Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Designing a Piece of Stained Glass

I've been working in a number of crafting mediums for some time now, and I finally decided to share some of my results/artistic process.  If nothing else, a blog will give me one location to send people when I'm asking for help on a project!

My newest crafting medium is stained glass.  After spending almost two years working on my first piece off and on (my teacher has been very sick and has been in and out of the hospital), I finally finished it!  

Of course, I absolutely loved the project, so even before I was done, I began looking for my next piece.  I wanted something more geeky and less traditional.  I lucked across a page on DeviantArt, and found this awesome piece made out of construction and tissue paper:

Mario Stained Glass by artist DL2288.

Now I had a starting point.  However, to create a piece of stained glass, I need a better pattern.  I've been using trial version of Glass Eye, a CAD program that has been absolutely amazing, to create a workable pattern.  First, I opened the picture of the tissue paper version shown above in Glass Eye.  Then I started to draw out the lead lines (i.e., the black lines you see above).  Each of the lead lines have something called knots, which are points that can be used to attach another line or grab part of the picture.  Here, I have made all of the lead lines yellow for better visibility, and you can see how they match up to the original pattern:

Each of those little dots is a knot.

The pattern is easier to see once I remove the original image and switch the lead lines to black:

The pattern gets even more awesome once I add in some tentative glass pieces:

Here's where I need some advice - while this looks AWESOME in theory, there are some places where the shape of the glass will lead to breakages over time.  For example, the area around the pipe.  This has a sharp u-turn that could easily break along any of the red lines shown here:

There are a number of ways to fix this.  Often, many people choose to have lead lines exactly where a break would be most likely to occur.  I tried this in the pattern, but it started to look too heavy - when you get a bunch of small pieces in one place, often times you only see the lead and not the glass.

Instead, I simply extended the pipe upwards:

This eliminates that u-turn without significantly compromising the look of the piece.

Another area in the piece where issues will occur is the Tanooki leaf at the bottom.  The stem of the leaf is just too small, and the weight of the piece will cause it to crack over time.  This problem is easily remedied:

The last issue on the piece is where I am most stuck.  The piranha plant:

This part of the piece has to be one of my absolute favorites!!  However, the large blue background piece is certain to break - there are just too many weak points.  First, cutting it would be difficult - I can't use traditional methods of a glass cutter and tapping to get such a sharp u-turn.  Even if I use a saw, I would probably lose multiple pieces due to vibration on those sharp turns.  Even if I cut the piece perfectly, there is a strong chance that I would have it break with a heat fracture during soldering.  Sadly, this means I must alter the pattern.  I present to you, the following choices.

The circle:

The  arc:

The arc so it kinda looks like the inside of his mouth:

The square:

The weird cross:

None of these really fit artistically with the awesome look of the tissue paper pattern.  Even if I remove two teeth, I still have the cracking problem, so I've only shown ideas with the four teeth, but I'm open to suggestions.  Does anyone have any suggestions?


Alex had an interesting suggestion:

So now, he looks like he's spitting a fireball.  This gives us a final pattern of:

I'm still open for suggestions, but this might be the final pattern.

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