Sunday, October 26, 2014


I enjoy making fused items, too. I made two plates for Their Majesties lunch at Fall Crown last weekend. I had an issue with the first one, and turned to the great people at Fused Glass Fanatics on Facebook.

The "not quite right" but serviceable plate, in the mold.

I was informed this is called "dog boning" and is the result of firing either too quickly or to too hot a temperature. After giving my firing schedule I was told the pre-set schedule I've been using goes about 100°, maybe 150°, too hot. I'm very glad to know this, and to know there is a term for it!

Purple Fret Scroll for Lady Kat the Green

A few shots from a quick scroll for Lady Kat the Green of House Dark Horse. She received a Purple Fret last weekend at Fall Crown.

Not happy with the soldering. I've been spending some time doing drills of the basics (cutting, soldering), so focus on them. I think at times I get sloppy and need to slow down, focus, and don't forget the basics when I'm thinking about flashed glasses and silver stains and so on!

Calligraphy done by THL Justice McArtain, who was trying calligraphy on glass for the first time. He had positive things to say about it and has agreed to write another scroll I have in mind.

This is also my first pattern made using Pattern Wizard. Photoshop always gives me fuzzy lines which I'm realizing hurts the accuracy of my cutting, no matter how well I think I can "see" the line anyway. I also keep doing these on short notice... all of the soldering for this scroll was done in a few hours at night after site setup and immediately before going to bed (with "sleep" the reward for finishing it... that doesn't encourage careful work, and I need to stop doing it!)

I was initially unhappy to use "gold" glass but I didn't have enough of my "lemon yellow" sheet left. I used it for the last purple fret suncatcher I made as largesse. In hindsight I think this looks infinitely better than the lemon yellow, and I love that texture (believe this is spectrum waterglass).

At the urging of friends I won't sit and do a critique of my work and the spots where I'm unhappy with the rushed and in-the-dark soldering. If you don't see them, thank you :). If you do, know that I do too :)

I also learned that this reign Their Majesties Cadogan and AnnMarie "escrowed" a copy of their signatures with the Dragon Signet for those making alternative scrolls. I think this is AWESOME. I didn't directly trace the signatures because even enlarged they appeared to have been written with the World's Smallest Calligraphy Nib so I tried to paint them in a similar hand. Seriously, if I couldn't see the varying line widths I'd swear it was a ballpoint pen, I want to see the nib used!

Lessons Learned
Don't solder or generally work on a 48-hour deadline, dang it.
Have GOOD lighting while soldering. Don't solder while your crash space-ees are trying to sleep.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Big Book Horde!

Got a few books in, gifts for my birthday.

A Book of Ornamental Glazing Quarries: Collected and Arranged from Ancient Examples
Sir Augustus Franks
AWESOME book. I was expecting mostly text, hopefully a few pictures. I was VERY pleasantly surprised to find out the book is approximately 30 pages of text and several hundred pages of full-sized quarries, ready to be traced. If you have an interest in painted quarries, get this book. The only way it could have been improved would be better information on each quarry (most just indicate the church of residence)

Stained Glass Tours In Spain And Flanders
Charles Sherrill
This was not what I was expecting. It seems like Spanish glass is not well documented, though I understand Painton Cowen is working on it. This book was a lot like a travelogue or journal, detailing a tour group through Spain. There were a few half-useful bits of information to be pulled out, but was not really relevant to my interests.

Italian Stained Glass Windows
Giuseppe Marchini
3/5... though I want to give it 5!
This is a beautiful book. It is a little light on text, but it does have good information. The bulk of my copy are "plates" featuring color photos that appear to have been glued onto their pages at publication. I'm not sure why that would have been done! There are also a number of beautiful pictures done on transparency, to hold up to a light. It is a beautiful way to display stained glass pictures.

Essays in the History of the York School of Glass Painting
John A Knowles
Honestly I've just opened this book so far, but I'm very excited and pleased. The book features a wealth of information on the "context" of stained glass in York. Prices, quality, design influencers and influencees. There are also plenty of direct illustrations of design elements. I was interested in this book because of my work on Circa 1200 at Pennsic with House Yew Bend, but it's great for anyone else who likes the context of glasswork as well as actual technique. Not a 5 because it's a bit of a niche, and not essential for technique, etc. but well worth it for anyone wanting more context!

