Recently on our trip to the US, Monica and I saw many flowering shrubs that we do not have here in Saint John. One was the American Redbud tree with its beautiful slender branches fully encircled with pink/purple blossoms. A really elegant and colorful shrub that blooms in spring.
No sooner were we home from our trip when I received an email from our friend, Tom Burian of Mississauga, husband of Monica’s niece, Sandra Jackson (Marguerite’s daughter). Tom was seeking a birthday gift for Sandra and thought something in stained glass might be nice. When asked, Tom already had subject matter in mind… cardinals! Ironically, they have an American Redbud tree on their property and enjoy seeing the cardinals in it each spring when it blooms.
So, with that as the subject, I set out creating a pattern with a pair of cardinals (male and female) sitting together on a branch of the Redbud tree. I found a cardinal pattern that I liked for sale online and Monica ordered it for me. I had it within a week. Next I drew the tree branches around the birds and sized the picture to 14″ x 18″ including a 1.5″ border. For the glass selections; red streaky Spectrum for the male, light amber and orange streaky Spectrum for the female, and a beautiful pink/ purple Urobos for the flowers. The background was made from a clear leaf-textured glass to give a perception of depth to the composition. The border was made from 1.5″x 4″ clear bevels.
Cutting and grinding over three days, was the most time consuming phase of the construction because of the many little curves in the clear background glass. Getting them all to fit in sync around the flower buds was a jaw-clencher at times. However, progress was steady even if slow.
Foiling was a 7-hour marathon. I worked standing up and near the grinder for easy access to tweak-grind various pieces as I worked along. Note: as I foiled, I reassembled the pattern in reverse. This is because all glass selections were of different thicknesses and I wanted the front of the panel to be flush… therefore the first soldering must be face down so all pieces lay flush.
Once the backside was tack soldered, I flipped the panel onto its back and positioned the border bevels around the perimeter, tack-soldered them all in place and then proceeded to solder the front. Then a final flip to finish soldering the back. Finally – framing, patina, washing, polishing and signing.
With panel completed and packaged in Styrofoam and cardboard, Monica and I sent it off to Ontario via Purolator completely happy that it was finished on time for Sandra’s birthday. It arrived 2 days later as promised but with two small cracks in the background glass. Poor Tom! His birthday surprise for Sandra was now somewhat of a disappointment. Nevertheless, during our discussion on how to go about repairing the damage, he said the most appreciated thing to me… “Every great work of art has a story… now we have a story”. That really lifted my spirits.
Marguerite offered to bring the panel back to NB with her on her trip this summer and after examining it, I decided to replace rather than repair. If there is a silver lining to this cloud, it’s this: what artist wouldn’t jump at the chance to redo a work of art and make those little changes that didn’t quite work as expected the first time? Such as the wings and crest of the female (more buff, less red) and the border (added some color for interest).
This project was a delightful challenge in precise grinding and fitting. Plus, we have cardinals in Saint John but not Redbud trees so I was guessing at the morphology. I think it turned out even better the second time and thanks to Marg and Gary, made its way back to Tom and Sandra without any problems. I am very honored that Tom included me in Sandra’s birthday surprise and especially thankful for their patience.