Sunday, 3 January 2010

Lincoln Cathedral placement continued...

Sash window repair.

I also got to see a sash window getting repaired ready to go back into one of the cathedrals rented properties. Jar of putty was mixed up with extra linseed oil and the wooden lip on the window frame was covered in this putty before the glass was pressed into it. The glass stuck to the putty and the excess seeping out was cleared off. Stack points, which are like pointy nails are fired from a special gun into the wood around the edges to hold the glass in place. More putty is them squished ontop of the nails to secure the glass and give an aesthetic finish. A putty knife that has flat blunt edges is used to smooth of the putty which dries in a week and is painted with an oil based paint. The painting of the putty is important because it stops it from cracking.

Repair of Cathedral window.

The only time I got to see the sort of thing that they would do on sight is one morning when Steve took me into the cathedral to let me watch him repair a small broken section. It was a lower area of a very large window designed in 1855 by Henry Hughes and Thomas Ward who ran a London based firm. Eve’s head had been broken by a football. A new piece had been painted and I watched it being installed. Another figures dress robe was also replaced. There were two repaints and also some original pieces that had come loose. It was just a quick job. There were a lot of other breaks in the window but in four years the whole thing is getting taken out and repaired so all that was required was for this section to be secured. Extra lead was soldered on as strapping to stop broken bits falling out and they were also secured with magic tape which is transparent. I mostly just watched, but I also ground down the pieces that were not quite fitting and puttied some of the sections. I puttied it with butyl, a black non-setting substance that allows the glass to move precisely because it does not go rigid, thereby preventing stress.

Eve's head being replaced.

To squeeze the glass back into its warped surroundings Steve used a broken pallet knife, a Stanley knife, a dental pick, a little hammer and grozing pliers. He bent back the lead and hammered it, cutting solder with a knife to make the space wider. Eventually it was all fixed up and from the ground you couldn’t tell it had been tampered with or see the breaks.

Other glass in the cathedral was designed by the likes of Henry Holiday, Clayton and Bell and William Whales. It is a magnificent building with glass dating back to 1220. The cathedral was originally built between 1072 and 1092 although they were still expanding up until the 14th century. It was great to be able to stand up close to some of this magnificent glass and see it being worked on.

Vinyl being removed from acid etched glass I created.

Before I left I was able to try some acid etching, something I’ve always been interested in. Everyone who visits their studio makes them a diamond shape for a quarry window. The idea is after a few years they’ll have enough to make a whole quarry out of. I cut three diamonds, the idea being that I would give one to them and keep the spare. I also used the leftover glass to experiment with. I cut the shapes out of red and blue flash glass. These shapes were then covered on both sides with vinyl before the designs were scalpeled out. Once this was done I painted black Bitumen paint around the edges to protect them from erosion and left them to dry. On the left over pieces I painted with the bitumen as a resist on the front and vinyl on the backs.

Some of my acid etched designs.

The acid comes at a volume of 60%. It is them watered down to a two to one formula. It then becomes two parts water and one part acid. So it’s really only 20% acid, which is still quite ferocious if it gets on you. It works quite slowly at this concentration taking about forty minutes to see a difference. Steve told me however that different glass is eroded at different rates and different colours are eroded at different rates, which is logical. When the acid is brushed onto a sample at 60% it works instantly. The results are very similar to sandblasting, except acidic areas stay shiny but a little opaque – like fire polishing. The shading is also very subtle.

I was very happy with my results and could see definite potential for the use of acid in my work in the future. Some of the tonal variations and effects that can be achieved are very aesthetically pleasing. My experiences thus far at all my placements over the last three months have been really useful. They have all been very different but there are defiantly skills I have picked up from working with so many different people along the way that will be invaluable to me in the future. I’m looking forward to the next three months and what they will bring.

Lincoln Cathedral placement

I left Wells on the 21st of November and started work at Lincoln cathedral on the 23rd where I was on placement until Christmas. The Lincoln Cathedral glass department is run by Tom Kupper and Steve Lewis and also employs one other person. Although work was being done on the cathedral while I was there I didn’t really get to take part in any of it. Instead I was set educational tasks that they felt would help me hone important skills.

The main thing I was working on while I was there were two sets of small leaded panels. The first set of six were meant to be free gifts for people who donated a lot of money to the cathedral. The second set were purely for my enhancement, but may later on be sold at a fundraising event. During the course of making these I got to observe other things that were being done in the studio and help out a little on small jobs. On the last two days I was also able to try acid etching, something I have long been interested in.

Refurbishing the cathedral has been an ongoing project since the 80s. There are a lot of people employed under the umbrella of ‘works department’ including glaziers, joiners and stone masons. For years to come they will be working there way around the cathedral repairing it. All of this costs money, and although the cathedral owns a lot of property that it rents and is funded by the English Heritage it still relies on donations.

First the glass is cut for the souvenirs.

Those who donate a lot get a small glass souvenir, a sort of replica of a section of window in the cathedral. I made six of these, following a cartoon given to me of a simple design. I cut and grinded each piece using red, blue, yellow and green glass then painted the designs. The first layer of paint used a mix of debitus and rouge for trace lines. Once this was fired it was touched up and fired again. Finally every piece was given a matt lavender wash which was rubbed back in places to bring out the colour. Each panel was leaded from the inside out because they were circular, before being put to one side to be puttied.

Souvenir once painted.

