The words ‘stained glass’ usually conjure up images of religious figures poised in saintly rapture, and rose windows studded with bright blue and vibrant red fragments of glass, found in churches and cathedrals up and down the country.
However, stained glass was also widely used in more humble settings particularly by the Victorians, who incorporated colorful panels of decorative birds and leaf motifs into their front doors and windows.
While all of these are still made by stained glass craftsmen, we now also have a bevy of new techniques and styles that can lift our glass art and turn it into something really extraordinary.
Choosing a stained glass specialist
Choosing your glass specialist is very important. Once you have drawn up a short list of designers, take some time to browse their websites which will usually contain a gallery or portfolio of previous work. This will give you an idea of the different styles of stained glass we carry out, the myriad of techniques we employ and an overview of our experience in the field.
We don’t always have to live in your county or even country for you to commission stained glass from us. Wooden crates, shipping companies and local glaziers have made it easy for us to transport our work wherever it needs to go!
Arriving at a design brief
Once you have chosen your specialist, you will now need to talk design. You may instantly know what you don’t like but working out what you do can be trickier.
Think about colours and textures. Does this window need to be clear or obscured to hide something or give privacy like most front door panels? Does it need to be encapsulated into a sealed unit for safety or is it going into a period home or a listed building that requires special attention to detail? All of these things we will take into consideration when you commission us.
A visit to site is always useful so we can see the strength and direction of light and get a feel for the colour schemes within the room. Most glass artists would love you to visit their workshop to look at and feel the glass. This is the exciting bit for you and you are encouraged to get involved as much as possible.
This is your opportunity to stamp your mark on the building you live in and to create a little bit of history. Stained glass can last for hundreds of years so you may be creating a piece of glass, not just for your enjoyment but for future generations to appreciate.
Given the chance to enthuse about colour and light, your glass designer will be only too pleased to guide you through the ranges available. Most designers will have books displaying traditional patterns of Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco stained glass and this makes it easier for you to decide if this is what you are after.
Setting the Budget
The cost of an original piece of stained glass can vary enormously. To have a standard reproduction design for your front door can start at about £300 per panel dependant on size and design.
However if the budget set aside for your stained glass is more generous and you are looking for a bespoke piece of glass art, we would discuss your wishes and design ideas and take notes along the way. You may have a favorite artist or designer whose work you would like to feature or you might want to include things which are special to you, be it leaves, landscape or lunar landings!
Traditional front door panel
Confirming your commission
Having arrived at a design brief and set a budget, you will be sent a watercolour design, drawn to scale and this should be accompanied by some glass samples. If all’s well and we have got it right you will love the design and accept our quote!
The glass is carefully chosen and cut. We then attach it to a plate glass easel with plasticine to hold it safe – we are after all painting, playing and designing with light so we need to see what the finished window will actually look like.
You should be invited to visit the workshop to approve your window at this point. Any changes in glass colours can be made, and once again you are fully involved in the process.
When we are all happy with the cut glass, we will lead up your windows and finish by sealing them with a putty like substance called cement, ready to be fitted.
A stained glass window should bring a new lease of life to a room; coloured light can completely change the mood of a space and will enhance the light as it changes throughout the day and the year. It will be a thing of beauty for many, many years and has been hand crafted especially for you.
Amanda Winfield is an established stained glass designer with over 25 years experience. From her workshops in Abinger Hammer, Surrey, Amanda not only takes commissions for new work, but will also conserve and restore old or damaged panels. Amanda also regularly runs courses for anyone who would like to try their hand at making a stained glass panel for themselves.
Abinger Stained Glass is a member of ProjectBook which has been created to help owners of listed or period properties understand how their buildings work and to help them find appropriate craftsmen, products and specialist information. The online Heritage Register contains over 540 registered businesses, the largest directory of its type in the UK. For more information, visit www.projectbook.co.uk.