Taking up a hobby is a great way to learn something new, and when it comes to crafts, stained glass is one of the most challenging and rewarding pastimes for people who want to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
It’s a simple and satisfying way to get creative, and even beginners can make beautiful pieces to hang around the home or share with friends and family members.
A permanent fixture in the world’s most beautiful churches, monasteries and cathedrals, stained glass has been an art form for more than a thousand years. Traditionally made from flat panels and used as windows, today modern stained glass artists create everything from intricate wall hangings to three-dimensional sculptures.
Starting out with stained glass isn’t difficult to do, however it does require special materials and tools, and if you’ve never tried it before should always be done under the help and supervision of an expert who can guide you every step of the way.
Screens, boxes, ornaments and sun catchers are some of the most popular projects for beginners – they offer the opportunity to practice techniques, are simple enough to be done without much experience, and perhaps most importantly, still offer you the freedom to be as creative as you please.
Once you’ve decided on a pattern, you’ll need to cut the glass into pieces by first scoring it with a glass cutter. Separate pieces carefully with pliers once a line has been formed in the glass, then wash and cover the edges of glass with copper foil. The last step is to solder your glass together, and depending on the piece you’re making attach a frame for stability. Be sure to always protect your eyes and fingers when cutting and soldering your stained glass.
You can find both private and community classes that will teach you how to make stained glass all over the UK, many of which and offer discounts for seniors – here you will learn basic techniques with an expert who can offer guidance as you’re working. Websites like Craft Courses are a great resource to help you find classes in your area. Similarly, the Stained Glass Museum in Ely offers workshops where you can learn more about glass fusing and the history of stained glass.
Making stained glass at home
Making stained glass at home is easy once you’ve learned the basic techniques. Firstly, you’ll need to set up a workspace where you can work on your pieces and leave your supplies in between projects. Avoid busy areas of the home – particularly if you plan to complete your stained glass creation slowly over time.
Materials can be expensive so make sure you’re serious about setting up a space at home before purchasing everything – websites like the Creative Glass Guild have all the supplies you need to get started, and sell glass by the sheet or by packages of different sized, shaped and coloured pieces – great for when you’re just starting out. If you’re looking for a supplier in your area, Stained Glass Supplies has a comprehensive directory of suppliers all over the UK.
To help save on costs, a great idea is to take up stained glass with a group of friends or family members; you can purchase sheets of glass and rolls of copper in bulk and share, rather than purchasing a costly piece of glass you only intend to use for a small bit of detailing on an ornament.