Stained glass has been around for over five thousand years, and anyone that has been to a Christian church would have seen the marvels that were created with this unique technique in all of their glory.
In modern times, only around ten percent of stained glass is used for buildings like churches and are rather used for more modern buildings and architecture. There are many different styles that glass can be made into, including faceted glass with stained glass that peaked in popularity in the 12th and 13th centuries, where the art was pushed to its limit with huge stained glass windows being created. The technique slowly lost favor with painted glass taking its place, and by the 1900s, it was rarely used.
What’s stained glass made of?
Stained glass is made by heating and fusing silica, which can be found in sand, potash, and other similar materials. The color is achieved by adding a metallic oxide into the sand or other raw materials being used to make the glass. Different metals produce different colors, with copper, for example, being able to produce reds, blues, and greens, depending on how it’s treated.
What’s the manufacturing process?
The process of making stained glass hasn’t changed much since its glory days over 700 years ago. Leaded windows are still a popular way to display stained glass, and is created by heating the raw materials to the point that they turn liquid and molten. The glass is then blown through a pipe to turn it into a sheet, and then cooled and flattened. You’re also able to blow the glass into a mold which will give it a unique effect, or roll the glass into sheets to change how the glass looks once it has been tempered and polished.
Making stained glass in a mass-produced factory follows a similar process, but at a massive scale. The raw materials are mixed in the same way and melted down at over 1300°C until it becomes a liquid. A recipe is used to make sure that each batch comes out exactly how it’s supposed to, and to ensure that the quality is the same every time. Machines are used to flatten and roll the glass into the mold that has been chosen, and then packaged up for transport.
The pattern part of the window generally still needs to be done by hand, though, and needs an artist to do the job properly. The first thing the artist will do is to begin drafting and sketching the final design that would be ready to work on toward a final product. They then take this and increase it in size, ready to create the design onto the glass itself.
For faceted glass, the process is very similar, with the pattern being created before the work begins. Faceted glass focuses on patterns and uses thicker glass. This means that interesting textures can be created which are hardened to achieve the final product.