FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: Creating Stained Glass Windows
Q. What is the process used by Ancient Arts stained glass studio to create a stained glass or leaded glass window?
A. Well, first of all, the process used by Ancient Arts stained glass studio is undoubtedly very similar to the process that has been used for over a thousand years. That is why we call the studio Ancient Arts – stained glass is an ancient art. The first step in the creation of a stained glass window is the determination of the design.
Q. How is a stained glass window design from Ancient Arts created?
A. The stained glass design will usually start in one of a few different ways:
- The client may bring their own idea to Ancient Arts. If the idea is very concrete or already in picture form, we can use it as closely as possible within the limits of the stained glass medium.
- The client may look through our portfolio of completed works (see churches, cemeteries, commercial and residential) and select something which they like and which may be adapted to fit their size, their color preferences or according to the type of glass they like.
- The client may look through the portfolio and find an idea or a concept for a stained glass window which they are inspired to use as a jumping off point for their own original stained glass window design idea.
Q. What is the next step in creating a stained glass window?
A. We will take a precise measurement of the opening that will be the future home of the new stained glass window. Then we will create a pencil and paper drawing of your design.
Q. I understand that the client has had a discussion with you before the stained glass design has been drawn, but how does the client know that he or she will be happy with that stained glass design?
A. After the stained glass drawing is prepared, the client will be invited to look at it, before anything else is done. If any changes are desired, your request is most welcome and the drawing will be changed accordingly. The goal of Ancient Arts stained glass studio is to create a work of art that will be to your delight and satisfaction.
Q. How do we select the colors for our stained glass window?
A. At Ancient Arts stained glass studio we like to make the creative process a collaborative endeavor. After you approve the drawing, we will discuss color with you and find out what your color preferences are. We will show you samples of different colors of stained glass in our showroom window in natural light. You can also look at many different textures of clear glass and we will show you how you can mix the different types of glass for best artistic effect and for any kind of obscurity that you require.
Q. What is the next step?
A. After the stained glass or leaded glass drawing has been approved and the glass has been selected, it is almost time to cut the glass. But, before we cut the glass, we have to copy the stained glass design, or pattern, and cut out an individual piece of the manila paper copy as a template for each piece of glass.
Q. Is all of this stained glass work done by hand?
Q. Why is stained glass window work done by hand?
A. Stained glass is artwork. If it was produced by machines, it would be a product. It is the handmade quality that gives stained glass its authentic value and desirability. This is not just a quaint notion or nostalgia, it is a reality which is intrinsic to the appreciation of all traditional art forms, including stained glass.
Q. How are the pieces of stained glass held together?
A. The individual pieces of glass in a stained glass window are held together by lead. The lead is an extrusion, shaped like an 'H' and the glass fits into the channels of the 'H'. The cross piece of the 'H' is called the heart of the lead. It is the wall at the back of the channels that the glass fits into. Now we can resume our discussion of the patterns.
Q. Why did we digress to discuss the structure of the lead?
A. Because, when we prepare the paper templates we must allow for the heart of the lead. In order to do that we use a special 3-bladed pair of scissors called pattern shears. A small strip of paper is removed between all the patterns to allow for the heart of the lead. Each pattern is numbered, coded for color or type of glass and, if the glass has a visual direction or orientation, it is marked with an arrow.
Q. How do you cut the glass for a stained glass window?
A. At Ancient Arts stained glass studio the glass is all cut by hand using a Fletcher glass cutter very similar to what a homeowner would use to cut a piece of window glass. If necessary, we do a little precision glass trimming on an electric glass grinder.
Q. What is the next step in creating a stained glass window?
A. After all the glass is cut, the next step in creating a stained glass window is assembling all of the pieces of stained glass with the lead. The lead is very strong, but flexible enough to bend by hand to fit all the different shapes of glass. The lead can be cut with a lead knife or a pair of sharp diagonal pliers. During assembly, the pieces of lead and glass are temporarily held in place with horseshoe nails.
Q. Why are horseshoe nails used to temporarily hold together a stained glass window?
A. The reason horseshoe nails are used in stained glass work is because they can be easily wiggled out of the work bench. Also, the flat shaft can hold the lead tight without putting a dent in the lead as would happen with common nails.
Q. How is a stained glass window permanently held together?
A. A stained glass window is held together by soldering all the joints where the pieces of lead meet. Then the stained glass window is flipped over and soldered on the other side.
Q. What else has to be done to create a stained glass window?
A. After the soldering is finished and the soldering flux has been cleaned up, the stained glass window has to be puttied. We use a special stained glass putty that is brushed wet into the lead channels all around the glass.
Q. What is the purpose of the stained glass window putty?
A. The purpose of the stained glass putty is to seal the stained glass window and make it waterproof. The stained glass putty also strengthens the window. In the process of brushing away the excess putty we use whiting (powdered calcium carbonate). The brushing cleans the stained glass and darkens and beautifies the lead, giving the whole stained glass project a finished look.
Q. What does Ancient Arts stained glass studio do to make the finished stained glass window strong?
A. Ancient Arts Stained Glass Studio strongly recommends that past a certain size (for example, 2’ x 2’) one or more horizontal steel reinforcement bars should be soldered to the window. Reinforcement helps resist wind load and gravity and thus keeps stained glass windows in good condition for many decades if not more than a century.
Q. What is the quality of a stained glass window created by Ancient Arts stained glass studio?
A. First of all, we are using all of the finest materials: glass, lead, etc. Secondly, we go through all of the laborious steps reviewed above. All of this attention to detail ensures the quality of our stained glass creations.
Q. What is the most important part of the stained glass windows at Ancient Arts that creates the high level of quality art work?
A. The most important part is the care that goes into the design process of the stained glass windows. Over the past many years, since 1980, we have learned to listen carefully to our stained glass clients and take the time to figure out with them what will best suit their needs and desires.
Q. How long has Ancient Arts stained glass studio been in business?
A. Ancient Arts stained glass studio opened in 1980. Before that, Ancient Arts owner Mark Schoem started working with stained glass as a hobby and then started working as an apprentice for other stained glass studios in Southern California for several years.
Q. What do some of your clients say about the stained glass windows of Ancient Arts stained glass studio?
A. We don’t like to be immodest.
Q. Please, will you tell us anyway?
A. Well here are a few samples:
from a local architect:
“The glass work that you did for us at the Admiral Risty is spectacular. It's truly a masterpiece, one that you and I will be proud of for a long time to come.”
from a homeowner:
“The windows you created are just stunning, and I couldn’t be happier with them. Everyone who has seen them is just in awe. They are so beautiful…The windows are perfect, beautiful, gorgeous, MAGNIFICENT!”
from a Catholic priest:
“The beautiful windows of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Church will always remind me of you. They speak of your art and honesty."