Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Is that all there is?

Is that all there is? Peggy Lee asked the question over and over in a song that hinted at disappointment and despair. And I’ve recently heard it from the mouths of several of my grandkids. Christmas time is here and they tear excitedly into the wrapping paper and then stand with starry eyes like sharks in a feeding frenzy and ask, “Is that all there is? I want another present to open.”

Jeanne points out to me that the kids who say this all seem to be the same age, around four. So I’m figuring that until that age, kids are overwhelmed by Christmas and then at four they have begun to expect to be overwhelmed, but their brains have matured and they can handle more excitement and so Christmas time disappointment begins to set in. And it never goes away unless you get to the next level. Many people never get to that next level where it’s the giving and the doing for others that is the rush of the season. And so they find solace and comfort in the Peggy Lee song, “let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is.”

But when you begin to get a taste of the next level, you begin to experience a whole new dimension to Christmastime and to life in general. I think it’s called “joy”, you know that happiness that is real, not fleeting and it builds you, it doesn’t tear you down, like drinking or drug use does. Well, I’m wrong, it is fleeting, sometimes it’s just a momentary rush, like that brief flash that comes when the good occurs, you see the child smile, you ease the pain of another or you imagine that you’ve made a positive difference. Flash! You’re filled, if only briefly with that joy. And it’s good, the kind of feeling that mostly comes from mature and thoughtful effort.

The disappointment can still be there, alongside of the happiness, as a kind of legacy that we leave to our kids, left to us by our parents, the false traditions of our elders. Mature people fight against the disappointment and look for true joy. And that effort is worth it.

Sometimes, we as stained glass artists can be tempted to be discouraged, to wonder, “Is that all there is?” Maybe a show wasn’t as successful as we had hoped or a sale that we thought we had slips through our fingers and we’re left feeling a little down. This is when we need to take seriously the advice of Wallace D. Wattles, author of “The Science Of Getting Rich.”

“When you make a failure, it is because you have not asked for enough; keep on, and a larger thing than you were seeking will certainly come to you. Remember this.”
His advice to ignore the failure and avoid discouragement is sound and will lead us to positively reach greater happiness instead of wallowing in imagined misery.

The Peggy Lee song gives us good advice and bad. Breaking out the booze won’t rescue us from discouragement, but the advice to “keep on dancing” is sound. Just keep on, keeping on and you’ll find the success you seek around the next turn, or the next, or.....

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Pleasant Surprise

I get such bad service from people at different companies that I work with so frequently, that I often don’t ask for help.

For example: we recently bought a dozen soldering irons and the tips on them went bad quickly, one within 24 hours and most didn’t last a week. When I mentioned it to my distributor, my sales gal told me to send them back in so they could evaluate them. I had already thrown them out, I had taken a picture of all of them in a pile, but that wasn’t good enough. I didn’t lose any sleep over the incident, but it does illustrate my attitude towards products. I figure no one is going to support their inferior products and if I have to replace them for my clients, I’ll be the one eating the cost.

No big deal, I just don’t expect much and so I’m not disappointed.

Last year I bought an Inland Wizard grinder to replace an old grinder that had worn out. I chose it because it has a nice wide table and I thought it looked pretty professional. But the first time I went to move the grinder bit, the set screw was frozen. So I drilled it out and after much beating and pounding, I got the grinder bit off, but I had damaged the motor and the grinder was toast. I simply tossed it in the trash and ordered a new one, which I’m careful to keep lubricated properly to prevent a bit from freezing.

So when my new Twin Spin Grinder from Inland had a frozen set screw, I was careful. I first ordered a new grinder bit so that I could repair the grinder and keep it in service. Then I used caution in how I drilled out the grinder bit so that I wouldn’t put unnecessary strain on the shaft and the motor. But still, by the time I got the grinder head removed, the motor and shaft had a bad wobble. This time, I didn’t feel like tossing the grinder since I had that replacement head and I don’t think they go bad very often, so I took the grinder apart and found that it would be easy to replace the motor if I had one. My distributor didn’t carry them so I had to look on-line.

When I got to I found contact information and called customer service. What a surprise! They INSISTED on helping me. First, the fellow wanted me to send in my grinder so he could fix it. When I explained that it was taken apart and it would be easier to just buy a replacement motor, he insisted that I send the motor to him so he could replace it. Turns out that the grinder has a 5-year warranty. I couldn’t believe it. Makes me wish that I hadn’t thrown out that other grinder. Guess what brand of grinder I’m buying to replace that other one that’s over 20 years old?
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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Repair Stained Glass That Has Separated 12/07

Our studio repaired an arched window before and when the owner of the panel hung it up, she still didn't use all the rings that were designed to hold it, so we decided to add additional reinforcement to it after we got it back in place. Maybe that will keep it from coming apart.