Monday, September 15, 2014

ODH Scroll for Baroness Zafirah

I describe myself as the worst scribe in the Midrealm. Frankly, I don't self-identify as a scribe at all. I don't work on any kind of C&I in my free time or for enjoyment. I started taking scroll assignments in my capacity as a herald to assist the scribes when a court list came out on short notice or was larger than normal. I've made 3 or 4 paper scrolls, unhappy with any of them, before deciding that I should try and make a glass scroll and play to a strength while getting the job done.

Still, I never take assignments above the AoA level, I leave those for the practicing scribes. So when Estelle, my good friend and our chief Signet messaged me on Facebook offering a Dragon's Heart assignment I balked. Twice. She was insistent, I'd really want this one. I finally agreed and was not disappointed. But that left me needing to figure out how to make a scroll worthy of our highest service award beneath a peerage, one going to another dear friend.

I started sketching ideas on my train ride and sent her a picture. She immediately liked one of the designs so I worked on making it into a full cartoon.

It can save a lot of frustration to make the most difficult cuts first, so I started on the heart. Slowly removed the "dip" in tiny cuts until I didn't dare press my luck further:

I painted on the lines with some fear. I've made one other Dragon's Heart (a suncatcher, not a scroll) and the green glass turned from a translucent Hunter's green to an opaque green with translucent mottled spots. I had one sheet of glass and it pretty much had to work for me to be done on time.

A sheet of lined paper from my previous scroll was sitting behind the lightbox, and it came in very handy with this. Once dry I did some stickwork to clean up the lines, and fired it overnight. I was intensely relieved when the glass came out looking as it had going in.

I was going to leave it alone there, as with the other heart, but I wanted to make it stand out more and thought of shading/highlighting schemes. I hastily mixed some paint, applied a mat, and tried several schemes for highlighting either the entire piece or the individual scales.

The left half is shading the entire heart (though not as gradually as I planned). The right half shows a stippled highlight, scrubbed highlight, a stickwork edge, and combinations.

I then decided this mat was a LOT heavier than I desired and redid it with something more like what I wanted in the "real" shading. My consulting scribe said she thought the scrubbed scale-by-scale highlight looked best so I did more of that on the test piece.

That being settled, I ground and remixed my paint better, and did the real thing. An observation about scrubbing is below.

The red and clear fill-in for the "inner circle" was easy and routine. I found a Spectrum Baroque sheet that had faint tan streaks and chose it for the calligraphy border for interest, rather than use more of the Foxtail sheet from the inner circle. This time I mixed up some water-based paint, after speaking with Kirsten about it, rather than the clove oil paint before. I tried the dip pen, but it fought me again. I finally tried a tiny brush from the local hobby shop, intended for painting Warhammer miniatures. I discovered that a pretty good technique could be gotten from it. A painting bridge was extremely important to this work. The calligraphy isn't great, but this time I've come away believing that with a bit of practice I could make some respectable lettering. The water-based paint made half the difference as well.

As always, click to see larger versions.

I was very unhappy with the way it looked foiled. The gaps were rather large. I suspect it's because I use photoshop to make my own patterns at times, and the lines are fuzzy. I think I'm sabotaging certain custom patterns right from the start by not having crisp cutting lines. I eventually quit trying to evenly space the pieces, and instead I pulled them closer to the center. This caused heavier lines and larger gaps between the heart and the calligraphy border, but at that point it looked symmetrical and pleasing to the eye, at least I felt so.

As the woman who taught me stained glass once remarked, "black [patina] hides all manner of sins" and once the roundel was completed I was much less upset with the finished product.

Lessons Learned
1) Water based paint
    After I made the Acorn scroll Kirsten mentioned she does her calligraphy with water-based paint for easier clean-up. I often remark that glass is a forgiving art for a shaky non-artist like myself because we can clean our lines up a fair bit. I don't have a before picture of the calligraphy for a reason, scribes would faint. I intend to use water-based paint to "calligle" going forward. I'm next going to try it with a "kistka" tool used in pysanky painting, another Kirsten recommendation.

