Understanding the Different Types of Stained Glass

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 51,494
    Stained Glass Artist Phillip McKee explains the different types glass used in making stained glass suncatchers, including clear glass, transparent colored glass, and opalescent glass.

    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.

    Phillip Mckee: Hi, I am Phillip Mckee with Mckee Stained Glass. There are several different types of glass that we use when making a stained glass piece. Contrary to what people think, we don't paint the color on the glass, instead, we use glass that is specifically made of certain color. The first type of glass that is often used is clear glass. This glass can be seen through but it's often used with a slight texture to obscure the view and add visual interest. This provides the most amount of light transmission through the window.

    The next type of glass is a transparent but colored glass. In this case, a green. Transparent glass is often called Cathedral glass because this is the type of glass that was used in the Great Cathedrals of Europe and is still the most common type of glass used in stained glass art work in Europe. The next type, is a translucent type of glass that has some other color mixtures inside but that is not perfectly clear. This is sometimes called wispy or translucent glass. It has a small amount of light transmitted.

    Next is a type of glass called Opalescent Glass. This is the glass whose production method was invented by Louis Comfort Tiffany and has come to be especially associated with the stained glass art from the United States. It has had a large amount of opal added to it, to create a more solid coloration that does not allow shapes to discerned or detail, but instead when the light hits it, is infused with a glow from inside. Also, unlike Cathedral Glass, it retains its color even in low lighting conditions. Finally there is a fully opaque glass. This is a glass that is so saturated with colors and opal that no light gets transmitted through it. It can occasionally be used to create negative spaces in your design but it's most often used when making mosaic. Now that we know about the types of glass, we are going to use, it's time to choose them for our patterns. When choosing your glass, always a good idea to think about the overall intended effect and where you are going to be putting it. It's okay to mix Cathedral with the Opalescent glass but traditionally they are always used on their own. For the piece, we are working with today, we will be using cathedral glass and red, green and blue. The blue glass will have a slight texture. Now, let's get ready to cut