This is a detailed account for those of you who like to read…(photos below for those who don’t)… but more so to help me remember what I did. It captures the experience and some of my thoughts as I progressed over four weeks creating and constructing a panel for someone special.
In late September ’16, I got an inquiry from my good friend and colleague at NBCC, Cathy Peppard, on creating a retirement gift for Linda Brownrigg, Regional Director for the St. Andrews campus, 30+ years service and one of my mentors when I worked there. Well, of course, I was delighted! Cathy and I tossed around several ideas and settled on a theme that both Linda and her husband, Bill, find great joy in pursuing… travelling on their motorbike. Linda is also fond of lighthouses. So, with some artistic licence, I incorporated the Portland Lighthouse into the pattern. I was sure they would have seen it many times before. Please remember, artistic licence… Wesside!
Cathy (Agent Peppard) was very helpful in sleuthing around to find the make and model of Linda and Bill’s bike. She covertly found a photo and sent it to me through email … Yamaha Venture Royal Star Trike in burgundy and black.
The pattern was developed over several days as I tried various layouts and perspectives and studied lots of Google images. I could not, however, find an image of real people on this bike in the angle I wanted them. So I drew my own… many times. At one point, I had Linda riding on Bill’s shoulders 🙂
I knew the pattern might change again depending on what glass I selected for the sky and sea. Usually one looks for glass that will follow the already determined pattern lines. In this case, however, I had the luxury of designing the pattern lines to follow the flow of the glass and accentuate the beauty as much as possible.
You can’t do that, of course, until you have real glass in your hands. So, off Monica and I went to Dartmouth/Halifax on a beautiful Friday morning the last day of September to visit two stained glass shops; Atlantic and Cranberry respectfully. There I found the perfect glass for the sky (Spectrum Aqua-rose) and for the ocean (Spectrum steel-blue water glass). Plus Spectrum whispy maroon for the bike, Wismach ripple for the sand, and some other treasures that just had to leave with me. Lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Cheachis, and we were back on the road headed for home. On the way we photographed two more covered bridges (Monica is photo logging all the bridges in the province). It was a successful trip and a great day.
As I expected, the pattern lines in the sky changed to follow the natural lines in the sheet of glass I bought in Dartmouth. I liked it better the new way. Size wise, originally I had the pattern at 28″X13″ but I found it too long so I cut it down to 24×13. Once the final pattern was sized and numbered (174 pieces), I took it to Staples for copying. Then I cut up the copy into individual tracing pieces and organized them into 3 envelopes (sky/water/road, lighthouse/rocks/trees/bushes and bike/people). Total pattern time including cutting was about 10 hours.
Monday Oct 3: The sky was the first to cut. I was nervous about it because all the pieces needed to be cut from a single sheet to capture the flow in the glass. A wrong breaking curve would mean having to recut that piece from a non-matching sheet of glass. I knew my pattern lines were aggressively curvy and that could spell trouble. You see, glass normally breaks in a straight line and runs or turns to the nearest fault spot which should be the score line. However, any blemishes in the sheet might send the break off in an unintended direction. On tight turns, such as in this pattern, that is a real possibility. (Sorry, the old teacher in me wants to explain the reason why I was nervous cutting these lines).
First step was tracing each sky piece consecutively so all fit together on one sheet of glass. Then scoring the lines with the carbide wheel. Finally, to make the breaks, I had to hold the sheet of glass in one hand and with the other hand tap, tap, tap with the ball end of my glass cutter directly underneath the score line to run the crack along the line. Sorry again… glass tech talk. The end result was success. The breaks (fissures) followed the score lines as intended with lots of tapping from underneath. What a relief! Now I must be extra vigilant to protect the sky pieces during grinding, foiling and soldering. Mistakes are inevitable but usually avoidable. 2 hrs today (12).
Tuesday Oct 4: I was so excited to cut more glass that I was up at 4 am and had the water and road rough cut by 6 am. I love having a new project on the table. It draws draws me to the studio.
I started grinding right after the gym. Lots of tough little curves in the ocean glass but those are fun to work on. I enjoy that. I had the sky and water ground to fit by noon (being so careful with that sky glass). 4 hours today (16).
Wednesday Oct. 5 – cutting and grinding the road, trees and grass – (grass along road was tricky trying to fit in against the ocean. Found a nice striped green for the grass). 5 hours (21).
Thursday/Friday – no progress…road trip to northern NB to see the leaves and bridges.
Saturday Oct. 8 – cutting and grinding the rocks, cliffs, beach and lighthouse. I had fun searching through my inventory for glass with the right lines for the pattern. Used a rough textured gray for the rocks. The chimney holes in the sky were tricky and the chimneys are extremely small… maybe too small for foil. Found a perfect yellow spot in a clear fracture sheet for the light in the tower. 6 hours (27)
Sunday – Thanksgiving. Pause to give thanks and celebrate with family. (So far, so good on the panel… I will be thankful when I’m done if I haven’t broken anything)
Monday Oct. 10 – up at 4:00 am (darned turkey dressing). Started cutting and grinding the bike/people parts. 6 hours today (33) and not quite half done the bike (90+ pieces and many very small).
Tuesday Oct. 11 – continued 6 hours today (39) and finished the bike/people. Silverback pieces for Chrome tricky on the grinder. The backing wants to chip off. I will paint and seal later with Monica’s tole paints (black-green). One interesting executive decision was to make Linda’s jacket red (her favorite color) even though I presume her real jacket is not. I used a red Urobos fusing glass that passes good light. It has a pebbled surface texture almost like leather.
Wednesday Oct. 12 – The entire panel was washed piece by piece, dried and reassembled into a square soldering jig for proper fit before foiling. Minor grinding adjustments were made to relieve any tight fitting pieces and ensure enough space between all pieces to allow for foil (or so I thought). Then I started foiling and got the bike, people and the lighthouse done by bed time. 7 hours today (46).
Thursday Oct. 13 – foiled the remainder of the panel. I tried to use tiny strips of foil for the hand rails on the lighthouse but they were just too tiny and tedious so I scrapped that idea and opted to use paint instead. Even though I had allowed space between the pieces, the panel still grew more than expected and I had to unwrap several pieces, grind them down more and refoil. 8 hours (54).
Saturday Oct. 15 – soldered all morning including framing. What a pleasure to be in the final stages of production. The new Hako soldering iron I received last year as a retirement gift from NBCC worked perfectly. For anyone wondering, I use a smokeless, sputterless solder with no fumes. And I keep the air circulating with fans so no worries of a health and safety kind. I do more damage cutting my fingers on glass or burning them on the iron than anything else.
I knocked off at 1:30 pm but still have polishing and chains to do. 7 hours today (61 total to date).
Polishing and painting the frame and the details on the lighthouse took 2 hours making this a 63 hour project. I had a wonderful time throughout it all thinking about Linda and our many work experiences together. I was excited and honored to present the panel to her myself at the St. Andrews campus and wish her a wonderful retirement.