Today we learned how to make leaded stained glass. We were given a piece of paper with a simple flower pattern upon it, the same apprentice’s flower that we carved in the stone workshop, and were given a demonstration on the technique of cutting glass. I’ve cut glass before to re-glaze broken panes in windows, but I am self-taught and was excited to see the proper way of doing this. Sure enough, their way was better and in no time we were all slicing through glass like pros. After practicing our cuts, we chose from assorted colored pieces of glass and began to cut out the shapes needed to make the flower. The real challenge of this step came with keeping the cut inside the boundaries of the line on the paper, lest the whole of the parts not fit together correctly. It was immediately apparent that there is a touch to cutting glass well that must take lots of practice to get. That said, I still think that the glass cutting is easier than carving stone.
At lunch time, we were shown a brief presentation of the history of glass and how stained glass came to be a wide spread art form in the middle ages, and then fell out of favor during the English civil war due to religious persecution. Now, the stained glass experts of Lincoln Cathedral painstakingly repair the multitude of glass art at the cathedral, cleaning old glass, replacing broken pieces, and re-leading frail joints. One of the projects they recently completed was a giant circular window called “The Dean’s Eye” that depicted the Last Judgement. The entire stained glass window, dating from 1220, was removed, repaired, and then put back again.
After lunch, we took the lead fillers, which were shaped like little pliable I-beams, and bent them around the glass pieces of our flower. Starting at one corner and working outward, this process again took some forethought and patience, but we all got there with the help of our teachers. Once all the lead was in place, we soldered the joints and then filled the spaces under the lead filler with lead glazing. The whole process was easy to grasp and required a minimum of tools.
We finished our own works of art in the nick of time, and then headed down the hill to catch a train back to London. I kept my stained glass, but left the stone behind for packing reasons (I’ll take the knowledge, it weighs less and won’t cost me an extra $50 at the airport). Tomorrow, we graduate and meet the Prince of Wales.