Church Window Restoration
Bovard Studio's Glas Painting and Development Department

Glass Painting

Glass Painting

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Yuriy Maltsev, one of Bovard Studio’s glass painters, makes a final inspection of a completed face, just prior to turing it over to the fabrication department.

Glass Painting

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

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. Some designs, such as figurative, require painting to add realistic details to faces, hands, feet, and other design elements. 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 heavy metal oxides. For instance gold 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 a medium such as water, alcohol or oil, and includes a binder, glass frit and 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 applied 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.

Surface Etching A Design

Surface etching is another technique that an artist may use to obtain contrasting colors within an individual piece of glass. A special type of glass called "flashed" is used for this process. Flashed glass is manufactured by applying a very thin layer of a darker color onto the surface of a lighter colored sheet of glass. The darker thin layer (the "flashed" layer) can be etched, engraved or sandblasted away to reveal areas of the lighter color underneath in whatever design is desired. For example, an artist may use a blue flashed on clear, then etch a design by removing some of the blue surface color to create a design of clear "stars" on a dark blue "sky" background.

Final Inspection

After every glass component has been cut, shaped, painted, etched or otherwise prepared, it is time to assemble or "lead up" the stained glass window. However, not before one final, and very important inspection is made. All finished glass components are arranged back on the light table, or fixed to the viewing easel, exactly as they will be assembled. The artist will make one final review of the work and make any desired adjustments and refinements.