Going from a Paper Pattern to a Stained Glass Pattern Piece

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 35,519
    Stained Glass Artist Phillip McKee demonstrates how you go from a paper pattern to a stained glass pattern piece when making a stained glass suncatcher.

    Phillip McKee

    As an artist, I work in the medium of stained glass. I have always had an interest in stained glass. From early childhood I was enchanted by the Middle Ages and especially the medieval church. Seeing the beauty of the windows was always a joy to me. It was with great joy that I studied Medieval History first at Yale University and later at Harvard. I even held a research fellowship at Princeton in 1993. Even though I studied economic and diplomatic history instead of Art History, I still managed to work my artistic interests into my work at every possible opportunity.

    But after all of that education, I chose to become a firefighter. Needless to say, this was not greeted with much enthusiasm by my family. However a firefighter's work schedule gave me the free time I needed and I was able to pursue my other passion -- glass art!

    Since 9-11, stained glass has become an even greater part of my life as I went through rehabilitation for injuries suffered at the Pentagon. Glass has provided me with a creative outlet that I have sorely needed during this most difficult time in my life and in the life of our country. It has also given me a new place in life now that I am physically disabled and no longer able to continue as a firefighter.

    I am also pleased to announce the publication of my book Make It or Break It; Stained Glass For Beginners as a CD E-Book by CWS Press. It is an innovative CD-ROM that allows for page-flipping and browsing just like a book but it can also be searched like a regular electronic document. The CD also comes with a free trial version of GlassEye 2000 and over 340 patterns in GlassEye format.

    And I am now the senior Stained Glass Art Instructor for the Arlington County Adult Arts Education Program at the Fairlington Arts Center. If you live in Northern Virginia this is a wonderful way for you to be able to study stained glass under my tutelage while remaining close to home! In addition I offer private lessons in my home studio.

    But I did recently return to my academic roots. In June 2004, I exhibited several pieces as a part of the "Visions & Experiences" Exhibit at the Yale University School of Art Gallery. If you did not have a chance to visit the exhibit while it was occurring, I have created a Virtual Tour. It is an executable file which can be downloaded and viewed on your computer.

    Hi, I am Phillip McKee of McKee Stained Glass. Right now we are going to learn how to move from paper pattern to pattern pieces. First, whenever you are working in stained glass, you always work from a pattern; this simply is not an art form that you can improvise. Proper planning is important. Most people get their paper patterns either from books, magazines or from various websites online. In this case, today we are going to be making a very simplified and stylized rose. When we print out the pattern, sometimes our patterns will have colors in them, other times they will simply be black and white drawings. If you get a black and white drawing out of a book or a magazine or even online, it is always a good idea while you are choosing your glass to color in and see how it will look once your color choice are applied.

    This will greatly aid you in selecting your glass. Once you have a finished idea, now it is time to move on to actually getting some glass cut. When you have your patterns, you need to make three copies, this is very important. One, is your layout copy, that will be the copy you attach to your Homasote board and use as your guide in assigning pieces to their proper locations. The second piece is your cutting pattern, this is the pattern out of which you will cut individual pieces to use as guides while cutting glass. Your final pattern is a spare, just in case you need an extra pattern piece at some point, you also need to make sure that you properly label your patterns. There are three things you need to put down when labeling, first is pattern number.

    Every piece needs to be assigned a unique number, while it may seem like overkill a small pattern. On a large pattern, if you do not number, then you may find that you create a giant, very difficult and very sharp jigsaw puzzle. Proper numbering is vitally important. The second piece of information you need to write in each piece is the color. In this pattern, we are using three colors, blue, red and green. So, first we assign a code to each color and write that on our layout pattern. This is to avoid confusion in the future. While with simple colors and simple patterns it maybe a little bit of overkill, it is necessary. When you have multiple colors of the same family, you need to know which green is which if you have twenty greens in a single pattern for example.

    The final piece of information you need to use is grain, each piece of glass has a grain to it. This grain can either be a texture which has been applied to one side during its manufacture or streaks of colors inside of it. If you use a grained glass and you do not harmonize those grains, it will be visually jarring. For example, on this piece, the blue background glass has a very visible grain. So, we want an arrow on each pattern piece that uses that glass to show us the proper direction. We also want to make sure that we have translated our key onto each pattern piece, now the red and the green glasses that we are using today do not have a very strong grain. But if they did, you could use that grain to follow the motion of the leaves and the paddles to create an even stronger sense of movement in your pattern.

    Now that we have all three pieces of information on the layout pattern, we need to copy just those portions that are inside the pattern onto the other two copies. If you do not do this, you can have confusion later. You even want to put it on your spare copy. Once you have done this, put your spare copy aside for safe keeping, place your layout copy on your Homasote board and begin to remove the excess paper using a standard set of scissors or a paper cutter from around your cutting pattern. Make certain that if you cut on the outside of the boundary lines on one side, you do the same for all the others. If you cut on the inside of the boundary line, then do that on all of the sides. This helps maintain the balance and symmetry of your piece. Once we have our cutting pattern removed, that is when we use either special three bladed shears or a double bladed exacto knife or hobby knife to cut out a pattern piece. Always start in one corner, in this case, we are going to start with piece number five. I take my double bladed exacto knife or my three bladed shears and I begin cutting along the center of the dividing lines. If you are using shears, strive to cut in the center of the line and use only the very beginning of the shear nearest the hinch (ph). This will remove a tiny strip of paper, this strip of paper because of the shear's construction, is the exact amount of space you need to take out of your pattern, so that there will be room for the copper foil. Place the excess aside, look at your paper, clean up, any problems that might have occurred and now, we are ready to cut this piece out.

    We take the glass, check it for grain and then glue the paper pattern piece to the glass. Always make sure there is plenty glue in the corners and around the edges, it does not need a lot of glue in the center. Once it is glued to the glass and the grain is checked again to ensure that it is going in the right direction, we are now ready to begin cutting. We start with liberating cut, move on to the inside curve and then the square sides. Next, we are going to learn how to properly use our layout pattern to square up our pattern pieces and ensure good alignment.