The orange and yellow curved pieces of glass had separated from the purple glass.

Make sure and visit to see the pictures that go with this article.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

How To Install Stained Glass In A Cabinet Door -Nov 2007

We get requests for instructions on how to install glass quite often. It sometimes presents us with a dilemma, because as you're doing an install, it's often difficult to stop and take pictures.
We recently installed a number of panels in cabinet doors which gave us a chance to film the process.

Start by checking that the glass fits in the opening. You don't want to lay the glass down in silicone and then find out the glass doesn't fit.
Lay out the tools you'll need, silicone caulk (or paintable caulk if the application calls for it), a roll of toilet paper and a nearby trash can to get rid of the unwanted caulk.

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Warm Glass Book Review

Warm Glass by Philippa Beveridge,Ignasi Domenech and Eva Pacual

Andy works for a local stained glass studio and teaches classes at BYU. I enjoy talking to him about stained glass and he is full of really good advice about kiln fired glass. Recently he recommended Warm Glass to me. I got it and I love it.
This volume is full of examples of work which has been created in a kiln, but it's much more, it's like a classroom in a book, a primer on what went right and what went wrong. It is by far the best book I've seen to learn about kiln fired glass.

You really need to get this book.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

How To Reinforce A Stained Glass Skylight -Oct 2007

I have a tendency to "over build" projects, because it worries me that something might happen that wasn't planned. So I add extra wood to shelves so they won't sag and extra time for glass to cool in the kiln so it won't break. Sometimes these extra steps may be unnecessary but they give me peace of mind.
But when it comes time to reinforce a stained glass panel which is going to be over head, you just can't be too careful!

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Should I Start My Own Stained Glass Business?

Every stained glass student who builds a piece of glass and enjoys the process, toys with the idea of starting a stained glass business. I give all of our students the same advice. I wrote an article which gives views about those who are already in the business or considering buying one.

If you think you might want to start a stained glass business, then start slowly. Talk to your friends and relatives and start building windows for them in your spare time. Keep your day job! See how things work out. I would advise anyone thinking of going into any business, that before you make a decision to get into it, work for at least 3 months in the business, 90 days seems to be the point where you really get an eye opening. The honeymoon ends and you see what you're really getting yourself into. As you build windows for others, you'll get a feel for how the business works, what highs and lows there are. As you gain more practice building stained glass panels, you'll get better at the techniques and you'll learn how good you really are at it. You will be starting a stained glass studio at first instead of a stained glass business. After all, if the art doesn’t push you along, no amount of business will be enough to sustain you in your “hour of darkness.”

What usually happens is that you’ll discover what some of the frustrations of the business are. You will then be equipped to make a decision whether or not stained glass is the right business to try. I admit to people on a regular basis that I could make more money, more easily doing almost any other business than stained glass. It's true! And there have been times when I've gotten sick of stained glass. This is a truth! When you begin to do your hobby as a business, at some point it becomes work. I had reached that point when I met Milo, the student who drove me over the edge, I really quit the business and couldn’t look at stained glass, even as a hobby, for over a year.

But, after all is said and done, there is another truth that leads many true artists to start their own business and that is that they love it! I’ve written articles about the joys and setbacks of the stained glass business at and there really are moments where it’s all worthwhile, that the struggle is worth it.

So I recommend that you give it a try, start slowly and test the waters. You don’t need to get a small business loan or sell the family heirlooms to raise capital. Just get a few hand tools, and maybe a grinder or a saw and start in your basement or garage, building a few pieces of glass.

If it gets frustrating, you may decide to bake bread or paint for a living. But if you find it to be a joy, then expand and expand till you are forced to break forth into a “real” business. Remember that you don’t need to start with business cards and licenses to begin. You simply begin to build one window and then another. Most stained glass artists I know started in exactly that same way. Good Luck!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

How To Build A "Double Foam" Crate -Sept 2007

When a window arrived at a clients address, with a slight crack in the border glass, we were very glad that we had built the crate to specifications. The insurance on the parcel was more than enough to cover the replacement of the glass, but it is a nuisance to have to build or repair the glass and the customer is inconvenienced.

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

How To We Crate Same Size Multiples of Glass -August 2007

There is a time when we need to ship several panels and a little more weight in one crate costs a lot less than shipping several different crates.

Here are three windows stacked up with 1" rigid foam on the top and bottom and thin bubble foam between each layer of glass.

