Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stained Glass Antics 2014

 We hit 25F today which is our normal high for this time of year.  It felt great, too.  Snow was predicted for today, but nary a flake was flying when I went to exercise class.  As we were working out, someone mentioned how the room was getting darker and when we looked through the vertical blinds, we were amazed at how much snow had fallen in less than an hour.  I believe the grand total for our area was around five to six inches which all fell between 10AM and 4PM.  We were kept busy tonight snowblowing and shoveling.  Unfortunately, the temps are going to drop below zero again over the next week. 

Carl and I have been lamenting the fact that winter is going by so fast.  I know that sounds silly coming from people who are living through Polar Vortex attacks, you'd think we'd be pining for warmer weather, wouldn't you?  But it's the truth.  Winter is my vacation time.  I don't know how I'd cope if I had to garden all year round.  We need the break.  And besides, winter is stained glass time and we're running behind.

Here's a look at what we've accomplished since the snow started to fly:
My good friend, Nancy, is an extraordinarily talented lady and enjoys quilting, crocheting, needlework and crafting beautiful works of art, and I was at a loss for what to give her for Christmas.  Quilts are one of her passions, so I made her a quilt sun-catcher.

Speaking of quilt blocks, our annual submission for the Association of Stained Glass Lamp Artists is due in mid-February, and this is the design chosen for the annual Quilt.  Here it is after cutting and grinding, but before foiling and soldering: 

Flax flower taken from a US Postal Service stamp design
 I don't know what happened with my color selections this year, but I guess it will do.  I'm sure it will look better surrounded by all the other submissions.

Along with the quilt panel, we have to get our lamp photo submissions sent in soon, too.  We're hoping to have the Daffodil ready to go this year, IF I get it cleaned up in time.  We were lucky to be selected for the 2014 ASGLA calendar with the Laburnum and our little Peony shade last year. 

As I mentioned in my last post,  I didn't get around to cleaning the Daffodil shade until this past week.  Soldering makes a big mess out of stained glass and it has been in this condition since April 2013:
Look at all the crusted gunk soldering paste leaves behind even after the shade was scrubbed multiple times.  The only way to get the gunk out is with some elbow grease and a dental pick.
This dental pick has seen a lot of stained glass gunk over the years.  I have a slew of other tools I use too, but I keep coming back to this one in particular,  as it is well-balanced and really good at getting into all the cracks and crevices.  I feel like a dental hygienist as I scritch and scratch around.  When our son David lived at home, he would leave the room whenever I was working on detailing a lamp; he hated the noise it made.  
I put on an apron and set to work with the dental pick in my right hand and an old toothbrush in my left.  As I scrape the soldering paste off the glass, I swipe over the remnants to get rid of the excess so I can see where I need to go next.  Try as I might, I'm covered in gunk by the time I'm done.  The soldering paste has dried up and the resulting texture is very similar to old varnish which flakes off in small pieces.
I perch the lampshade on my lap and balance it there as I work.  I haven't dropped one.  (Yet.)  I think there are 684 pieces in this lamp and each one needs to be cleaned, inside and out.   I wear two sets of glasses since for some reason my optometrist can't get my bifocals strong enough for this intense close-up work. 
Once I get the outside done, I then have to repeat the entire process on the inside.
I worked on cleaning the lamp for over twenty hours this week.  In between scratching sessions, I stick the shade back on the base for safe keeping.  When the bulbs are lit it was apparent there's more work to be done.
Looking better, but there's still more gunk to deal with.  I should have taken a 'before' photo, though, since the shade is a lot brighter now.

After the Daffodil is completely cleaned, I apply a patina to the lead lines to darken them and then the shade will need to be polished again.  

Moving on:  The full-size Wisteria is ready to be put on the form.  I am anxious to get it off my dining room table where it's been sitting since Christmas on a huge sheet of Plexiglass.

There are five repeats of this pattern and many of the pieces are small, some even smaller than my pinky fingernail.

We got right down to the end and found we were short seven pieces.  If you're ever done a jigsaw puzzle, the experience is much the same, don't you hate it when there are pieces missing?
Drat!  Where is piece 373 in repeat 2?

Unlike jigsaw puzzles, the problem is easily solved. We made new pieces to replace the missing ones.
There, all done.  

Look at the bucket of 1,954 Mylar pattern pieces...I'm glad this job is done.
 We started this lamp very late last spring, very close to planting season, and it sat unfinished until now.  Actually, I'm surprised we didn't lose more than seven pieces.  The stained glass hunks are stuck to the Plexiglass with poster putty and the whole shebang was stowed behind Carl's recliner in the living room for over ten months.  Whenever Carl would recline in his chair, he'd knock pieces off the Plexiglass and I'd have to be careful not to vacuum them up.  Come to think of it, that's probably where the missing seven went......

