Thursday, 22 April 2010

Urban Glass Continued...

(Fig.6. Shows me dismantling the broken quarry.)

While at Urban Glass I also worked briefly on other project, which was the restoration of a simple quarry window. Two windows and a tracery needed mending at St Mary's Church, Somerstown near Euston Station. They had been broken by kids throwing things at them and were in an area where they were likely to be targeted again. For this reason when restoring them John decided to use a larger lead than the one they came with so they would be stronger and more able to withstand future abuse. He used a Fein Tool osolating blade to remove the lead. This electric tool cut through all the lead very quickly so the window could be taken apart with speed. It could break the glass if you weren't careful however and isn't something that I imagine would be used on a window of importance. Neither the glass nor the lead needed to be kept though so it was a good tool to use. John was keen on it because the tool which had a flat circular blade span quickly from side to side rather than round in circles so it minimised dust.

(Fig 7. The Somerstown window being brush puttied.)

John used some of the original glass and also a lot of new glass. Once it was made I brush puttied it. He had it installed with somebody else but let me come and see it with him when he was putting the final touches to it. The window was in a U channel which is a channel in the wall of the church in the shape of the letter U. This type of channel is usually wider at one side than the other, so the window can be slid into the wider side then shunted across into the other to fit it. The flanges have to be bent down on the glass the outer edges to fit because it is a tight squeeze. An oyster knife is then used to straighten the lead back out again once it’s in because this will help to support it.

In most churches the window is compiled of different parts which are slotted together. A lancet is the word used to describe the whole window while the fancier shaped piece at the top is referred to as the tracery. Usually a window would be fitted from the top down because the tracery is a more awkward shape, and the bottom panel would be the hardest to fit and need lead bent down. On this occasion the 8mm lead of the tracery needed to be bent back all the way and a rasp was used on the stone to make the glass fit. Two people were needed to fit, one on the inside of the building and one on the outside, on ladders all day.
(Fig.8. This is an internal picture of the reinstalled window.)

The U channel is jammed with bits of lead to initially hold the window in place. It is also held with copper ties. Copper ties are essentially just strips of copper wire with loops in the middle. The loop has a blob of solder stuck on it and this is then melted onto the lead in the places where the panel meets steel bars in the window frame. These bars are tie bars and are there to support the glass. The copper is twisted onto the bars and this keeps the window in place while a mixture of lime mortar, sharp stone dust and cement is applied to the U tunnel blocking it up. Once hardened this is very hard to remove and it is serious work trying to release the window from the channel using chisels and round hammers.

I felt John also gave me some great advice. He said when going for a job you needed to be competent and accurate at cutting glass or there would be no point employing you. You must be able to follow a cut line perfectly first time and be able to demonstrate this with speed. If you can’t do this you will waste so much time grinding glass back to the shapes you should have been able to make in the first place. So cutting is very important to practise.

Tips for the future are to set up a PayPal account so when people come to look at your studio you can log them on to the computer right there and then and they can pay you. This is good because people don't tend to carry that much cash or have cheque books on them and if they leave they might change their mind. Get them to buy it straight away. He also said to get attention contact local papers to say you've an exhibition on – a run of 100 or something that sounds like it might run out. Try exhibiting in libraries and public places.

A final piece of advice is to get good at Photoshop. That way when entering competitions draw your design, then Photoshop it into a church with people walking by and looking at it. You can add designs like these of things you haven't done to your portfolio to bulk it out and show off your ideas.

I hugely enjoyed my time at Urban glass and found the experience rewarding. The next studio I went to was Chapel Studio in Kings Langley which is not very far from London. The Studio was set up by Alfred Fisher and Peter Archer in the 70s and is now run by Bob Holloway a partner in the business. During my time there I was under the instruction of Rachel Helleur and Laura Hobson who took care of me and showed me what to do. This studio does new work but mostly restoration and there was only restoration work being done while I was there. They have nine permanent members of staff and several freelance so there was always plenty going on.

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