Saint John glass treasures

On this cold and beautiful Sunday morning in mid-March (2017), Monica and I did some church sightseeing to get a few window shots. We visited two of the city’s oldest and most beautiful; Trinity Anglican (uptown) rebuilt in 1881 after the Great Fire and Assumption Catholic (West side) built in 1842.

The sun was bright and the windows sparkled in all their glory. I was in heaven for a few minutes. Here are the highlights.

Celtic blood is stirring in late February

I can feel it. I’ve got the Celtic blood. Scottish and English by genetics as far as the family tree has been traced but Irish by heart so more than likely an ancient mix of all three.

This time of year especially invigorates me! For more reasons than one… some of which only Monica might know.

Nevertheless, having recently been to both Ireland and Scotland, the celtic designs are calling to me. Perhaps it be St. Patrick himself.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s two.

A glassy winter wonderland

Here it is, January 29, 2017 and we have grass showing through on the lawns… no snow. Strange winter but most folks are bracing for something still to come. We’re lucky here in the city. Outside of Saint John, the recent ice storm really put a lot of folks in the dark and cold for several days in some cases. However, today maybe a bit of promised sun will get Monica and I out for a walk.ready

I’ve been beating the winter blahs with some blogging (got some new dollar store glasses to try out) and getting lots of studio time, loving every minute. I recently completed a couple of sunflowers and am now working on some cardinals. All these birds and flowers have me yearning for spring. I can’t wait. Monica and I have a fun adventure planned if all goes well so stay tuned in April and May. Should be AMAZING!

Cheers and happy winter from Nellyglass Studio.

Old and new designs
Old and new designs
Flowers in waiting
Flowers in waiting


quatro cardinals
quatro cardinals


A trio of Christmas originals

I was blessed to have three stained glass panel commissions this Christmas. These three panels are of my own design and were made for three important people in my life. As I said, I am blessed.

Here are links to each of the stories of their creation with photos.

Cardinal and Chickadees (for our friend Cindy)

Cessna 172 (for my cousin, Sharon)

Sharp-shinned Hawk (for our friends, Ron and Deb)

Thanks for taking a look. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Monica and Nelson at Nellyglass Studio.

Merry Christmas from Nellyglass Studio

What a wonderful season leading up to Christmas and quite possibly the best ride of my life so far. For me, the past few months have been all about, as Pink Floyd so eloquently puts it, “Marching cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream”. Monica and I are having a ball watching Nellyglass take off especially through CraftologySJ on Prince William Street. I’ve met many interesting people from the cruise ships and have seen some of you personally in the store during Uptown Sparkles. We want to send a huge THANK YOU to everyone who purchased something from Nellyglass this year. You’ve made my dream come true.

In addition to my Craftology sales, I’ve completed a few exciting commissioned panels as Christmas gifts for people. I can’t show these yet for risk of spoiling Santa’s surprise, but, Im sure I’ll share their stories and some photos after the big day.

I am so looking forward to 2017. One thing I will be doing early is upgrading my nellyglass wordpress site. In January, my website address will be simply (no longer with the name wordpress in the address) plus the upgrade will remove all WordPress ads from the page and give me 3 more gigs of storage space 😏 … only waiting until January because it’s a new fiscal business year.

Until then, we’re wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year from Monica and Nelson at Nellyglass Studio.

Happy Retirement

I was delighted to have just finished and deliver a panel to my former mentor at NBCC, Linda Brownrigg, who is retiring at the end of the month as Regional Director of the St. Andrews campus. With nearly 34 years of service, Linda has always been a driving force for the Community College and I know she will be dearly missed. We all wished her a happy future of travelling, curling and enjoying some well deserved peace and quiet.

Titled “On Permanent Vacation”, the panel depicts Linda and her husband, Bill, riding toward the Portland Head Lighthouse on their motorbike. I had great fun creating it and was honored to present it to her myself. You can read the full story of its creation here.

Happy retirement, Linda, and safetravels.

with Linda

Art media medley

Artistic inspiration is all around this week in Saint John and I’m in pursuit with my camera, dragging Monica and others along with me. I see it everywhere; in glass, in stone, in food. It really lifts my spirits to look and find the beauty in this city so easily.

nellyglass Christmas tree
Christmas tree $33 (tax included) exclusively at CraftologySJ

Starting with stained glass, my latest Nellyglass endeavor is producing and selling my work through CraftologySJ on Prince William Street.  For the past three weeks, I have been in the studio designing and making Christmas trees, angels and other suncatchers to tempt the cruise ship traffic. There are more than 60 boats scheduled into port this fall, so I’m optimistic.

CraftologySJ features the arts and crafts from over 50 local artisans.CraftologySJ on Prince William Street You can find just about anything here for a one stop gift-shopping experience. It’s very cool and I’m excited to be part of the art scene in Saint John.

