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Glass Painting

While not all stained glass windows have painted details, a large percentage of ecclesiastic window designs do require some painting to define border and/or background details. Figurative designs require painting to add realistic details to faces, hands, feet, and to enhance the clothing. After the glass has been cut and shaped into the various component pieces, the artist applies the paint, using traditional glass "stains", mat blending colors, and/or enamels. Most glass "stains" are made from metal oxides. For instance gold oxide will produce a red color, silver oxide produces yellow or gold, and cobalt yields a blue color. Many different oxides and paints are used to "stain the glass", depending on the desired color or effect.

The artist mixes the glass paints in medium such as water, alcohol or oil, and may additionally include a binder, glass frit and/or paint flux depending on the formula for that particular stain. The artist laboriously grinds and mixes these components by hand with a muller or a palette knife until they have achieved the desired consistency.

When painting a figurative piece, the first layer of paint consists of the tracing lines, usually black, applied with a sable "tracing" brush. After the tracing lines have been applied, the glass is "fired" in a kiln to permanently bond the paint to the surface of the glass. The next paint layer is called a mat (or matting) that requires a special blending brush hand-made from English badger hair. This light brownish mat paint is applied as a fine layer then blended with the badger brush to make it uniform and semi transparent. Once air-dried, this mat layer will be carefully brushed away (called lighting) by the artist to expose the areas that are to remain transparent. This stage of glass painting is the opposite of most painting practices. In this instance, the image is formed by lifting the paint off the matted surface of the glass. This matting process may be repeated a number of times, layering more mats over the first to create artistic depth and differentiation. Once the mat is to the artists satisfaction the glass is placed back into the kiln for a second firing to bond the mat layer to the glass surface. Depending on the design, there may be one or more final painting steps to apply more mats, opaque colors, additional stains or transparent enamels to the image. It will then be finished with one last kiln firing. A special note about kiln firing, the glass may be fired after each painting stage or it may be fired once with multiple layers of paint depending upon the artist's selected technique and preference.

Article continues...Surface Etching a Design and Final Inspection

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Gold oxide will produce a red color, silver oxide produces yellow or gold, and cobalt yields a blue color; almost any metal oxide can be used to stain the glass, depending on the desired color or effect. As an interesting side note, this process of "staining" the glass is where the term "stained glass" comes from.

After the paint has been applied, artist Ilie Honkaen places the glass in a kiln to be “fired" and permanently bond the paint to the surface of the glass.