Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

art therapy: stained glass...

A wise pastor knows.  A wise pastor sees the struggles, the anxieties, the pain we so easily hide from others.  A wise pastor knows that not all counseling is done in comfy chairs over a box of tissues. We are blessed to have just such a pastor at our church.  And the extra blessing?  He's a stained glass artist.  So when he sees me struggling against the stressors of this life, he invites me to learn about stained glass.  Brilliant.

First, the design.  "I want a bee," I tell this kind pastor.  He finds a design immediately:  a lovely fat bee on a circular background.  And I just as quickly say, "But I want the background to be a hexagon, like a cell of the comb."  We set to work reconfiguring the design (and by we, I mean he and my sweet husband).  Soon we have a workable design, a framework on paper to proceed from.   Each section is coded with a number (because this will be our pattern and each piece must have a number) and a letter or two indicating the color of glass for that piece.  The original paper pattern was cut apart, then each piece and its coding was transferred to a sturdier paper.  The pieces were cut from the sturdier paper, but not with ordinary scissors.  The scissors used cut the pieces and simultaneously created a "gutter", a small gap between each piece to allow room for the foiling to come.

Colors, oh colors!  Our patient pastor/instructor sat me down in the corner of his studio where he stores all those beautiful pieces of stained glass and told me to choose.  He and my husband quietly overlooked the squeals of delight as I pulled out each new piece of glass.  Well, of course, we need gold and dark brown for the bee, and black for its legs, I think.  The wings should be clear or opalescent, maybe?  The pollen basket... hmmm... pollen comes in so many colors!  And the hexagon.  Cream or ivory for the interior section to make the bee "pop" on the background, but maybe some sort of beige for the outer walls of the hexagon.  And then, he pulled out this amazing, mottled, bumpy, beeswax-colored glass from his stash.  It took my breath away!  It was perfect. 

We still needed a few colors, so we loaded into the Jeep for a trip to the local candy store stained glass store.  Pure bliss.  Colors, textures, patterns... everywhere.  Aisles of shelves arranged by color.  End caps with small, affordable pieces of gorgeousness.  Whole bins of glittering shards.  How were we to choose?  But choose we did.  And my husband found the most magical sky blue, opalescent glass for the bee's wings and a clear, bright green for the pollen basket!

Back to the pastor's studio (a cozy over-the-garage room with all the tools needed to create stained glass masterpieces).   Those sturdier paper pieces of our pattern were transferred with each one's coding to the coordinating color glass with a permanent marker.

In our sessions together, our pastor taught with care about scoring the glass with a special tool, how to split the glass along the score lines, how to grind each cut piece on the grinder until it was just the size needed to fit on the pattern, which had been tacked to a board with metal guards to keep the glass pieces in place.  Some pieces were more difficult (like me).  Some had to be ground more than a few times to get them just right (like me).  Some pieces had to be reworked altogether (like me).  Finally the pieces fit in an acceptable way into the temporary framework. Copper foil was added to the edge of each piece and burnished onto the glass edges, and the pieces were fit into place once more.  A couple of the pieces had to be ground again; the copper foil adding more width to the pieces made them fit too tightly in a couple of spots.  Flux, a gooey substance that allows the solder to flow and adhere nicely to the copper foiling between the pieces of glass, was brushed onto the foil a section at a time, then solder was applied with a hot soldering iron in a smooth, flowing bead.  (Soldering... let's just say that I need way more practice and I'm ever thankful that our pastor cleaned up my poor attempts!)

In the wink of an eye, she appeared!  Out of the broken, dirty pieces of stained glass appeared a stunning, shimmering bee! 

And isn't that what we all are anyway... stained pieces of fragile glass through which the Lord shines His Light, creating beauty?

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