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Welcome back to my bi-weekly stained glass goddess blog. Last post I gave advice on pattern picking and how to choose/create your own patterns. Before we dive in further to the process of making stained glass start to finish I wanted to take a rewind and address the tools and supplies you’ll need to create your very own stained glass pieces. Let’s be real for a moment this can be one of the most intimidating parts of getting started making stained glass because are SO many tools needed. I’m going to be breaking this post into two parts. Part one will be me sharing my must know tips for shopping for stained glass (just glass). Part two (two weeks from now) will be me sharing with you every tool you’ll need to create stained glass. Please fear not I am here to take the scary away and make it simple enough for you, my lovely reader, to confidently purchase all the supplies you’ll need!
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WHERE THE HECK DO I FIND GLASS?
Stained glass (just the glass) might seem like it would be a very specific thing to shop for. You’d be correct in thinking that, it is not a simple item to stumble upon in a general art supply store. In order to find it you will need to look for a specialty shop/studio or online retailer. Stained glass has become harder and harder to find in the recent years. This seems due to the fact that it is a dying hobby and artisan skill. Unfortunately with that has come the closing of many glass retailers and manufacturers. That said there are still many places to buy stained glass in person or online and I am going to list them then elaborate my thoughts on them below!
A Local Stained Glass Shop - This seems like a no brainer right? Well not always. Depending on where you are living a local stained glass shop may be hard to come by. I’ve chatted with some artists who happen to live an hour or two away from the nearest local shop. It will definitely vary depending on what state you live in. Google will be your friend for finding what is closest to you. When I lived in Denver many of the local studios that sold glass had shut down in the last few years and really the only place to purchase glass (that I was aware of) in the Denver metro area was at D&L Art Glass Supply. This was not ideal because they generally do not sell many small sheets so you must purchase large sheets which doesn’t make sense if you’re making suncatchers or small windows like myself. One lucky thing about me now living in Southern California is the stained glass scene here is quite vibrant and the selection is unbeatable. When it comes to purchasing I have quite a few private studios to choose from around me and even a wholesale warehouse. If you watch my Instagram stories you will often see me shopping there and drooling over the selection. So I encourage you to use google and see what is near you first then if there are no close options look to these next few suggestions.
Online Shops - If you search “buy stained glass online” some great options pop-up such as Anythingstainedglass.com, Franklinartglass.com, Delphiglass.com. I personally can’t say I have purchased from these sellers as I much prefer picking my glass in person. I would really only recommend these shops if you can’t find any stained glass studios to purchase from near you. The reason I avoid buying my glass online is that there is so much variability in what you will order vs what you’ll actually receive. Glass greatly varies and no two pieces are ever alike. It is hard to gage what a sheet of glass will look like until you’re holding it in the light in front of your face. And some sheets are just more beautiful and fitting for a project than others in my experience. Product differentiation isn’t the only factor for me it is also expensive to pay for shipping unless you are ordering a large quantity or there is some kind of free shipping deal going on. This personally is my last choice.
Hobby Lobby - I had to google to be sure but as of 2019 it appears that Hobby Lobby is found in 47/50 states (sorry Alaska, Delaware, and Hawaii). They are a great resource for stained glass beginners that is easily accessible. Best part is they don’t only sell stained glass sheets they sell a small selection of tools as well. I will note the glass they sell is on the lower end of quality but for a newbie artist it is great glass to practice with. P.S. they almost ALWAYS have a 40% off coupon you can find online to use for one item so definitely download that before you go!
Ebay and Etsy - Both these sites have private sellers that offer to ship a random selection of stained glass or a single sheet. The great part about shopping on these sites is you can ask questions or ask for additional pictures if you would like to know more about the specific piece(s) before purchasing. I have bought glass from sellers on both Etsy and Ebay and have had a pleasant experiences. New items go up daily so it is fun to browse to see what is for sale especially if you’re like me and often are looking for a very specific brand/look of glass.
Craigslist and Random Others - I can’t speak much to this option unfortunately. For what I gained moving to California in glass studios I lost in random Craigslist sellers. Sadly nobody seems to be using Craigslist out here in SoCal. That said I have chatted with many artists who hit the JACKPOT on Craigslist and other sites like Facebook Marketplace. So take a peek at them maybe some lovely grandma near you will be selling her left over glass and tools on the cheap :).
HOW TO STAY SAFE HANDLING GLASS
I feel a duty to include this advice in today’s blog post so you can avoid seriously hurting yourself while shopping like I once did. When you start handling glass frequently it is VERY easy to forget you are holding something that can slice you open in a snap and leave you in the hospital. The first tip I want to share with you is to remember glass is glass. Okay that sounds silly but what I’m trying to say is every time I handle glass I like to pretend I am holding something very delicate and dangerous in my hands. Think to a time when somebody drops a plate or a wine glass and everybody freaks out and says be very careful when it is getting cleaned it up? Thats the kind of care I am talking about. The best way I avoid injuring myself when shopping is I always bring my pair of protective rubber gloves for handling glass with me every time. Here is a link to a pair similar to what I own so you can get an idea (find on Amazon) . I highly recommend owning a pair so when you go out to shop or are picking colors at home you don’t have worry about cutting yourself.
Next tip I have for you is regardless of shards or a full sheet of glass you need to be aware of your surroundings when you are walking with glass in your hands. Make certain before you begin walking with your glass you have a clear path and there is zero chance of you running/tipping over any obstacles. When I am carrying glass I also like to hold it a bit away from me so in case I fall the glass lands further from me but that’s just my paranoid preference.
