Have you ever found yourself mesmerised by the beauty of a stained glass window and how the sun's rays catch the brightly coloured glass in a kaleidoscopic light show? Whether it's an intricate stained glass arch packed with a Biblical narrative or a simple coloured panel to brighten up an office block, this ancient arts and crafts skill can transform a building into something truly spectacular – be it a mediaeval church or a modern-day installation. Take a stained glass work course and learn how to create beautiful stained glass for yourself just like so many have done before in this centuries old craft.
Old and modern
Stained glass is an ancient art form with a thousand-year history to be proud of. It was traditionally made in flat panels and used in church windows depicting episodes from the life of Christ, saints or patrons or other highly symbolic imagery.
Colouring the glass is done in various ways either by baking pigments into the surface of the glass or by fusing with a film of metallic oxide. The small pieces of coloured glass are then arranged to form patterns or pictures and held together by lead strips. It is testimony to the skill and technique of this craft that many large windows have withstood the test of time since the Middle Ages and still hold strong today.
Stained glass is still as relevant today as it was centuries ago and contemporary buildings and structures now play host to an array of fabulous coloured glass windows and panels. A new generation of craftsmen are utilising these traditional skills in a new way and installing modern works of art in hospitals, shopping centres, corporate headquarters and new places of worship.
Residential houses can also be given a personal pep-up with a bespoke stained glass image – its one way of standing out from the crowd! Enrol on a stained glass course today and make the world a brighter place...
Stained glass for all
You will leave a stained glass work course having created something truly beautiful while learning a brand new skill and meeting a new group of people at the same time. Some courses will include the cost of materials but others might ask you to supply your own – so it is wise to check what's included before turning up on the first day.
A beginners’ course will teach you all the techniques needed to design and create your own stained glass 'leaded light' panels. You will learn a whole host of new skills including how to design workable patterns, cutting glass, leading and soldering. Other part time classes will teach you all the skills required to make small decorative items – such as a light catcher, lantern or mirror – in lead, copper foil (a technique first pioneered by Louis Comfort Tiffany) and glass appliqué.
There are classes covering traditional and contemporary techniques and for those with a previous knowledge of glass or stained glass, more advanced courses. These are hands-on creative skills involving demonstrations and time to practice on your own personal stained glass project.
Working with stained glass might simply be an enjoyable past-time, but for some, it could lead to a more serious career path in glass. If so, why not try out a City & Guilds award or qualification in the world of glass where you will learn all the necessary skills to join a glass practice or studio, or set up on your own in a self-employed capacity. For more information on a career as a glassmaker do check our handy careers advice page.
Four must-see stained glass projects around the globe
NETHERLANDS INSTITUTE FOR SOUND AND VISION is picture proof that stained glass isn't just about mediaeval churches and chapels. This modern day installation is a striking cube shaped building clad in a super contemporary and colourful stained glass façade. Each different high relief glass is imprinted with a famous image from Dutch television.
SAINTE-CHAPELLE is a Gothic chapel in the heart of Paris, France and home to a series of huge, breathtakingly beautiful stained glass windows surrounded by delicate stone framework. The fifteen, colour-packed windows (considered to be among the finest in the world) were created in the mid-13th century while the large rose windows were added to the upper chapel in the 15th century.
RESURRECTION CEMETERY: Billed as one of the largest stained glass windows in the world, this amazing piece of art can be found in Justice, Illinois in the USA. Built in the 1960s, its striking window installation uses over 22,000 sq ft of faceted glass and contains 2,448 panels.
CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL in Kent is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England containing over 1,200 sq m of stained glass, including one of the country's largest collections of early medieval stained glass. Six of the earliest and most important surviving examples have recently gone on show at the J Paul Getty Museum in California.
By Lara Sargent