Just down on the harbour front beside market slip,  the international sculpture artists are finishing up their masterpieces for the 3rd Sculpture Saint John symposium. The finesse of the work is breathtaking partly due to the mass of the rocks themselves but mostly because of the talent (eight artists from Canada, USA, Greece, France and Italy selected from over 150 applicants).

organic lines of the inorganic kind
organic lines of the inorganic kind
Reg and Joanne Noel with Monica
Reg and Joanne Noel with Monica
my favorite by Jesse Salisbury USA
my favorite by Jesse Salisbury USA

These pieces are destined for permanent public display in various communities throughout NB. We strolled on Saturday with good friends from Moncton, met some of the artist’s and took lots of pics.





Art is not limited to traditional media… at our favorite sushi restaurant, Ta-ke Sushi, the chef takes great pride in presentation and the fish is always excellent.  We’ve eaten here many times and always leave satisfied and happy…especially when you can get a great lunch like this for less than  $10.

lunce at Ta-ke sushi

We love Saint John. It’s got lots of character and that means lots of artistic inspiration. I hope you find some here, too.

Love of the Irish

Today (Sunday March 6) Monica and I spent a wonderful afternoon listening to live Irish music uptown. The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Saint John is raising funds for restoration work and hosted an afternoon (free will donation) of local Irish musicians and dancers just in time to set the mood for St. Patrick’s Day. This church was built primarily by the Irish who emigrated to Canada between 1845-47 during the Great Famine. 30,000 people arrived during these three years, doubling the population of Saint John.

The weather was perfect for a walk so we did just that. Although a brisk day (- 1), the skies were clear and the fresh air was invigorating for the half hour it took us to go from the west side to the uptown church. Fortunately, we got there early enough to get some shots of the beautiful stained glass windows before the place filled with people. The music was excellent, of course, but it was the windows I wanted to see and so glad I did. After 25 years in this city, this was my first time in the cathedral. The restoration is coming along but still has a ways to go. Must return some day to see it again.

Here are some of the shots I got:

Step 11: Installation

It’s Christmas Eve and I just finished my nellyglass studio sign project. What a wonderful journey I had through this project not only building the art piece but also blogging every step along the way.

The anticipation builds and builds as I work along many hours until that final moment when I hang it and get to step back and see it for the first time as it was meant to be displayed… in this case, lit from behind. This is the moment I can feel anything from amazed and delighted beyond my expectations to suddenly disappointed that something didn’t work quite as I had envisioned. Usually, I feel the entire range of emotions with every project. This one was the same. Emotions were fully engaged as I proudly hung my sign over my studio space in the basement. If I had to use one word, it felt real.

Now it’s time to set the glass aside to celebrate the birth of Christ with loved ones, exchange presents, be merrily foolish, and enjoy a grand gathering of several families to feast and rejoice. Blessed, are we not?

Thanks for coming on the journey with me through the various steps in the making of this special piece of art. Hope you learned something new and enjoyed the experience.

Total time for this project: 43 hours

Steps 9 & 10: Cleaning and Polishing

Immediately after the soldering is all finished, I spray the entire panel with Kwik Clean and rub it into every nook and cranny with a tooth brush. Then wipe off with clean dry rags (no water used for rinsing as it can react with the cleaner and turn white). Sometimes I repeat the cleaning process if heavy flux needs extra scrubbing but not this time. It cleaned up really easily.

Immediately following cleaning and drying is polishing for both sides. Special stained glass polish is rubbed all over the panel into every nook and cranny and allowed to dry. Once dry, it is buffed off with clean dry rags and out of every nook and cranny with q-tips; (quite time consuming with this project due to the many deep curves and points.

Total time cleaning and polishing : 2 hrs.

Next: Step 11 Installation

Step 8: Framing

This step is just as often done before soldering especially in small panels like this. Nevertheless, to me it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Regardless of when it’s done, a frame has to be cut. Zinc came comes in many sizes. This time I used a 5/16″ and cut all corners to 45° with my hack saw and mitre box.

Once cut, the frame is super easy to assemble with the panel previously soldered and ready. The came has a chanel on one side that fits over the edge of the glass. That’s why it was important not to solder the edges earlier. With frame in place and held tightly with pin I flux and solder each corner and join every solder line between each border piece (38 in total) to the frame. This many connections helps to strengthen everything. It is time consuming, though, doing the same thing to both sides (78 connections total). Finally I add hanging rings.

Total time framing: 2 hrs.

Next: Steps 9&10 Cleaning & Polishing

Step 7: Soldering

For this step, I assembled the panel directly on the pattern on a slab of drywall. That’s so I can pin down framing jig strips along the edges. They help to keep everything straight and parallel.

Once the first side is tack soldered together (avoiding all outer edges that will go into frame later), I take off the framing jig and flip over the panel and solder the backside (avoiding all outer edges). The backside is soldered better than just rough tacking. The beads are built up and kept smooth since I will see the backside all the time when I’m working at the bench).

Backside soldering done, I flip the panel back to front and solder to a smooth finish.

I soldered the entire panel first and then framed it after. (Sometimes I frame first and then solder… but not this time).

My soldering iron is a good one and keeps good heat at the tip during long runs. I like that it has a coil iron holder for when I need my hands elsewhere and that it has a temperature control dial so I can set it where I need it.

I tried to be careful and fussy and can feel my development progressing and am very pleased with the results. However, that super clean smooth solder bead with not one single ripple is still a work in progress for this student.