2) Mixing from the edge.
    It's very difficult to keep a pallete of paint well-mixed with a tiny brush while writing. I found if I started aiming for the edge of the puddle it was easier. In this picture you can see the paint separating (It is my understanding the "grey" water is the gum arabic separating out). You'll notice the edges remain black. I started quickly mixing that small area when loading my brush. I can't be sure if this actually means I got very little gum into my paint, but I had no problems getting it to hold the glass until firing. 

3) Scrubbing
     I think I've remarked before that I love the look a hog bristle scrubber leaves on paint. There can be tiny lines left behind that look rather like a carved blockprint. It's an imperfection that is beautiful to me, and there are very few of those in this world. I started off using Q-tips to scrub out paint but that got messy. I switched to a bristle brush and enjoyed the look much better. The line between shading and highlighting is not as crisp and sharp but looks less amateurish to me. Unfortunately to get that effect I was very hard on the brushes, bending the bristles at the ferrule in a way you would never do a loved paintbrush.

4) Matting
     Paint does lighten-up by 20-25% after firing. The lighter matting paint I put down disappears in strong light. I took some pictures in my window, but direct light on a clear sunny day made the shading disappear totally. A cloudy day should show it as I intended, being similar to my lightbox. A darker mat (though not as dark as my first practice!) may have been better.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Hoard: Stained Glass Primer Volumes 1 and 2

While teaching "Glass Cutting - All Levels" with Molly at Pennsic, she mentioned two books she recommends for new glass artists, different from the one I usually recommend. I grabbed them this week to look over.

Stained Glass Primer (Vol 1): The Basic Skills
Peter Mollica
All around an excellent book, in my opinion. As Molly had told our students, it IS dated. He described, at depth, the creation of leaded panels, and gives an overview of copper foil technique. His glossary is worth a read in it's own right. The dated portions are the tools and chemistry (well, and the typewritten text); he uses tools that are very traditional, and I think most people learning today use newer versions (lead cutting pliers instead of a lead knife, for example). He also references oleic acid as a flux, which works fine but is greasy and hard to clean up. More modern chemistry provides fluxes that are much easier to clean. The technique was all good, however! I appreciate the fact that he prefaces the book with "There are many alternatives, but this is what works for me" in essence. A skinny but packed book, I read it in under an hour.

Stained Glass Primer (Vol. 2): Advanced Skills and Annotated Bibliography
Peter Mollica
Also an excellent book. This one covers painting and staining heavily (Me being me, I noticed his date for the discovery of silver stain was 100+ years late. Research is a LOT easier for me today than it was for him in the 70s though!). He covers actually installing your window, which I've never seen before and, frankly, has always been a mystery for me. I've never tried to fit an existing embrasure because I had no idea how to do it and no one seems to cover it. He also discusses reinforcing, saddlebars, etc that is of definite interest to a SCAdian glassworker. He gives a recipe for easel wax but I'm not going anywhere near it...

He has some interesting books in his bibliography. I look forward to ordering some of them, too! Have to make Amazon Prime worth it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Texture...texture... the word even feels funny

I am a heavily color-focused person.

I love cathedral glass. It's what I work with 99% of the time. Opalescents lack something to me... it's almost like they are trying to deny their translucent, glassy nature. Don't get me wrong, they are beautiful, and I've spent considerable time drooling over Tiffany-era panels and lamps. But it isn't what inspires me and I rarely feel called to work with those glasses. Though, when I do, Youghiogheny cuts SO well for me. I really CAN appreciate them.

I recently made a small panel for my office, the first time in 8 years I've made a glass object for myself and actually kept it. I was focused, as I often am, on the colors. After staring at it for a few weeks I discovered some beautiful contrasts in the textures that I wish I could tell you were a conscious effort.

This is one vertical quarter of the Flag of the City of Chicago. The blue and red are two colors in the same texture. I'm not sure who makes it, but I intend to find out because it has a beautiful hammered effect in the sunlight.