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Running A Stained Glass Business In Provo, Utah

I have to confess that I don't know everything! This comes as quite a shock to myself, since I thought I knew everything for such a long time. I still have an opinion about everything; such is my confidence in my own ideas and judgments. But I just don't know everything!

I sometimes struggle with who to vote for like everyone else. And I stand amazed at the choices that some of my children make. Wow, I really never saw some of those things coming! But when it comes to stained glass, I feel pretty comfortable with my knowledge.

I can cut glass and design glass and solder panels, I have experience that spans several decades and in all that time I've picked up a substantial body of knowledge, but I still don't know everything. And that's a good thing! It's fun to learn and explore new techniques, it's exciting to try something new, that we've never done before, like sandblasting on both sides of a piece of glass that we just tried last week.

But what I really don't know is the minds of other people. Why don't they have the same intense love of stained glass that we do? What is missing in their lives that they don't feel inspired by really great images in glass?

Now that we've been located in Provo, Utah for eight years, we ought to be getting pretty good as to how our business needs to function in Provo. But we're just starting to scratch the surface. A few developers, architects and builders know who we are, but certainly not all. It's an extremely fun part of building and running a business to get to know new people in the industry who introduce us to new projects and opportunities. And it's gratifying when someone we've worked with in the past searches us out and presents work to us that is challenging. We love that part of the business.

What I really wish for is that others in the stained glass business would share their experience and knowledge with us so that we might all be able to help and lift one another. I think there is an unlimited supply of opportunity for any stained glass artist who wants it. I believe that the world is full of the need for more beauty and inspiration and that as stained glass artists we (as a community) have only touched the surface. Who doesn't need more beauty and inspiration in their life?

For more articles on stained glass visit

Sunday, July 01, 2007

How To Install Stained Glass in an Existing Window Frame -July 2007

We often have requests for articles on how to install stained glass windows. It's hard to get enough pictures to do an article because we are usually in such a hurry to get the job completed that we don't take the time to take a lot of pictures.
But a month or two ago, we took our time on an install so we could get enough pictures to show how the install went.

We built three panels to fit into an existing framework. We were sure they would fit because we traced a paper pattern of the existing window openings and then made them a little smaller.

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Learning Precision

Back when I started doing stained glass, I didn’t quite understand the concept of precision in my work. I would cut out pieces of glass and for the most part they were close to what the pattern piece was. I would lay the pieces of glass out, one by one, on the print of the window and they would pretty much fit, but not quite. After I got all the pieces cut out, I would shift them together so that they fit tightly and then I would grind one or two pieces to fit into the space that was left for them.

The windows looked good and I was proud of them and I thought I was doing a good job. Then as years went by and I got better at the skill of cutting glass, I discovered that it just didn’t need to be so hard to finish a window. I learned to be more precise. I had always taught and practiced the art of cutting close to the line I had traced around the pattern piece. I had told students for years to cut on the inside of the line, right on that edge where the pattern piece and the marker touched each other so that the glass would perfectly match the pattern piece. And I noticed that my windows fit together better.

Then I became a true believer in precision. No longer did multiple curved pieces have to be slid about and adjusted. I could cut them out and be assured that they would fit perfectly, because each and every piece that I cut fit just that way. It matched the pattern piece and the layout plan. The mystery of how to shift the glass about was no longer needed because I had a new secret weapon, that of being precise.

In life, we often find times where precision is helpful. Like when following a recipe, it’s good to be fairly precise. Not perfect, we still don’t have to achieve perfection, to me precision is close enough. It’s going towards perfection but not getting goofy about it. I guess there are times where getting perfect would be great. Like perfect grades in a class that is important to us, or maybe trying to be perfectly loyal to friends and family or perfectly forgiving to those who wrong us. And when we fall short, I figure we can just reach for precision. To be “pretty good.”

Nowadays I try to teach students about being precise and often my words fall on deaf ears. It’s not that they ignore me, they just don’t understand what I mean. So when a student saves all her pieces to be ground at one time, I may give her a friendly word of advice, to grind as you go, cut each piece and then grind it so that everything fits as you go along. But if she doesn’t listen, I don’t worry. I know that in a day or two, when she starts to grind all those pieces to fit, she’ll echo the words of another student who said, “If I had known it was going to be so hard to grind these pieces, I would have tried to cut them closer to the line.”

Experience may be the best teacher of all!

For more articles on stained glass visit

Friday, June 01, 2007

How To Solder A Reinforcing Edge On A Curved Panel-June 2007

This is an edge panel that went with two other windows. You can see the entire piece installed by going to
The top edge of this piece is curved and we often get asked how we put 1/4" outer bar on curved pieces. It's very difficult to put outer bar on a piece which has a radius of less than 4'.

