Friday, February 4, 2011

Where Has All the Winter Gone?

I realize this is going to sound very odd coming from me, a person living in the Great White North, but Winter is going by much too quickly.  I can't believe the first week of February is almost over already.  Winter is the time we put the garden to bed under six feet of snow and hibernate indoors and work on our stained glass projects.  When it's 90 degrees out in the summertime and I'm sweating and swatting mosquitoes, I dream of winter and working on our stained glass projects.  I'm running out of winter.

I have a confession to make again...(no it's not about football) I have had a lifelong struggle with depression and stained glass is such an uplifting thing for me, I can have flowers all year long to look at, even if they're glass.  Stained glass is a hobby and a passion of mine that I'll never fully master, and it scares me at times.  Not in a creepy way, like the too-long-winter-and-cabin-fever-gone-wrong horror flick 'The Shining', remember Jack Nicholson in that movie??  "Here's Johnny!"  

My fears are more like the movie 'Borat'-like, "You will never get this!" type of taunt.  (Speaking of Borat, I went to see the movie with a good friend (who is very proper) when it came out; we originally thought it was a legitimate documentary about a reporter from Kazakhstan coming to America to learn about our culture, only to find out it, ah, wasn't about that at all, ahem....and please don't judge me harshly, but I laughed as much as I squirmed in my theater seat.  Parts of that movie were hilarious and the other parts, were, well, best covered up with a whole lot more clothing!)

Ok, you had to see the two movies to know what I'm talking about...but sometimes I feel like I'll never truly 'get' the art of stained glass.  Being a procrastinator by nature, it's easy to let indecision take over and render me nearly useless when it comes to progress on a project.  It's hard to decide if the flower I've cut out is the 'right' shade, or should it be darker or lighter?  Impressionistic or realistic?   That's why deadlines are so important for me to have.  When I have a deadline facing me, by golly, I can usually get a job done with at least fifteen minutes to spare.

We had a deadline last weekend and we got everything done in time, but just barely.  We belong to a group called the 'Association of Stained Glass Lamp Artists' (aka as ASGLA) and every year they publish a calendar. Members are encouraged to submit any photos of lamps they have created for voting and possible inclusion in the coming year's calendar by February 1st.  All you have to do is build a stained glass lamp, take a good picture of it and email the picture to ASGLA.  They put all the pictures they receive (usually well over 150) on their website and then for a week or two the entire membership has the opportunity to vote on what lamps they think should be in the calendar. It's not a competition, it's an exhibition, and to quote David Letterman, "Please, no wagering."  

The first year we joined ASGLA was 2008, and we submitted our first lamp picture with trepidation.  You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you do something a little out of your comfort zone for the first time?   I have heard hopeful authors say the same thing about the books they have written and how it was almost like sending a child out into the big, bad world all alone when they sent their manuscript to be read by professional publishers.  Rejection letters are painful.

The first  picture we sent out was the first lamp we ever made, the 18" Peony. 

 And, beginner's luck, the lamp was picked for a spot in the 2009 calendar.  It was so exciting when that letter came, I felt like I'd done something right for once.  'You like me, you really like me!'  (Who said that, was it Sally Field?)  Well, whoever said it, I felt the same way.  Giddy.  It wasn't a big spot, to be sure, just a small picture in the beginning pages of the calendar, but, hey, we were in there. 

Then doubt crept in.  What about the next year?  We sent in the 20" Waterlily next, and waited.  Once again, we made it into the 2010 calendar with this, our second lamp:

 Ok, we made it twice.  Would our luck hold out for a third time?  Last year we submitted the 28" Flowering Bouquet and sigh, it didn't get selected.  (I couldn't find a full picture of the lamp, this is just a section of it:
Epic Fail: The Flowering Bouquet, shot down in a blaze of glory.
  We had such a hard time photographing that lamp; you would think taking a picture of an inanimate object wouldn't be so tough, but it is an awful chore to get the lighting right and the borders lit up and no flowers overexposed or no glare on the glass, on and on.  I know we took more than 300 pictures of the Flowering Bouquet before we had one we thought was good enough to submit.  We tried again this year and sent in yet another picture of this lamp lit a little bit better than last year.  Try, try again, right?

