Creating a Custom Stained Glass Piece

Creating a Custom Stained Glass Piece

The Joy of Stained Glass Work

Crossing Canada in a house on wheels, Judy and Hugh Bourhis helped to pay for their travels through making stained glass pieces for those they encountered on their way.

We are Drawn to Stained Glass

Stained Glass Artist Judy Bourhis

Stained Glass Artist Judy Bourhis

People are drawn to the creations. The light radiating through the coloured glass as it hangs in a window is the perfect focal point in any home. And when done in public works installations, the effect creates a sensibility of timelessness and beauty. You have to admit: there’s something special about stained glass art.

Judy creates her pieces using artisanal techniques learned over decades of practice and from studying under master craftspeople. The point has always been to preserve the art form first, carry on the legacy and create stunning pieces of art that will continue to enlighten generations.

A Rustic Beginning to a Timeless Craft

From the most basic starting place: When they first arrived in Birken, there were no services. No electricity, no telephone. They bought a generator, and with that were able to run the soldering iron to create their art. Once they purchased the kiln, they were able to fuse glass, enhancing the level of artisanship and further solidifying Our Glass Works as a place dedicated to continuing the legacy of traditional stained glass art.

It Starts with an Idea

Bowl – Fused and slumped glass

Stained Glass Bowl

For thirty-five years, there have been two ways, and only two ways to commission a piece of art from Our Glass Works. Either you literally stumbled upon their Birken studio while out on a drive through the British Columbia countryside, or you had heard of them through word-of-mouth. And that level of “advertising” kept Judy busy over the years, as she went from commissioned piece to commissioned piece.

The client has an idea. A memory they would like to keep forever, or a certain theme they would like to work with. Colours are discussed, size and shape taken into consideration. sketches are made.

As Judy says,

“I come back to them with a hand drawn, full-scale, working drawing for their project and the proposed budget to execute it.  With their approval the project begins, some taking only weeks while others take months to create.”

The project. Creating art with glass. Stained glass is almost a misnomer. The glass isn’t “stained” or even painted.

Layer by Layer, Art is Born

Colour built up, layer by layer, using small pieces of glass create that gorgeous effect in the windows and other creations. The glass is coloured during production. The silica, potash and lime are added together with metallic oxides for colour and heated to 2500 degrees. The molten glass is poured into sheets and shipped to craftspeople to use in their creations.

Judy then chooses the perfect piece of glass, cuts it to size and then fits the pieces together to form the design. “Sometimes, the details of the design, such as folds of drapery, face features; patterns, etc. are painted on the glass with enamel and fired in a kiln.”

Thousand-Year-Old Traditions

Stained glass is still made in essentially the same way that it was made in the middle ages in Europe. Variations of the above process include blowing the glass and then laying it into flat slabs. Cathedral glass is rolled into sheets. Another technique calls for blowing white glass and colouring one side creating a muted effect in the colouring.

The Design Becomes Art

Leaded Stained Glass Panel

Leaded Stained Glass Panel

The pattern created by Judy has the “leadlines” ready to guide her in the process of cutting the glass pieces.  Whether using lead came that is channeled to let the glass fit in or wrapping each piece of glass in a copper tape, these are the methods of putting glass projects together. Then these pieces are soldered together, patinaed, puttied and finally polished to its final brilliance.

Reactions to her work are, in part, what keep her going after 35 years. The works may at times take months to create using painstaking techniques developed over a thousand years ago. But due to the artisanship, patience and attention to detail, the results are always stunning.

A not uncommon refrain:

“You are wonderful. Our Executive Assistant was fretting, but I told her not to worry – we had the right person on the job. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.”

What Can We Craft for You?

Judy loves to chat, learn and brain storm ideas with you. Visit our stained glass photo gallery to get inspired. Then feel free to reach out to Judy to discuss crafting a unique and treasured stained glass piece for you and yours!

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