Growing up, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to try many different art techniques, but never stained glass. I've always been attracted to the idea of creating my own glass art. When I saw a community education class for a five week course, I signed up with enthusiasm.
The class was held every Monday evening at a local high school. I felt nostalgic every time I entered the room. It was very reminiscent of the art room at my high school where I spent as much time as possible, including half of each day my senior year.
Our instructor was great. She has been doing stained glass as a hobby for a very long time. She was also the most patient, calm and dryly optimistic person I have met.
The first night of class she handed out the pattern, two copies for each person. We cut one apart and kept one intact to remember what the pattern was supposed to look like. The entire class used the same pattern. She chose this one because of the variety of shapes we would learn to cut, and to keep it a manageable project for everyone.
Next, we all crowed around a box of glass sheets where we tried to select a color palette of glass that remotely went together. We traced the cut out shapes on the glass with a marker and then began cutting.
Learning how to cut glass didn't come very easily to me. Later on I learned that I chosen some of the most difficult type of glass to cut (typical.) To cut the glass, you use a small knife, scoring the glass with one firm stroke. Then you use a special pliers to apply pressure and snap the glass along your score (hopefully). There was much more chipping away at the glass to get a shape remotely close to the one I was aiming for than there probably should have been. In the end, it didn't have to be perfect because after all the glass shapes are cut out, you grind and smooth them out.
After all the shapes were cut and smooth, we wrapped the edges of them with a copper foil. The foil is what the solder adheres to, making the piece stick together. The soldering process was quick compared to the cutting and grinding phase.
Did I like the class? Definitely. Would I create more stained glass? Maybe. Let me state the obvious here...glass is sharp. Having one of the most important things in your toolbox be a box of band-aids isn't super appealing to me. Messing up in this medium means breaking your glass. There's not much you can do to fix it. I prefer a more malleable medium where you can work with it and get messy. Getting messy in stained glass means a lot of cuts and blood. However, when my piece was completed I really had something that I enjoyed, and most of my cuts were healed by then.