Total time soldering: 4 hrs.

Next: Step 8 Framing

Step 6: Foiling

Normally I’ll have a panel reassembled before foiling unless space is an issue (as in this case). It’s quite a long panel and to have it assembled for foiling would mean using a 3 foot glass table base for the pattern and glass. My foiling space is preferably near the TV in the family room where, at the moment, the Christmas tree is taking precedence. Solution: foil the panel unassembled. Since each piece is unique and only goes in one place, assembly is easy. So, for foiling purposes, I’ll save space by bunching all the individual pieces together in small containers and just foiling away, enjoying Netflix Christmas movies, until all pieces are done. Then I can reassemble on the studio table for step 7.

Foiling has to be my favorite steps in the process…I just love the slow careful finger work… its so relaxing… so long as my eyes and fingers continue to behave, I could foil forever. This project has some very deep curves including one drilled hole in the letter “g” which slows the process down but also extends the enjoyment time (happy face).

Total time foiling: 10 hrs total
Letters and border @3 hrs.
Background @ 7 hrs.

Next: Step 7 Soldering

Step 5: Washing

Now that the entire panel is fitting snugly, the next task is to wash every piece to get off all the grinder dust which can be stubborn like dried paste. Unless the edges of the glass are super clean, the copper foil won’t stick and that would be a big problem.

Happily, this is a short quick step in the process and a delightful one at that as you see the glass sparkle after a fresh washing.

I like to wash and dry the entire panel in sequential order to make it quicker to reassemble before foiling and to prevent mixing up pieces that are nearly identical. However, with this project, each piece is unique from all the others (126 pieces total) so there’s no risk of mixing up pieces and therefore no need to reassemble the panel until after foiling. Nevertheless, I wash in sequence.

Total hours for washing = 1 hour.

Next: Step 6 Foiling


Step 4: Grinding

Before I can cut and fit the background pieces, I have to have the letters ground smooth and fitting in their place (then I can fit the background pieces accurately around the letters). So time to grind! 🙂
Three hours today and a little last evening had the letters fitting in place. Grinding is very much a “stand in one place and pay attention to what your fingers are doing” step (my fingernails are often mangled from getting too close). It’s also very therapeutic. The whir of the spinning motor and the hiss of the glass against the diamond bit drowns out most other sounds and allows your mind to go numb. I honestly can’t tell you what I think about during the grind but I completely enjoy the task so it must be something good.

Step 3 and 4 are often completed sequentially and in their entirety where all the cutting is done first and then all the grinding. Just as often, however, I go back and forth between steps 3 and 4 developing the parrern as individual pieces or larger sections are cut and ground right away… as in this case.

Enough for one day. We’re heading out to deliver and put up a Christmas tree for a dear old friend of ours in the city. She loves Christmas so much and we love seeing her giggle like a child when the lights are turned on. That always brings out the Christmas spirit.
Tomorrow, it’s back to step 3 again to cut out the background and then step 4 to grind it to fit.

Grinding time for this project: letters and border @ 3 hours and background @ 7 hours = 10 hrs total.

Next: Step 5 Washing


Step 3: Cutting

A very happy 4 hours spent cutting glass in my studio this morning. While Monica and our daughter, Sarah, baked Christmas cookies in the kitchen, I started on the rough cut of the letters for my “nellyglass studio” sign. The work felt important, positive and uplifting… who wouldn’t enjoy that? Part of the fun was choosing which colors for which letters to produce a harmonious but unpredictable flow of color across the piece. I love the artistry of free imagination. So many possibilities! And I love the sound of scratching glass with the carbide cutter and then the “snap” as you break the glass along the score line.

The cutting is not done yet. I’ve still got the background and the rest of the border to do. However, that’s for another day… right now it’s feet up to play with photos and record the journey so far… and maybe enjoy a Christmas cookie (or two). I’ll continue to add photos as the process continues.

Total tracing and cutting time for this project (letters and background)= 7 hours.

Next: Step 4 Grinding



Step 2: Glass selection

Up at 5:00 am picking through my inventory of project scraps to select 16 different colors for the studio sign. So many possibilities and most of them right choices… it’s a challenge to not continuously second guess yourself (which I can’t help doing a bit). By 7am, decisions were made and it’s on to step 3.
p.s. there’s always room for decision alterations early on in the process and I made a couple after this photo was taken.

Total time for glass selection = 2 hours.


Next: Step 3 Cutting


Step 1: Pattern play

I’m working on an original pattern for “nellyglass studio”… this piece is 2ft x 0.5ft and will hang over my studio in the basement. The first 2 hours were spent playing with different fonts on the computer until I settled on “Cooper”. The next 3 hours were enjoyed designing the pattern and cutting out the tracing pieces. Amazing how 5 hours can fly by like that. Creative juice gives you lots of energy but makes you forget the time.

I find pattern creation to be the most creative of all the steps in producing a finished product. With original patterns especially, the connection to the piece runs deep. I’m already feeling it.

The template shown here is yellow but the finished product will be multi-colored.  Hope to have it done in a few days… stay tuned.
Total time for pattern prep = 5 hours.


Next: Step 2 Glass selection