Remember to also be cognisant on how you set glass down. Your skin is very soft and easy to cut so pay attention to how you place the glass so it is not sliding across your hands. I sliced a huge chunk of my finger open in a glass store because I carelessly slid a sheet of glass out of my hand onto the checkout counter. Do not be like me and always be sure to carefully set down your glass whether you’re in a store or at home in your own studio.
Another great tip I try to follow when handling glass is if you are setting glass down flat on a table ALWAYS be sure no edges are hanging over the table. This will help avoid you or somebody else accidently getting sliced while walking by or worse knocking the sheet over and having it shatter all over the floor or worse hurting you.
Next please never hold a sheet of glass above your head to try and figure out how it looks in the sun. This is incredibly dangerous and could mean lights out for you/nasty scars if you drop it on your face. Be sure to take an extra moment and admire it in a sunny window to see instead.
Lastly once you have decided and carefully purchased your glass you’ll need to keep in mind how you are going to transport it back to your house safely in one piece. I keep a big shallow cardboard box in the back of my car of my car for when I am driving home from glass shopping. Inside I leave a few old towels/rags to place inbetween the sheets of glass to keep them from rubbing or shattering. Also this makes the glass easy to carry inside your house all at once too!
So quick summary
Always handle glass VERY carefully, never get too comfortable.
Purchase rubber gloves for glass shopping.
Make sure to keep your walking area clear when handling glass.
Set glass down very carefully, don’t let it slide off your hand.
Never let glass hang over the edge of a table.
Never hold a sheet of glass above your head to check the color instead go to a sunny window.
Bring a cardboard box and towels to transport your new glass in your car.
Some of these tips I have learned from class and others from personal experience. If you know me then you know I’m a safety sally when it comes to stained glass and I really try my best to avoid injury when creating the art I love. Ultimately it’s completely up to you as to what safety precautions you decide to practice when you’re shopping/handling glass.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT PRICING
I’m not going to pretend to be a glass connoisseur by any means. Again I’m just simply sharing what I’ve learned though buying glass for my own projects. When you’ve never shopped for glass before it can seem confusing why some pieces of glass are exponentially more expensive than others. Pricing ultimately depends on a few factors: the size, the color, and the brand of glass.
Picking how much you need - This is really going to boil down to how big your project is and this is the most important thing to know before buying anything. Take your trusty ruler and do some simple addition then you should have a decent idea of the amount of inches/feet of glass you need. Or you can live on the wild side like me and make a best estimate. Since I make mostly sun catchers I am generally purchasing small sheets and don’t have to worry about running out of glass. It is not against the rules to bring your pattern with you in store to help figure out what you need, I have done that before so you can too. Depending on where are purchasing glass from you’ll see some standard sizing such as 7x10in, 10x10in, 12x12in, and 24x24in. I mostly purchase 10x10in and 12x12in sheets. Depending on the coloring you’ll see quite the range in cost per sheet. I have seen $3 10x10in sheets (blues/clears) all the way to $45+ 10x10in sheets (pinks/dichroic).
Picking the right colors for your project - Over time as you create projects you’ll naturally grow an eye for picking glass colors and knowing what makes sense or what doesn’t. To have an easier time picking colors when I’m shopping or at home looking at my existing inventory, I will use my phone’s edit tool to markup a picture of my pattern with colors. If that is too high tech you can always do this by taking a picture of your pattern, printing it, and hand coloring it if you’d like. Using either method you’ll have a much better idea of what your pattern will look like colorized. Once you know how many colors and shades you need it makes the shopping process a lot easier.
Different colors of glass are going to cost different amounts. Part of the cost of your glass is determined on the chemicals used to create the colors. Clear glass is cheapest. From there blues and greens, to yellows oranges and purples, reds and pinks, lastly dichroic. For example pink glass is one of the most expensive colors of glass to purchase because it takes gold (AU) to create the color. I won’t dive into the specifics on what chemicals go into what each color because frankly I don’t have that knowledge and google is a much better resource.
Textures and width beware - You really will want to keep in mind these two factors when you’re close to deciding on a piece of glass. First make sure all of the glass you are purchasing is around the same width. If you end up purchasing glass that is too thin (ex. fusible glass sheets) or too thick (very textured) then you are going to have an issue eventually soldering it to the other pieces of your project. This is not a common problem because most glass is generally around the same width but just beware that there are some of sheets of glass that greatly differ in width than others.
Texture is also important element to note when purchasing stained glass. Once you get to cutting out your pattern a general rule of thumb is the more texture a sheet of glass has the more difficult it will be to cut. Now that is not always true for textured glass but it is a good rule to remember as a lot of the time textured glass loves to give an extra difficult time.
Different brands different prices - I am still learning about this myself but there are several glass manufacturers that are responsible the many different visual flavors that glass come in. Often when you are shopping the brand will be listed in some way on the glass or the shelf you are grabbing it from. If you are lucky enough to shop in person take the time to become familiar with the different companies and the styles of glass they produce. My personal favorite brands are Oceanside, Bullseye, and Uroboros glass. In my opinion their glass is arguably the most visually eye catching and they have many unique colors. As you shop and create you will find brands, textures, and colors that fit best with your creative style.
TIME TO SHOP TILL YOU DROP
At this point I’d consider you well armed with all you need to know about going and buying glass for your own projects. Hopefully it feels less overwhelming and you’re able to discover your best place go to place to buy glass. As a last reminder please always keep safety in mind when glass shopping. Finally there is a lot to know about glass and I myself am very much still learning so if you have any questions, comments, or felt like I missed something please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below :).
Thanks for reading!