Stained Glass is an Artform

Harold Garner

Pliers, cutters, grinders, soldering irons, lead, copper, and … glass — these are the tools of a stained glass artist. A touch of engineering, a dash of imagination and skilled hands come together to produce works of art that can only be truly appreciated in the light. Just like painting and sculpting, anyone can pick up the tools and produce a product. But it takes an artist to produce something beautiful. Harold Garner is an artist.

Harold held an interest in stained glass for a long time before he had the chance to study the craft. He was captured by the attractiveness of pieces he’d seen, he says. He had the chance to admire some works in Europe and was impressed by the ornate windows in many of the cathedrals. He more than appreciated the beauty; he was interested in the process — how it was done.

Stained Glass WindowIt wasn’t until after he moved to Advent Christian Village in 2001 that Harold had a chance to follow a dream he had been postponing — the dream of becoming a stained glass artist. Harold and his wife met Bob and Barbara Hoffman and the foursome developed a close friendship. It just so happened that Bob was a stained glass artist. When Bob found out that Harold had an interest in the craft, he volunteered to teach Harold.

Under Bob’s tutelage, and through some online training, Harold developed the skills necessary to craft beautiful stained glass. He has crafted many flat pieces, designed to hang in windows, and he has also made lamps and other three-dimensional projects. He explains that working with stained glass, like many other art forms, lends itself to “learning as you go.” The more you do it, the better you get. “Once you learn the basics,” says Harold, “you develop your own style.”

So, what are the steps for assembling a stained glass project? Harold explains the basics:

  1. Pick out a pattern. There are many, many books of stained glass patterns and many places online to look as well to help you get started. Patterns look like coloring pages before being colored. It’s also possible to create your own pattern by drawing them yourself.
  2. Stained Glass Lamp ShadeMake a copy of your pattern. You’ll need one pattern to cut into the individual pieces and one to leave whole.
  3. Decide which glass you want where. There are many types of glass and colors to choose from. Glass can be purchased online, through catalogs, and at some stores.
  4. Attach the cut pieces of the pattern to the glass and use a handheld glass cutter to cut the glass. Harold points out that a skilled artist will use the glass to enhance the image. For instance, if cutting a plant leaf out of glass that has color variations, cut the glass so the variations mimic the variations in a real leaf.
  5. After all of the individual pieces have been cut, align the cut pieces to the uncut pattern.
  6. The next step is to attach the pieces of glass together. There are two materials that can be used to assemble the pieces together: lead and copper. Lead is traditional, but copper is easier. For copper, wrap the edges of each piece of glass with copper tape and then solder the pieces together. The copper tape is thin and makes wrapping tight and complicated curves just as easy as straight edges. Traditionally, lead came — an H-shaped lead “rod” that is not nearly as bendable as copper tape — is used between the pieces of glass. The came must be cut to the right lengths and the joints are soldered together.
  7. Finally, a frame (also called came) is used to hold the piece together. A frame is necessary, as the material used to hold the pieces of glass together is not strong enough to stand the test of time and would eventually fall apart.

Several of Harold’s stained glass masterpieces will be on display in the Phillips Center gallery at Advent Christian Village for December and January. Those in the area are encouraged to stop by to admire these unique pieces of art.

Harold First Stained Glass WindowHarold Garner wanted to learn how to work with stained glass years before he learned how. This plant artwork was Harold’s first step toward becoming a stained glass artist.

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