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

How To Fix or Reinforce Glass With A Solder Bridge-May 2007

This is a panel that we built which had a weakness in a long thin section. We built several of them and they would sometimes crack at the thin point of the glass. So to keep that from happening and to reinforce the weak spot, we needed to reinforce the spot where the break was taking place.

The back of this piece is already repaired, you can see the bridged solder bead on the back of the panel.

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Problem With Teaching Classes

I hope you’ll forgive me, but sometimes, I just need to blow off steam!!!

The other day some students from a nearby college called to say they’d like to stop by and discuss taking classes from us. Those who know us, know that we teach classes not to make money, but to get to know great people and rediscover the joys of stained glass. This was not such a meeting.

They showed up, very nice and agreeable and we took them to the studio where we had a very large project spread out and began discussing their desire to take a class, or rather the wife’s desire to take a class. She began to talk to Jeanne about taking classes and the husband, a young guy, in his twenties started talking to me. “Where do you get your glass from?” he wanted to know. I replied that we bought it from a wholesaler in another state and it came shipped to us by motor freight. “Does it come on a pallet, in a crate?” he further asked. I answered him but got a knot in my stomach, this was a weird question, quite out of the ordinary and not what the casual stained glass student would ask. He soon warned me, “You may not want to teach us about stained glass, because we plan to start a business making stained glass and we’ll be your competition.”

At that, I almost laughed out loud, because the idea of thinking you can go into the stained glass business is great in theory, but until you know the steps and the degree of difficulty that making stained glass pieces consist of, you just have no idea what you’re talking about! I attempted to give him some good advice, that he start small and begin by selling to friends so that he knows what he’s getting himself into before making a big splash in the stained glass business.

Then he told me how little he was interested in stained glass, how it was just a hobby his wife was interested in, how he had just started two other businesses and how he wondered if we could use an abrasive water jet machine to cut glass. I answered frankly that, yes we could, but that wasn’t the bottleneck in stained glass building, that foiling and, especially, soldering was. Then he began to theorize about how a machine could be built to do it for you and once again, I was struck by the lack of qualifications he had to be thinking this way. He had already admitted that he’d never soldered except some electronics work and he’d never welded. He really struck me as a gas-bag who had little real world experience, under qualified to do such a project, but at that arrogant stage where he thought he could do anything!

I did advise him that I could put him in touch with different people we know who are in the business and could give him pointers on how to get started, but he was never interested in hearing how other people are succeeding (or not succeeding) in the business. He was only interested in what he’d learned in school and his own arrogance about his ability to run a business. It bugged me, that as I told him stories of those we know in business and how things have worked for them, that he seemed to have the idea in the back of his head that, “this guy is a jerk, who just doesn’t know anything.” It was obvious that he had no respect for us, or our abilities or our years of experience.

My brother-in-law, Mike, advised me some years ago that I shouldn’t teach classes because it would only be training my competition. I disregarded that advice, not because I though it was without merit, but because I view the world in a different way. That- there is room enough for all to do what they want. There can be many stained glass artists employed in their profession and it doesn’t diminish us if we help another get a foothold. But where he’s right, is when some smart-assed punk, with no money, no experience and no artistic talent comes into my studio and thinks he can do a better job at the business which I’ve worked and failed and succeeded at for 35 years, that’s where having open doors of hospitality and openness may be a mistake!

Contrast that visit with the one we had the next week from a guy who wants to do stained glass as a hobby. He wanted to get all the tools he could easily afford, all the advice we could offer and whatever guidance we were willing to impart. He had read a book or two and had been studying glass work on the internet. He knew many of the terms that glass workers used and he seemed well grounded in embarking on the hobby. He wanted to try to do his first window on his own, with no instruction, just to test his own ability, but he was happy to get our video so he had the basics down before beginning. He had done his homework, was teachable in many areas and yet knew what he wanted. What a difference!

The only problem with teaching classes is that every student isn’t the golden contact we want to meet, some really drive us nuts and it’s often a balance between the best students whom we love and those few oddballs whom we’d rather bar the doors to keep them out.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

How To Build A Window For A Backlit Space

To build a window to fit a backlit space, we first measure the space and draw the pattern. Then we cut off 1/4" all around so the piece will fit when it's completed.

