The design process itself is quite complex. Apart from arriving at an overall image that meets the client’s interests, tastes and colour scheme, account has to be taken of available light, structural considerations (e.g. size, framing and strengthening of panels), safety factors and building control legislation as well as the workability of the design with the chosen materials.
Once the overall design has been decided on, a full-sized, detailed drawing (known as a cartoon) is made, showing the lead or seam widths and any details to be painted or etched onto the pieces of glass once they have been cut. A second drawing or ‘cut-line’ is made to enable precise cutting of the glass pieces.
The appropriate glass is then selected and cut by hand. This stage is painstaking as even quite small errors will be multiplied as the panel is built up. If required, the pieces are then etched or painted and fired.
This in itself can involve various stages. First of all, line work ‘tracing’ is painted on and fired to fuse it to the surface. Then a coat of shade paint is added and worked smooth or stippled. When dry, the paint is then removed using various implements including stiff brushes, sticks and needles to create shading, textures and highlights in reverse order to conventional painting. The pieces are fired again and the process repeated to build up the design as required. Finally, any coloured enamels or yellow/amber stains are added and fired at a lower temperature.
The process of assembling and fixing the glass then begins. In a copper foil project, all the edges have to be carefully covered with self adhesive foil and coated in flux prior to solder being run along the seams on both sides. After cleaning, a substance is brushed on to give a patina and the project is given a final, thorough clean. In a leaded panel, first a board has to be prepared with 2 battens to hold the pieces securely as the panel is built up. The lead cames are cut to length and the glass fitted snugly into the channels. Finally, the last border leads are put in place and the joints cleaned and fluxed with tallow prior to soldering on both sides. The finished panels are then strengthened and sealed, with special lead cement being forced into the gaps between the lead and glass. This is cleaned up with a pointed implement and by the stiff brushing of chalk dust over the surface, which also helps to blacken the lead.