The blueprint of... Pharoah's Horses

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By Myana
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The blueprint of... is an article serie where we’re taking a closer look on an Artisan Crafts deviation and how it's made.

Today we are dissecting Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios

Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios

First off, please introduce yourself?

I am Dawn Thompson, a stained and kilnformed glass artisan working in Iowa. I run Indeestudios, a glass and illustration business with my illustrator husband, John Thompson. I'm also the mom of 2 boys and 3 adopted dogs, and run a food pantry.

Please explain what we are viewing.

This is a commissioned stained glass window based on the widely distributed Victorian Era print, "The Pharaoh's Horses" It is constructed with lead came, art glass and glass enamels and approximately 24" in diameter.

Can you describe for a layman how it’s made?

The initial and most important part of stained glass work is the pattern. In this case, I was taking an existing composition and re-working it to accommodate the physics of glass. There can be no sharp inside angles, no shapes with a "waist", and all shapes must have a connecting lead line. Depending on whether you are working with lead came or copper foil, you must also think about whether the shapes can slide into the metal framework created by the came; an especially difficult process when working with a circular composition.

Once the pattern is completed, it is printed at full scale and used as a template to cut the glass. Since this piece has painted elements, I used a type of glass that is acutally clear, but constructed with millions of frothy "bubbles" so it reads white. it transmits a ton of light, but has a nice opaque look. I then painted the horses on a lightbox, using a stipple method, then an overall airbrushing to deepen the blacks in the shadows.

The painted pieces are kiln fired to set the paint, then the rest of the process can proceed.

The rest of the glass is cut to the pattern, then fitted into extruded lead channel, called came. This is an ancient technique and most common in installed windows. The lead is then soldered together where it joins. This process is followed by applying a putty made of linseed oil and whiting to the entire panel, pushed between the lead and glass to strengthen the panel, weatherproof it, and cushion and protect the glass. Then it is cleaned waxed and installed or framed.

Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios

What tools did you use?

I have a rather sprawling and strange studio in the basement of my 112 year old home that houses a ton of equipment, including diamand saws, various grinders and 3 kilns! For basic cold, (stained), glass work, however, you need just a few basic tools. A good glass cutter, special pliers for breaking and refining the glass called groziers, a lead knife or lead pliers, (called lead dykes), to cut the metal, and a soldering iron. A wet diamond bit grinder is helpful for quickly refining the glass shapes. For pattern drawing, I start with sketches, then refine using Adobe CS on a Mac. I use a large lightbox for painting, and steal brushes from my husband!

What was your inspiration in creating this?

This was a commissioned piece where the client contacted me wanting a window based on "The Pharaoh's Horses". I was familiar with the painting, having seen it in several homes growing up, and having been a "horse girl" loved it, of course! It is always much more fun to create a commissioned piece that you are enthusiastic about!

horses original by indeestudios

There were two widely distributed versions of the painting; one in black and white and one in color. The original had a rectangular orientation, but it was most often reproduced as a circular piece. I drew up several variations, but the client and I decided that the modified take on the circular black and white was the most dramatic.

How long time did it take you to make this?

This took approximately 40 hours.

Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios

Did you run into anything unexpected while creating?

I've done so many windows over the years that unless I'm doing something off the wall or experimental, I can usually anticipate any difficulties. In this case, leading was difficult, since it is a circular shape, but nothing too tough.

Are you happy with the result?

I was especially pleased with the outcome on this piece. Reproducing paintings in glass is often difficult; especially if the client has unrealistic expectations. Cold glass techniques must be based on strong definitive lines and shapes, while most paintings are based on the flow and transition of color. They don't always translate well. In this case, the strong contrasts and dramatic lighting of the original painting translated nicely to glass.

Where have you learnt your skills in this area?

My art background is eclectic; I was an art major for 3 years before changing majors and graduating with a business degree. I took a 10 session class to learn the basics of cold glass work from a glass and paint shop several years ago. I am self taught in glass painting, kilnformed glass and advanced cold glass techniques, as well as digital drafting.

Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios Pharoah's Horses by indeestudios

Do you take your own photos? Any tips you want to share for presenting your work?

Anyone who has tried it will tell you that photographing glass is terrible! Fortunately, I have a sunroom with lots of natural light on 3 sides so can get decent photos fairly regularly. Windows must be photographed with strong natural backlighting. Flash is out because of the glare, though I will sometimes use it for detail shots where I want to highlight a texture.

I will often adjust the contrast and color levels in Photoshop if I can't get good light for a few days. Usually the pieces need to go out to a client, so I can't wait for that perfect sunny-but-not-too-bright day!

horses frame by indeestudios

What is the best tip you can give to others wanting to test this craft/material/technique?

I encourage anyone with an interest in glass to take a class! Most glass stores and many craft shops offer classes or workshops. The basics are easily learned with a good instructor, but difficult to learn via books or videos. A bit of a warning though....materials are expensive and glass is addictive!

If you already know the basics and wish to improve or expand your skills, I can't emphasize draftsmanship and artistry enough. Take a drawing class or get a book and learn how to draw simply and effectively. And learn compositional basics. The strong line element in glass will make defects that would be minor in a shaded drawing or painting glaring ones.

Are you selling your work?

Most of my work is commissioned custom windows,…
but I do sell some pieces in retail venues.

I sell warm glass work, and the occasional small stained glass panel on Etsy:

I also sell panels and windows and regional galleries:

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Thank you indeestudios for participating and taking the time to answer my question!


I'd love to recive suggestions for next "victim" to interview! Note me with a link to the deviation you'd like to know more about and I'll contact the deviant.

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synconi's avatar
What a lovely article about a beautiful and unusual art form! :love:
cl2007's avatar
most excellent and informative :clap: