Stained Glass


Stained glass is an art form that dates back a thousand years to pre-medieval Europe. The process of creating stained glass panels has changed very little since then. However, the past thirty years have produced an evolution of stained glass tools and supplies. These technological advances have played a primary role in the resurgence of interest in the art of stained glass. Advances in lead composition, tool improvement, and material availability highlight technology's influence on this artform.

Historically, stained glass windows used soft lead came. In the 1970's antimony was added to lead as a strengthen agent, transforming the stained glass industry. Leaded glass panels could now be built to last through the years without the sagging inherent in the previously soft lead. The windows no longer needed to be wired to heavy steel bars and could be supported through lighter and easier to form bracebar.

Some stained glass tools as we think of them today did not exist 30 years ago. Lead was cut by the glass craftsman using hand sharpened and wax coated linoleum knives. Today we have glass nippers with hardened steel that cleanly cut lead. The arcane knowledge of cutting lead is now made easy to every beginning craftsperson.

Also, all glass edges had to be filed by hand using a special stone. Although initially controversial among stained glass purists of the time, the invention of diamond motorized grinders allowed the copper foiling technique to become more popular. It became possible to more easily create complex panels once reserved for creation only with lead came.

As recently as 25 years ago, most art glass had to be imported from Europe and was difficult to come by in America. Spectrum and Bullseye began manufacturing glass in the US with just a few colors in the late 1970's and early 80's thereby making glass widely accessible in America. Since then, these companies have undergone significant growth, other glass manufacturers emerged, and glass now comes in hundreds of complex colors and textures.

Stained glass, once only found in church windows, illuminating liturgical scenes, and illustrating biblical events is now widely used by artists, interior designers, and architects the world over. At the center of this growth is a series of technological advances and innovations. Stained glass will continue to evolve through annual conventions held by industry representatives, artists, and craftspersons from all over the world.

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