The elder Pliny would have us believe that glass was discovered by some Phoenicians after a beach party. In the embers of their fire, so the story goes, were lumps of fused glass, the product of a high temperature reaction between the beach sand and a crude form of soda they were using as fuel.
However, glass has been known about for at least 4,000 years and some thirty years ago Simone Kay started learning how to work with it.
She studied at Kingston, then Reigate and finally Chelsea School of art and has worked with the medium ever since.
She began teaching all aspects of the craft at King Charles Adult Education Centre, Surbiton in 1987 and still runs three classes there. Teaching is very important to Simone and she often involves her students in community based projects. The most recent of these is a large internal window at Kingston hospital.
In 1997 she teamed up with graphic and mural artist Cliff Port to set up the studio in Hawks Road, Kingston. The results of this collaboration can be seen all over the borough and beyond.
Almost every piece of finished work started off as a painting. Simone rarely goes anywhere without a sketchpad and a set of watercolours.
Stained glass is usually created by one of three techniques, the oldest of which has hardly changed in a thousand years.
Leaded panels can be seen in countless churches and private house, particularly those from the Victorian era. This leaded process is excellent for flat, two-dimensional work and involves slotting the cut pieces of glass into narrow lengths of channelled lead. The joints are soldered and the panel cemented with a form of dark putty.
Copper foiling is a legacy from Tiffany and is used for three-dimensional work like lampshades, terrariums and small boxes. Here, the edges of the cut glass are bound with a thin adhesive copper ribbon, which can then be soldered together, edge to edge. The soldered areas are then washed with patina for a permanent finish in black or a tarnished copper.
Stained glass appliqué can be used to create similar effects to leaded panels by gluing, with transparent resins, the cut pieces of glass onto a back plate of plain glass. The gaps between the pieces are then filled with a dense, black cement, reminiscent of traditional lead lines, but readily variable in width and effect. This technique is very useful for clearing out off-cuts (cullet) that are too small for any other purpose.
When the design is agreed upon, a cartoon is made. This is a full size drawing, usually on tracing paper, showing the lines where the lead will be and, more importantly the thickness of the lead. The glass must be cut to accommodate this. Once all the pieces are cut and all their respective treatments (painting, etching etc.) have been completed, the panel is assembled and the lead joints soldered. The panel is then cemented using a form of putty, then cleaned and polished with grate polish (to prevent the lead oxidizing). The panel takes about a week to dry out and is then installed.
Kiln Fired Painting
The idea of painting onto glass is almost as old as glass itself, but it was around the early medieval period in Germany when it became a respected trade. By using a mixture of powdered glass and iron oxide a medium for painting is prepared with vinegar or water and gum Arabic (this is to help the “paint” adhere to the glass before firing). When the painting is complete the glass is fired in the kiln at around 600 degrees Celsius. The medium then fuses with the glass thus creating an image that cannot fade or be removed. To add colour, silver stain (where the term “stained glass” originates) can be applied and fired to give a range of yellow tints, also permanent. Other colours can be added and fired by using enamel, however, these will deteriorate after about 200 years.
We try to make our business as green as possible by using reclaimed glass in our designs. When we replace a window we keep the old glass and design windows that incorporate old textures. We offer a service to triple glaze stained glass with the obvious insulation benefits. The outer piece of glass having extra thermal insulation qualities. We are currently trialing LED lighting for the interior of our shop/ studio. When we are cold we put on extra clothes. We eat organically and support the local food supplier From the Ground Up.