During this time I also cut and leaded together a different design. I did this three times so I could see the improvement I was making. I hadn’t done any lead work in a long time so my early works were much worse than my later creations. Everything was soldered using a gas soldering iron, something I hadn’t used before. Previous students had also been told to make these so there was quite a collection. Mine were added to the rest, which I soldered the backs of and spruced up ready to be puttied later.

Alternative panels leaded and puttied.

I had never brush puttied anything before but was given my first opportunity on a window that had recently been fixed up after being removed from a nearby church that was demolished. I mixed white spirit and linseed oil into leaded light cement to thin it out. It was very hard and lumpy at first and I worked out all the lumps with a metal scraper. Once it was the right consistency I worked it under the lead with a stiff brush, running a pointed dowel around the edges to remove excess as I went. I used whiting on top to dry it out but it seemed to dry quite fast anyway. The brushes were cleaned after by leaving them overnight in white spirit.

Souvenir being leaded.

I later went on to putty all of the souvenirs and leaded panels I had made along with some I hadn’t. Having never used leaded light cement before I wasn’t aware of its differences with linseed putty a product I am very familiar with. Plaster can be left on putty overnight to dry it out but when it left the whiting on the cement overnight it stuck. Obviously this combination works differently. To counteract this I brushed in lamp black carbon powder with a toothbrush to darken it down again. This worked quite well although it still wasn’t as dark as the original cement.

Six finished souvenirs.

These panels were not brush puttied but finger puttied so I had to thicken up the rest of the cement that I had been using before by adding whiting until it was the consistency of putty and didn’t stick to my gloves when pinched. Once they were puttied and left to dry they became solid and sturdy and that’s when they were finished.

Holywell Glass Studio continued...

Grisaille Panel mid clean.

In the short time I had left in the studio I was able to observe some of the other commissions they had on the go. The first I got to see was a Grisaille panel. It was bought by an art dealer called Sam Fogg from another studio and Holywell was supposed to clean and re-lead it so it could be sold for a profit. It was a French panel made from a special green glass between the 13th and 14th centuries. There were four panels in quite good condition that needed cleaned with water under a microscope so as not to disturb any loose paint. It suffered quite badly from pit corrosion because of weather damage but the painting could still be seen clearly. I loved the design, it was really interesting and beautifully interlinked, with an almost celtic quality. I was not permitted to work on it for very long however. I think the man in charge got a little nervous because it was so old incase I damaged it.

Compton Pauncefoot after cleaning.

Instead I got to work briefly on a Victorian pressed glass panel from a place called Compton Pauncefoot in Gloustershire. The church it came from placed it at being around 150 years old and the studio thought it had been made at a London firm ‘Whitefriers’. It was a good example of an early attempt to industrialize stained glass. It used a new technique with modern thicker heavier glass. The glass was heated before a mould was pushed into it creating a relief shape. After it was pressed it was painted. Over time the weight had caused it to bow and it was falling out. It was extremely dirty but cleaned quite easily and looked a hundred times better afterwards.

Arundel window before lead is removed.

I also did a small amount of work on a window from a house in Arundel. Holywell had actually already fixed it up, but as the owners house was redecorated the glass was broken and she wanted the whole piece done again.

The type of metal frame it was in is called a crittle. It had a rebate like a picture frame for the glass to sit in and was held down with gardening clips that acted as a spring. A thick layer of putty had then been put around the edges to secure it and make it look neat. I had to pull all of this apart again and start undoing the leadwork. The same glass was to be used but all the leading needed redone, much to the irritation of the studio because they had to make it themselves.

What was interesting that I learnt from my small contribution to this project was how to take lead apart without damaging it so it can be reused. I was shown how to heat the joint them brush away the solder, trying not to make too much of a mess. Once you can see the lead below you have to work a lead knife back into it and lift the flanges. This has to be done on both sides before you can pull it apart.

Tiffany style lamp after I've removed the pieces needing fixed.

My final project at Holywell was to fix two tiffany style lamps belonging to the next-door neighbour that were broken and falling apart. First I looked it over and marked all the areas with a pen that needed removed or resined. I got two buckets and filled them with bubble wrap so I could sit the ceiling lamps upside down in them with the trim sticking out.

I then made a template rubbing of the glass by cutting paper to the shape of a half circle. I poured a mix of lamp black and boiled linseed oil onto scrap glass. A sponge wrapped in the foot of a stocking, to stop the sponge soaking up too much liquid, was then rubbed into the mixture. The sponge was wiped onto newspaper, removing any excess, before being rubbed over the paper stuck on the glass to pick up the lead lines. This process was repeated onto the second lamp and one was named A, the other B, so as not to get confused. These templates were used when I removed sections of the glass, so each piece could be laid out in the place it was supposed to go back.

Tiffany style lamp once I have repaired it.

I had to cut at the copperfoil and solder with pliers and a Stanley knife to free the broken sections. I then cleaned all the glass with 100% acetone which removed all the dirt and green gunk that had formed as a reaction to the patina.

I resined the broken glass that was salvageable and cut new pieces for the parts that weren’t. In the end about half of each lamp needed taken apart and it took seven working days. Once the resin was dry I copperfoiled everything again and soldered it with a slightly dodgy electric iron. I then cleaned up the glass with a wire brush before going over it again with acetone. Finally I patina’d all the solder using cotton wool and a toothbrush for awkward areas, before cleaning it up with acetone one last time. They looked really good, but it was unfortunate all the broken pieces could not have been replaced, as it would have looked even better.