Along with the Flowering Bouquet lamp, in 2010 we also sent in a picture of our Iris shade as an afterthought.  We were surprised when the letter came letting us know it was selected for the 2011 calendar.  

Iris shade
The February 1st deadline is the same every year and every year we scramble to have our pictures ready for submission.  Along with the lamp pictures, ASGLA also offers a chance for members to craft a small 6" x 6" panel of a pre-chosen design for their annual stained glass Quilt Project.  A pattern is sent out in the newsletter and if you want, you can make a quilt panel and send it to ASGLA and they will include it in their Stained Glass Quilt.  Members typically make dozens of little quilt squares and they are all put together into one big quilt which is framed beautifully and displayed at various public locations and exhibitions.  We have made three quilt panels so far, and have enjoyed contributing to this fun project.

In 2010, the Parrot Quilt:
And in 2011, the Lunette Quilt:

My rendition of the 'Lunette'

And Carl's take on the color scheme (anything goes,  you're only asked to use your imagination:

This year, for some reason, we didn't get started on the 2012 Quilt Square until the last week in January.  Of course. Why start any earlier?  In my defense though, being a newly-inducted Sleep Apnea Hosehead has taken up a whole bunch of my time this winter.  It ain't easy to sleep anymore and I had to do a lot of research online to find some help.  (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

Here's the process of making a quilt square---ASGLA's 2012 quilt  theme is a section of Louis Comfort Tiffany's Grape Lamp:

First, take the pattern and make one Mylar copy (a heavy, waterproof plastic) and cut out each individual pattern  piece carefully with a scissors, leaving just a touch of the black border on each one.  Place the Mylar pieces back on the original pattern.

Make three paper copies of the original pattern:
On one copy, cut out all the sections that represent leaves, on the next one, all the sections that represent grapes and on the last, the background, like this copy, below, with the background cut out: 
I now have a set of 'windows' I can use to place on top of my glass choices on my homemade light table to aid in glass selection.  Without the window technique (thank you to Carol Conti, the founder of ASGLA for the tutorial!) selecting glass would be much more difficult.  This is an ingenious way to 'find' flowers and leaves in a sheet of glass.

Here are the Mylar pattern pieces glued to the glass being used for the background before cutting.  We use Mylar because it is tough and waterproof, standing up to the water from the glass grinding process.
Carl, grinding glass

I didn't take any pictures of the cutting process, maybe next time..but here's what it looked like in natural light after it was all cut out:

And here it is, lit from behind on the light table:

The next job is to wrap copper foil around each piece (approximately 70 pieces) and then solder it and clean up the panel and wrap it carefully, put it in a box and send it on it's merry way to Washington State and the home of ASGLA where the next time we see it will be in the 2012 quilt with all the other member's submissions!  (We are given a complimentary copy of the 'Lamps for All Seasons' calendar for each quilt square sent in, too, isn't that nice?)

The background turned out a bit darker than I thought it would, I hope it's ok.  We managed to get the quilt square in the mail last week Saturday (Jan. 30) and it made it to Washington by February 1st...phew....cutting it close.

As soon as the square was in the mail, we turned our next attention to the dreaded photography session and our hopeful 2012 lamp submissions.  I should have taken pictures of what we go through to photograph these lamps, it's a circus.  We push the dining room table over to the window and hang up a big hunk of gray fabric (gray is a neutral color) and then bring out every light we own and hang them from precarious perches trying to get the lamp to show it's true colors.  We're up on dining room chairs and down on the floor, holding lightbulbs underneath the lamp and trying not to have our arms show, and after about 500 pictures a piece (thank goodness for digital photography!) we argue incessantly over which one is the 'best' one and finally settle on THE one and email the resulting photo in to ASGLA and sit back and wait for a month or two to hear if any of our efforts were successful.  Phew.  It sounds easier than it is; I'd rather place another coupla tons of rock than photograph the lamps, it's nerve-wracking.

The process of photographing a lamp, not very glamorous.
As I said earlier, we retook the picture of the Flowering Bouquet and also sent in the Poinsettia lamp we made last winter. 
Second time around...Flowering Bouquet...but now the picture looks too dark, funny, it didn't look like that when we picked it out.......oh, well...
and here's our submission for the Poinsettia:
This one's dark, too.....!  Oh, well, again.