I had originally chosen a Baroque clear/white glass for the white portions of the flag, because I was focused on the white content without wanting to use a truly opaque glass. I ended up not having enough and switched to a sheet of glue chip I had handy. After staring at it I'm finding that from almost any angle the dense glue chipping has an excellent "white" appearance that I discounted. The contrast between the glue chipping and the "hammered" blue and red gives a beautiful layered effect I hadn't intentionally designed into the panel.

I am trying to take this as a lesson for my modern work, to start giving texture the attention it is due, and not just the colors.

Quick Update (Post-Pennsic)

Had a great time teaching at Pennsic. I'm still trying to clean up class notes before I send them out. I don't want to wait too much longer, however, before something happens and the list of e-mails is destroyed.

Between my own classes and co-teaching with Lady Moll I had seven classes (six glass), and two demo days. It was a busy war!

I've posted an update to my "A&S 50 challenge accepted" post, showing two items that have since been completed and an update to my master page for my A&S 50 challenge listing the projects so far.

I have a couple new books to review, but I will wait until tomorrow after I finish the one.

I'm signed up to teach at Fall Rum and Rendezvous at the Bridge. I'm also hoping to do an A&S 50 display for the first time, at Fall Crown. That's assuming my duties as autocrat let me slip away for 5 minutes to set up my display!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Device of Konstantia Kaloethina

I don't believe I ever posted this here. I take part in the Nobelese Largesse artisan swap meets, coordinated on Facebook. This was the item I created for Konstantia Kaloethina, "Azure, a standing seraph argent, a bordure gyronny argent and sable."

I decided to try enamels, and didn't get it as even as I would have liked (though the subtle texture of the glass may have inhibited this as well). This was better a task for flashed glass, but the swap limits the expense of items that can be used. The border, black and white/silver, is clear and dark smokey-colored glass.

I'm particularly proud of the seraph, because I did it entirely by hand. I didn't trace anything or use a visual reference, I just pulled to mind a seraphim and started scrubbing it out.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Grozing iron fun

Kendrick (THL Kendrick Cameron) made me two awesome grozing irons for my glass work. One is going to Lady Moll and I'm keeping the other, and hopefully we will demonstrate them during our glass cutting class at Pennsic.

I have previously written of the grozing iron I made, poorly, for A&S work. To compare, this one is MUCH easier, almost effortless to use. My "dremel" iron was much narrower and took more wrist force to chew into the glass. This is proper stock with a wider gripping face and more weight. I also noticed this generates a fair cloud of glass dust! Use under proper ventilation, outdoors, and/or wearing an appropriately-rated respirator!!

A quick video of me using my grozing iron:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

SCA A&S 50 Challenge: Stained Glass Heraldry

1 - The Populace Badge of the Middle Kingdom

2 - Memorial Panel for Bryan (In progress)

 3 - Badge of THL Estelle de la Mer

4 - Cross Pattee (The badge of the Knight's Templar)

 5 - Populace Badge, Barony of White Waters, Lantern

6 - Roundel of the Arms of the Barony of White Waters

7 - Device of Alexander Adelbrecht von Markelingen

8 - House Shadow Dragon suncatcher

 9 - Vickie's device
10 - My device
11 - Ayreton Roundel
12 - Baroness' device
13 - Baroness' husband's device maybe
14 - Aggie's device
15 - Eadric's device
16 - Ed's device

17 - Dayle's device?
18 - Purple Fret suncatcher

19 - Estelle de la Mer Scarab Badge
20 - Dragon's heart
21 - Konrad
22 - Calybrid?
23 - Dougale
24 - N. Oaken Heraldic Display Prize - Tudor Rose Suncatcher
25 - Dr Best
26 - Savage Badge Plates
27 - Device of Konstantia Kaloethina

28 - Silver Acorn Scroll (The award badge is heraldry)
29-  Lilith Northwode

30 - Device of Mistress Elena de Vexin
31 - Device of Mistress Kirsten Thorsteinsdottir
32 - Chicago Star*