This is one big lamp, I couldn't get all the repeats in one picture, so here's a bunch of them:

The blue glass is all Youghiogheny 'Wisteria' glass, handpicked from their factory in Pennsylvania.  The green glass in the leaves is Lins, which is no longer in production.   

One thing we've learned about stained glass is you never know for certain how a shade will look until it is soldered and off the form.  No matter how many times I look at the repeats on the light table and obsess over changes, there's the inevitable moment of truth when the shade is lit for the first time.  That's when I see the subtle and not-so-subtle errors in my color selections which looked fine in the flat but look altogether different in 3D.

With any luck this weekend I might get my dining room table back.  Carl has the fiberglass mold coated with beeswax and ready to go. He still has some work to do fine-tuning the bronze crown and branch set that forms the top of the shade.  

I'm not sure where we will display this huge lamp when it's done.    We're running out of space in this small house.  But we'll find a place to cram it in somewhere.

I realize the joint is looking like a stained glass showroom/hoarder's paradise, and in retrospect I will admit we are obsessed.  They brighten up our nights all year round, but especially in the winter when we appreciate our glass flowers the most.
Floral Bouquet

 We hope to set up the time lapse camera as we stick the Wisteria pieces on the form; it makes a fun little movie and feeds my 'instant gratification' urge.   

I guess it's a good thing stained glass projects take so long to build, though, or we won't have any room to turn around.  

My practical mother is continually anxious about this addiction of ours.  Every time we finish a project, she wants to know if we're done now.  "How many lamps does a person really need?"

Um, yeah, well......she's got a point.

At least one more.


Mary@mydogsmygardenandmary said...

Thanks you so much for sharing your stunning stained glass lamps and projects. They are breathtaking.
You and Carl are very talented people.
Have a wonderful weekend.

Carol said...

Ya'll do such beautiful work! I haven't been able to get in my studio for quite some time. I decided to "re-do" it so I have painted and rearranged tables etc. Then in the middle of all that, I had to have my knee worked on. So now I don't know-soon I hope!

Beth said...

Your lamps are glorious, Karen! Sounds like you have a lot of snow cover. We don't, and the ground is frozen down I believe 27 inches, which is a problem if we get rains before the ground thaws as it will run off and cause flooding. Crazy to think of flooding when we are (yes, STILL) in a 2 year period of severe drought! Well, we do have snow coming again this wknd so the snow cover may help that underground freezing situation not to worsen. Weather is an interesting thing, especially when you're a gardener! :)

Alison said...

Your lamps are all so pretty, and so much work. My old eyes would not be up for the task. I've been trying to sort Echinacea seeds from chaff lately, and I can only do that for a small amount of time before I have trouble focusing and have to stop. But it's good to have a hobby during the winter months. I've been working on a couple of arts and crafts projects lately, but nothing on the scale of your lampshades.

lilraggedyangie said...

Such mad skills you have...just beautiful clearly have far more patience then I ...have a great weekend hugs lil raggedy Angie

Carol said...

Your work is stunning!!! I am in love with glass work of all kinds. I've thought about doing some myself but back off because I know that once I start I would soon be out of control and I have enough creative addictions already. I'll just concentrate on them and enjoy your work ♥

Anonymous said...

Wow, you have been doing a lot of stained glass work. All beautiful too. Your house is filled with your creations so I see how you might be looking where to put the next lamp. Are all your lamps from purchased patterns?

Anonymous said...

Wow, you have been doing a lot of stained glass work. All beautiful too. Your house is filled with your creations so I see how you might be looking where to put the next lamp. Are all your lamps from purchased patterns?

Indie said...

Wow. Absolutely wow. Your lamps are so incredibly stunning! What a beautiful way to bring the garden indoors for the winter! I love the quilt patch sun catcher that you made, too. My mother is a quilter, and that looks like such a great gift for someone who loves to quilt!

My Garden Diaries said...

I must say that your work is truly divine! The colors that sparkle from your stained glass is so alive and vibrant! WOW! I am speechless! A job well done! And I think winter is a wonderful thing..down time from the garden is good! It allows you time to regroup and become inspired with new ideas! Happy winter to you! Nicole

Lona said...

Okay Karen I am officially drooling all over your beautiful pieces. It amazes me how much work goes into making just one lamp or quilt block.You have a lot of patience girl. LOL! I cannot pick a favorite they are all so pretty. I do love the framed window piece. You have Christmas lights and colors every night! Stay warm and safe.

Jennifer said...

I am always glad for the winter break as well. I wouldn't want to garden 365 days a year! Your work always blows me away Karen. So many intricate pieces. Amazing!