. .. but eventually, through a combination of careful cutting and more grinding than anyone should ever do, I got them done. However, the clear glass I was using was textured, and the texture had a orientation. But since I had to repeat so many of these pieces, somewhere along the way I screwed up and turned one 90 degrees. But I didn't notice until I was almost done, so it is still in there! You can't tell unless you get up close though.
The very last step was to install my framed piece in the transom. But I must have gotten a measurement wrong, and it was just barely too big! My husband ended up sanding down the zinc frame on the bottom where it would be least visible, and got it installed.
After I completed this project, I went on to make another transom window for our backdoor, and a variety of other panels for gifts or just for fun.
It's been 6 years since that first class, and I've acquired a bunch of new tools, have tons of ideas for future projects, and most excitingly, I am going to get into fusing and slumping soon!
Just last week, I found a used kiln on Craigslist and brought her home! I named her EsmereldaI need some supplies and we need to rearrange some things in the basement for her, but she'll soon be helping me out with a bunch of new and exciting projects. As an aside, she led to this conversation w/my husband:
K: You named your kiln?
Me: Of course, wouldn't you?
K: Um, no. The lathe is just called "the lathe".
Share your first project or why you decided to learn stained glass in the comments!