The Big Think

December 11, 2014

Unexpected Gifts

Filed under: Friends,Maker — jasony @ 11:45 am

It’s Christmas season! Which means getting to know the UPS driver and mailman really well. The other day the doorbell rang and I went down to see a large flat box perched next to the front door. Huh… don’t think I was expecting anything. It turns out it was a gift from an artist friend of ours along with this note:

Jason and Erin,

Just a small token to say “Merry Christmas!” and let let you know that, in spite of all the miles between us, we truly appreciate your friendship and think of you both often….

…I trust that it will still fin a place in your home and, just maybe, spark some pleasant memories of the Emerald Isle.

Tim is a fine guy, a wonderful, patient artist, a supportive husband, and one of those friends that you never get to spend as much time with as you’d like (in our case, we’ve spent maybe two hours total with him and his wife Katherine but hit it off right away. Just wish they didn’t live in Nashville). His out-of-the-blue gift just completely floored us. We’re looking forward to hanging it above our front door to catch the morning light.

Thanks, Tim.

Please read on to see the glass as well as to get insight into the (40 hour long!) creation process.

I stumbled across the original design hanging on a coworker’s wall and filed it away to work on someday when I wanted to try my hand at a Celtic knot project. After working on several stylistically similar pieces this year, I needed a creative palate cleanser, so “someday” came sooner than expected.


Getting started was as simple as printing off the picture, laying it on my light table and tracing the design onto the back of the sheet with a sharpie. (Sharpies are indispensable for stained glass. I honestly don’t know how stained glass artisans worked before they were invented!) There were a few places where I had to divide a single section into two pieces, but I don’t think they interrupted the flow of the knot too badly.

Doing the rough cuts proceeded more quickly than you’d expect. Even more than usual, this was a trade-off between making broad cuts to leave myself plenty of margin for error vs. making close cuts to minimize how much grinding I’d have to do later on. Still, coaxing the basic shapes out of sheets of glass is one of my favorite parts of the process. It’s also when the unavoidable, “Oh my, what have I gotten myself into?” moment hits.


And now begins the long, precise work of grinding and foiling. For this project I used the narrowest copper foil tape so that I’d end up with finer solder lines. (A unique challenge in and of itself.) As I think I mentioned to Jason, the intricacy of this design translated to each piece taking several times as much grinding time as an average project. Instead of doing a rough pass and then 1 or 2 shaping grinds, I’d say I went back to the grinder an average of 8-12 times for each piece. Rinse. Repeat. (About 110 times.) Well worth it, though, as I was pretty pleased with how everything came together.


I must admit that I had help with this project. In this case, it was a subtle reminder that I share my workshop with far more talented craftsman.


This is where an animated GIF would come in handy to show the progression as a time-lapse [done!]. Each new section represents an average of 4-6 hours of work. I took a few extra days off over the Thanksgiving break and immersed myself in the project, which provided a much needed mental break. Though after about the fourth day the tips of most of my fingers were badly bruised from pressing the glass into the grinder. That was a new and unique experience.


And here’s where I have to apologize for my impatience. Once I’ve completed the grinding and foiling, I always feel like I’m in the home stretch and invariably dive right into adding the soldering, frame, hangers and patina. It’s only after everything is done that I realize that I should have been taking more pictures. Still, you get the idea. Here’s the finished project next to the original design:

Anyway, that’s it. Thanks for letting me share a bit of a glimpse behind the scenes of making your piece.

UPDATE: Sorry Tim! I forgot to include a pic of the finished piece.

Finished Glass2.jpg

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