We built the panel and left 1/4" of free space when we soldered it so that we could easily apply 1/4" zinc outer bar to the piece. (the 1/4" Strip fit's over the glass 1/8" and adds 1/8" so the panel is just the right size)

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

How To Aggressively Reinforce A Window-Mar 2007

We try to encourage designs that are not only beautiful, but practical as well. Occasionally a client wants something that challenges us and we need to add additional reinforcing to strengthen the window. You may find yourself in a similar situation with a need to provide extra heavy reinforcement in just a line or two because the design just doesn't allow you to add lots of multiple lines of reinforcement. You may wan to try the following method to provide adequate reinforcement.

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Soldering A Zinc Edge On A Panel-Feb 2007

Many times we solder zinc 1/4" outer bar onto a window as a framework to strengthen it. Raw glass panels are usually very weak but adding zinc really increases their strength. Sometimes that zinc edge is the only framework that is used to hang the completed panel and sometimes the entire piece gets put inside a wooden framework to hang or stand as a room divider or in a window as a decorative element. Putting zinc on a window is a technique that all glass artists, both lead came and copper foil enthusiasts use. It is a basic skill that all flat glass artists need to learn.

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.

Monday, January 15, 2007

What Goals Does An Artist Set?

As I read and learn about how to run a business, I’m often confronted with the question, “What do you want to accomplish with your business?” Usually the article or speaker will go into depth and describe lofty goals of somehow creating an empire, a money machine, a legacy.

But those kinds of questions don’t seem to apply to us as artists. Our questions need to be, “What do you want to accomplish with your art?” We artists are often driven by visions, or desires that have little to do with the money or the details of running a business. We’re, instead, driven to create both for our audiences’ enjoyment and inspiration and for our own fulfillment.

So our goals are different than those of a businessman’s goals. But we have to set them, unless we ‘re happy with the way things are, we have enough income, enough fulfillment, enough challenge (and nothing ever changes in the future).

My problem is that there just isn’t enough room for glass in my home. I need to sell glass so that I can afford more and so there is a place to put it. And I need to set goals that will let others know about us and our accomplishments so they will trust our ability to do the job that they need done. And to be practical, I do want more equipment, not for the sake of ownership but for the ability to do more work.

I can cut glass with a hand cutter from the hardware store that costs a buck or two, but then I want an oil cutter that runs from $20 to $40. It improves my cuts, and my quality goes up. Then I need a strip cutter for straight lines and a circle cutter for, you got it, circles. And a saw would be nice and an extra grinder. And so it goes, another table, more storage space, just a little more so the quality can improve.

Stained glass is a very technical art form. Just ask anyone who’s ever done sandblasted pieces. There are so many things that must work properly. You need the right sand, the right nozzle, the right air pressure, and the right resist. The proper flow is achieved and you finally get to concentrate on the art. All those other details are just things that must be right in order to perform the art. This is why art competitions are so unfair to glass artists, judges hold us to the same standards as other artists even though the same conditions don’t apply. Painters don’t have to make their own paint and weave their own canvasses. Sculptors don’t have to quarry the stone out of the ground before starting work. Welders don’t have to start from scratch, creating metal from ore they dig out of the ground.

So, I’m beginning to set goals, artistic goals. The first is for myself. I want to work more hours on my art each week. This means I have to set more rigorous hours for myself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked all day, and then all week and haven’t even cut a piece of glass. So I’m holding myself to a more structured in the shop work schedule.

Second, I like doing good work, the kind you have to go campaign for. Great work rarely comes knocking on your door, you have to go out and seek it. So I’ve set goals about a structured way to contact people. I’m not going to start knocking doors from sunup to sundown as I did when I sold books door to door, but I am going to talk to a couple of people every week.

Lastly, I’ve set some financial goals, nothing big and grandiose, just simple goals. Like, put some money in savings for a rainy day and then know how much profit I really make on a job. I don’t want to be like the two truck drivers who bought watermelons for a nickel apiece in Texas, drove them to New York and sold them for a nickel apiece. When they looked at how much they had made, one said to the other, “There’s no doubt about it, we’ve got to get a bigger truck!”

Goals don’t have to be big or unattainable. I think a lot of folks get put off by the idea of setting goals because they are so close to those New Years resolutions that get put off and failed at, year after year. But like someone said, “a goal that isn’t written down, is only a dream.” Dreams are great, they help me figure what my goals ought to be…..”I want to have a studio in the mountains near a babbling brook where little woodland animals…”

For more articles on stained glass visit

Monday, January 01, 2007

Cutting Diamonds On Very Rough Glass-Jan 2007

When building French style windows, you may need to cut many diamond shaped pieces and it would be tedious to draw around a pattern piece for each one. We came up with a system for cutting them quickly, which you may like to try. When we cut vecchio glass the challenge is even greater because of the roughness of the glass.

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.