33 - ODH Scroll for Zafirah of the White Waters, Baroness White Waters

34 - Master Gailen Alric Ros
35 - Laurel Scroll for Mistress Estelle de la Mer
36 - Badge of Jean-Yves de Chierbourg
37 - Barony of Ayreton Populace Badges

38 - Barony of Shattered Crystal
39 - Archery Pheon Prizes

40 - Badge of Baroness GenRose de Glendalough 
41 - Badge or Device of Quenild of Mercia
42 - Arms of Mistress Gianetta Andreini da Vicenza
43 - Baroness Laurencia of Carlisle, OL
44 - Kendrick Cameron
45 - Petrona!
46 - Kriemhilt
47 - Catarina
48 - Crespine de la Vallee
49 - Purple Fret Scroll for Kat the Green
50 - Midrealm Plates/Bowls

* I rendered a Chicago Star in stained glass for my office. It's purely modern both in subject and construction. Still, it IS stained glass heraldry. I'm including it in the listing unless I reach 50 and have the time to substitute something I feel is more appropriate.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Homebrew Lightbox

I've been asked a few times about building lightboxes. For ease of reference I'm putting my directions here. They tend to be pricey, in my experience, but I built mine cheaply in a college dorm and have never felt the need to upgrade (the want, yes, the need? No.)

It's not pretty but it IS strong enough for me to lean on the surface while I work and portable enough for me to haul to events and classes!

Two 1"x6"x4' "standard" boards - 3.49 each.
3-4 "24"x30" Clear Glass Sheet" -
1 2" aluminum corner bracket (Optional - I use it for aligning/holding the surface)
1 Sheet of plexiglass (lexan, etc).
1+ fluorescent "kitchen light" at Walmart (I use two 12" and 1 18", models that chain off one another)
1 white garbage bag
Mirror shards/aluminum foil (Optional)

Cut, or have your lumber yard cut, the two boards in half so you have 4 boards of 2' length. Assemble them into a box (I chose a "pinwheel" format where the end of one board butts the side of another). Once sturdy, if desired attach the corner bracket to one corner for aligning the surface. Place aluminum foil or mirror pieces along the bottom to reflect light, if desired. Place the light(s) inside the box and run the cord under the edge to your wall outlet. Place one glass sheet on the top. Cover with a garbage bag (can be folded in half or cut open depending on how bright you need). Place the rest of the glass on top, then the plexiglass sheet. The glass provides strength and the plexiglass protection (for all those times your glasscutter goes right off the edge of the piece you are working). Turn on the lights and you are ready to go!

Because of the location of my outlets beneath and behind my work benches, I bought a remote controlled power strip (~$15 I think) at Menards. This lets me turn on my lightbox (and by extension my grinder and soldering iron) without climbing around on the floor beneath my work benches. You know, where all the glass dust and shards fall. I strongly recommend them!

[Permission to reprint is granted to any/all SCA publications, physical or digital, with minor editing as long as attribution is given and a copy sent to me! For Facebook, etc, please link here rather than reposting.]

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Stained Glass Scroll

I've seen a few stained glass award scrolls in recent years. Each one has been for a peerage. A recent court list came out shortly before the event and, feeling it my duty, I offered to take an assignment to help out. While thinking about the scroll design I wondered why I, the self-declared "Worst Scribe in the Midrealm" don't ever try and play to my strengths. There is no reason why a stained glass scroll could not be for a lower award, and my assignment was for an Award of the Silver Acorn (Midrealm Youth A&S award). A bit of inspiration struck me. Later, a new bit of inspiration struck me.

I manually cut out an 8" circle of clear glass. Using the knowledge Lady Moll had given me last Pennsic, I prepared a heavy matt and applied it to most of the disk. I blended it as even as I could and let it dry.

Once it dried, I laid it directly on my cartoon. Normally my patterns go beneath a thing sheet of plexiglass on my lightbox, however I've learned that even a little distance weakens the image. Placing the glass directly on the paper gives me as clear an image as possible through the matting. I grabbed a stick (specifically a bamboo skewer, I buy them 100 at a time at Walmart) and traced the outline of the white spaces.

