Sunday, April 24, 2016

D.I.Y. Stained Glass Window

We decided to gut the bathroom and start fresh. Because we were starting fresh, we got creative with the design. I spent many winter hours sitting by the wood stove sketching up floor plans until I arrived at one we really liked, which allowed for a separate tub and shower, instead of our old tub shower combo. Some months earlier we'd found a clawfoot tub and vintage Standard sink at a yard sale.

Inspired by the notion of a soaking tub, we decided to remove the lone, small window and install a bigger one; we were thinking a stained glass window. I came close to buying one on Ebay, but for the price, I decided to dust off my stained glass skills and buy the materials to make my own window. (I took an adult ed. stained glass course years ago.) I dug out my tools, ordered more online, bought some glass, and reacquainted myself with glass cutting, etc. With my customary creative outlets on hold for the renovation, my attention to detail was probably a touch more obsessive than necessary.

We found an old 12 paned window at the dump that seemed a good candidate to receive stained glass panels, with a little TLC. I filled half a sketchbook with window design ideas.

I got my heart set on bees. A Google search made clear the most graceful way to depict bees in stained glass is to paint them on....and proper stained glass painting is an ancient art. So, how did they used to do it? I got the rough ingredients for traditional medieval glass paint and stain from Wikipedia and ordered most of it online. I figured I'd just whip up a Middle Ages-style stained glass painting (coughs).

An early 15th Century roundel courtesy of

Further digging revealed of course the glass needs firing, and no, a kitchen oven will not do. I found a kiln on Ebay. I also found a company that manufactures traditional glass paint (Reusche).

I settled on a design and started making the panels. Only the center two would need to be painted.

Because I was going for a medieval folk art feel, I didn't worry too much about everything being perfectly exact.
(Although stained glass really does need to be planned out and measured properly, and this I did.)

When I got around to attempting the final two panels--the painted panels--I found a website that spelled it all out pretty well. These two pale English druids have kindly supplied the interwebs with everything we should need to know to get on with old school glass painting properly. It became abundantly clear just how much I had yet to learn. 

David Williams and Stephen Byrne of Williams & Byrne Stained Glass Studio,
found online at

The first few firings were trial and error, and I took a lot of notes. It is going to take a while to master stained glass painting/reach competency. But I got to a point where I was happy enough with the results to go ahead with putting the window together. I look forward to revisiting stained glass painting when I have more time to experiment. 

James built a sturdy frame around the window and caulked the panels in.

The old window was removed, new window installed, and clapboards replaced.

It has made the room so much brighter and lends that ambiance only stained glass can. We are happy with it.

A close-up of the center panels (and a better representation of the true colors)

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