Oh, well, for the third time......we tried.  I managed to send the pictures on January 31 just before midnight.  We made the deadline.  Barely.

  Our lampmaking is a hobby that Carl, Joel and I really enjoy.  Carl and Joel are instrumental in cutting and grinding and fitting and soldering....and I do work on those chores, too, but when it comes to color selection, if it's good or bad, that's my department and mine alone.  If it doesn't work, I'm to blame.  Carl is color-blind and Joel leaves it up to me and that's where I have so much to learn about shadows and light and art.  With each new lamp I start, I think, 'This time I'll get it right."

I'm not a true perfectionist (obviously, ha) which is a good thing, because along with procrastination, if I was, I'd never get any lamps built at all.

Perfectionism can be paralyzing.

Procrastination is annoying.

Winter is flying by.....good news, though, I'm hard at work on a 20" Rosebush shade.  Hopefully I'll have it done before the roses bloom.

Hey, a new deadline! 


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Karen, I love stained glass and have had in all of my homes. When we moved in to my present house I immediately had stained glass made for several windows, rather than shades.

I have some vintage stained glass also, I love all of it!


Sandy said...

Hi Karen.. I am very impressed with your stained glass and the lamps are just wonderful!
Did you ever make a lamp shade of stained glass but with clear glass? I've always had this vision of a lamp shade chandelier hanging over my dining room table,, but no color.. well, the silver of the led with a clear/smokey glass... sound odd I know but wouldn't it be different..
I so love your work and am sorry the winter is not long enough for you!
Take care

Missy said...

They are truly beautiful. They all look perfect to me and I can only imagine the amount of work that goes into each one.

Karen said...

Yes, Eileen, stained glass adds so much warmth to the home. When we drive through older, affluent neighborhoods of older Victorian-era homes, the passenger always searches out stained glass windows or transoms, some of them are so ornate. We're always inspired to go home and make something.

Karen said...

Sandy, no, we've never made any clear glass lamps, but I think I can envision what you're saying. Frank Lloyd Wright had designed many clear shades and they were beautiful. We're into the busy flower patterns, I'm a nut for them, but I certainly can appreciate other styles. Thanks for the encouragement!

Missy, thank you so much! I hope things have calmed down with your weather there. I've been thinking of you.

xoxoxo said...

it all sounds incredibly difficult! But a parrot stained glass quilt? I am off to find this...

Pam's English Garden said...

Dear Karen, Your work is so beautiful! You and your husband are very talented. I think it is great that you have a winter hobby and a summer hobby.

Thank you for your prayers, and kind wishes prior to my hospital stay! I am home now and feeling well. I'll post soon. P x

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Oh, Karen they are just so gorgeous. Ever-blooming flowers. What beautiful work. I love them all but I think the Flowering Bouquet is my favorite. Do you ever design them with Bluebirds? What a rewarding artistic hobby.

Beth said...

Karen I love reading your blog posts, you are so honest. Your stained glass is absolutely gorgeous! I think you do a fine job with shadows and light!

PS I really like the parrot panel!

Karen said...

xoxoxo-Yes, the Parrot Quilt on ASGLA's site looks like it turned out beautifully. Someday I would love to see all the quilts in person.

Pam, I am glad to hear you are feeling better, that is great news! Thank you for your kind words, too!

Lona, Chalk up one fan for the Flowering Bouquet, yippee! No, I have never designed my own lamp yet, but at some point in the future it is something I would love to try. We have a friend who has designed some exquisite lamps of her own; the Poinsettia was a pattern she loaned to us. A bluebird lamp would be beautiful, wouldn't it? Or a window....oh, I wish winter was a little bit longer!

Beth, thank you very much. The parrot was so much fun to make, those little panels are involved, but don't take as long as a lamp and they're fun to do.

Rosemary said...

What gorgeous work. Love all of them.

Karen said...

Thank you, Rosemary, we're hard at work on the Rosebush next.

Dandelion and Daisy said...

I've been impressed by your garden but OMG! your stain glass is so beautiful! You and your hubby are two hard working, talented people. I've always loved stain glass windows and thought I would like to learn how to make them but that looks complicated and HARD! You two seem to have mastered it.