When I mixed my matting paint I intentionally went heavy on the gum arabic. I knew I would be handling this a lot and wanted the paint to have solid grip. Unfortunately I then discovered my scrubs couldn't remove the paint. I had to spent between 90 minutes and 2 hours with my skewer in hand, scraping out the spaces. OUCH.

Once I was happy with the white space, I fired it. Fortunately it fired well! Everything looked good, so I began the part that I feared the most: the calligraphy.

I will reiterate, I am not much of a scribe. I can bumble my way through some Carolingian Miniscule or the old gothic hand they taught us in middle school art class. It's not polished and I don't use a dip pen or period inks. I only take assignments when it's an emergency (large lists/short time, etc). I don't TRY and put my terrible handwriting out into this world. Does this seem like a lot of dithering? It is, and I hope to some day be remembered for my glass work, not my scribal arts. Please forgive the atrocity you are about to witness.

Parents, cover your children's eyes. Children, get a parent who will cover your eyes.

At least Their Majesties can rest easy I won't make a profession out of forging their signatures! I suspect Estelle will tell me it's not that bad, etc etc. 

Now, for the calligraphy. I've tried in the past preparing standard water-based tracing paint and a square-shaped brush. I couldn't get anything resembling a good result. I consulted Elskus, as I often do when stumped. Around page 65 of my edition he describes sketching on glass with metal pens. I realized that I should be able to repurpose this method for calligraphy. My scribal betters may be momentarily pleased, for once I grabbed my metal-nibbed dip pen!

I put a small pile of black vitreous paint on my palette and added just enough clove oil to grind and start working the paint into a paste. Once it was well incorporated I added more clove oil until it got near the consistency of black india ink. Elskus is very clear that it must be slightly thicker than *black* india ink. Fortunately at the bottom of my scribal box I had a vial of it for reference. 

Once the clove oil ink was ready I put it into a narrow container (a plastic sake cup, specifically) into which I could dip my pen. I had a piece of paper with lines on it to place under the glass as a guide. I then went to it.

Clove oil does not spread, and is considered a "non-drying" oil. It will dry when heated, however. 

Once the second firing was finished, I applied a much lighter matt with the same paint for shading. For accents I decided to apply some silver stain to the little circles. One last firing and it is complete.

The seal was created in polymer clay by our Dragon Signet. It is intended to be hung from a hole in the scroll, however I opted to use two small soldered jump rings. My original plan was to drill the holes in the glass first, to ensure it would be safe. I forgot and jumped straight into the painting, and didn't want to risk breaking the glass at this point. I drilled one hole for the hanging jump ring. I worked some chain into it and soldered it closed.

Lessons Learned

It is essential to get the paint ground as well as possible. My palettes aren't rough enough and I didn't spend enough time grinding the paint. This lent a certain grittiness to it that made it occasionally difficult to write with. It's hard to get rough palettes without sandblasting gear, however. Hopefully I'll have that remedied before Pennsic.

I had issues with my dip pen and the little reservoir clip. Near the end I just popped it off and dipped more frequently.

Most everyone who saw it asked me why I had the "paint smear" the "smudges" or in one rare case "the shading." The 3D effect was not immediately obvious to anyone who saw the scroll. I will need to keep that in mind in the future. This was my cartoon:

You must learn to love clove oil (or aniseed oil, an alternative Elskus mentions), because you will smell it for hours, days, etc. Over this past weekend Mistress Kirsten said water-based paint will work just fine for this purpose, which would be MUCH easier to clean and correct, though at this point I might miss the clove smell!

Use a guide for scratching out the circles, they will look much smoother!

Jump rings get hot INCREDIBLY Fast. I have a ring-shaped burn on my left index finger after barely touching the ring with the soldering iron. I wonder if they are plated copper?

It was nerve wracking to take the scroll back, after the recipient and seen and held it, and tear it apart. I was afraid the stain would go wrong, the glass shatter, the drill crack it, etc etc etc. I only had a few days to make this happen, in the future I want to make sure it is completely done before it is turned in before court. The stress is not good!