Stained Glass is a craft and art form that is steeped in a long history, with its earliest usage being dated back to the Ancient Romans and Egyptians. During these times small items such as jewellery were made from coloured glass. These items were seen to be of high value and were most often owned by those in the higher classes. In England the most common and earliest forms of stained glass came in the form of the windows that were created in churches and monasteries. Some of the earliest examples in the country dating back to the 7th Century and many churches still contain stained glass windows today.
The popularity of stained glass rose in medieval times and as more people practiced this art form the creation of the windows became much more sophisticated. One example of the manufacture of stained glass in Europe is Chartres in France. They produced stained glass of the highest quality, and the Cathedral in Chartres contains a spectacular rose window with an intricate glass design. During this time the designs were much more gothic in their aesthetic. This slowly moved over to a more classical design. Chartres is now home to one of the oldest stained-glass companies in the world and they are inspiration for a number of modern artists and crafters who also use stained glass in their creations.
During the reformation period, stained glass windows were smashed, and, in their place, plain glass was erected. This led to a loss of a number of traditional methods of staining glass that would not reappear until the 19th Century. In this period there was a return to gothic styles and the use of stained-glass windows dramatically increased once more in popularity.
In the 1930s another French artist, Jean Crotti wanted to bring more light into his artwork and he started to experiment with glass. He went on to develop gemmail or gemmaux which using layers of coloured glass fragments fused together, not with with lead, like they had been in past, but instead with a clear glue like substance. This led to an incredible number of wonderful pictures to be created using this technique. It is a method that has been used to create new versions of famous painters works, such as Braque and Picasso.
One of the many reason that stained glass artists are so special is down to the way in which the glass is created and moulded. In order to create the final item, a design must first be established. This is where an artist will put their concept on paper. It may be a rough sketch of how they want to individual elements of the stained glass to be arranged, or it could be a drawing or a painting that is created and then reimagined in glass. These larger images are known as ‘cartoons’.
These ‘cartoons’ are then turned into a scaled outline of the final image. This allows the artist to use the lines to create the cutline that is a template for the design. Lead or copper can be used to draw lines between the sections if this is the look that is hoped for. In other situations, the different coloured elements will be placed next to one another and then glued together in the gemmail method, into one continuous image. This creates for a softer, clearer image and is much like the way in which suncatchers are created.
Once the cutline has been created it is placed on a flat surface and the pieces of coloured glass are placed on top of it. These pieces are arranged to create final image. If the glass is being cut a steel wheel or diamond tool will be used to carefully cut the glass to its desired size and shape. There are instances where the artist will blow their own glass to be used in their designs. This is much more common in items that are made in 3D. If the image being created is in a flat design, lead or copper strips are placed around the edges of image. This helps to hold the glass pieces in place. The metal is then soldered together to make a solid edge. The resulting window or image is now ready to be hung.
As well as traditional stained-glass windows and artwork images, it is also possible to use stained glass to create a number of other items such as wall tiles, mosaic items, even items created using a variety of glass pebbles. In some cases, these can be as small as a mug coaster, or they can be as large as a sculpture. The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to using glass as an art form.
Legal Requirements for selling handmade crafts such as Stained Glass
Stained glass is such a unique art form that takes a great deal of skill, time and patience and it is one of the reasons that artists that work with this medium are so highly thought of. Depending on the size and the type of the items that are made an artist can easily sell their creations through a number of different channels. It is of course incredibly important that when looking to sell items such as this that you ensure you are aware of any legal requirements for selling handmade crafts. This may include disclosing the materials that are used in your creations, any after care requirements and clearly labelling your items as home décor. Other factors of course include ensuring that you have the right insurance cover in place and that you have any safety certificates in place.