Designing With Glass

With an expert on hand for guidance, the author describes her first project designing with glass.

| April/May 1994

After ambling through Deana Blanchard's stained-glass studio, it's hard to believe she never intended to be an artist. Her studio, located in the back of her house, is packed with intricate stained-glass boxes, decorative wall panels, and more than a dozen craft show awards.

"I have no art background at all," Deana says, smiling. "I didn't even start making glass pieces until I was 32 years old, and I never thought I'd have the skills to actually sell my items."

I felt better after hearing this since this would be my first time working with stained glass. The introductory book I skimmed through left me more than a bit intimidated. The first chapter alone spoke of cutting through glass panes, investing in specialized equipment, and manipulating a hot soldering iron. In fact, I probably would have foregone the whole experience were it not for this lesson and interview. I admitted my reservations right away, but Deana assured me there was nothing to worry about.

"Like everything else," she says, "designing with glass just comes down to practice. The best thing newcomers can do is grab some free panes of glass at the lumberyard and practice making cuts before making their first projects. Remember, there's no fudging when it comes to cutting. Your measurements must be exact. Also, many craft persons refer to first projects as `frisbees,' because they are usually so bad they get tossed. Expect it."

As for your work area, Deana suggests setting up a table in an area not highly trafficked, perhaps your basement or garage. Avoid using the kitchen table, which is often messy and dangerous if shards get left behind. The table she uses is covered by a large peg board, and the holes in it help Deana make sure that her score (cutting) lines are perfectly straight. Nailing a 1" x 4" plank to the left-hand side of the table allows her to rest glass pieces against it, further ensuring straight lines and perpendicular angles.

Other than that, it's just a matter of getting the right tools, being careful as you work, experimenting, and having fun. And after 15 years, Deana's eyes still sparkle as she works.

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