By Master Stained Glass Artisan Leia Powell
Leia Powell, a 25-year veteran glazier and owner of Wildcat Mountain Artistry in Florence, Alabama, is creating her yearly
masterpiece specifically for Chattacon 2023. Our Artist Guest of Honor conceived of “Spirit of the Rails”, a shadowy apparition haunting the rusty railroads of Chattanooga, as a multi-layered or “layover” piece where she takes four separate creations and binds them together to give the viewer a more in-depth experience.
Creating a Cutting Pattern
As we saw in Part One, Leia had drawn and pieced together her vision on a smaller scale and mocked it up digitally. In this edition, we see her create her “cutting pattern”. If you ever had a Color by Numbers book when you were a kid, a stained glass pattern isn’t so different. It’s just that with stained glass, you’re drawing with solder lines. So, Leia must make sure every line she draws is something she can cut out of glass. Glass always wants to break straight, so she must be careful not to cut an inside curve tighter than 90 degrees.
First, she blew up her original drawings and printed them on printer paper, mask-taping them together. You might ask why she doesn’t go to Office Depot print them to size. Well, she used to, but it just took longer. Gas is expensive. Once the pattern is taped together, she covers it with a giant piece of grid paper and draws the pattern again, fine tuning as she goes.
Once the primary image is complete, she finishes it off with a 1 ½” border, which the “cow catcher” (the pointy thing in front of the train) will overlap, making it look as if the ghost train is chugging right out of the window.
The next step, in true color by numbers style, is to number it. When complete, this window will contain a lot of glass pieces, so keeping track of where they go is of utmost importance. The “Background” panel will be of a brilliant sunset over a bend in two sets of overlapping train tracks.
This concludes preparing the “Background” pattern, which will have 123 piece of glass in it.
Overlay One is the actual spectral locomotive itself, which will be comprised of grey and white wispy transparent glass. It has been designed to perfectly align with the tracks on the Background window, while allowing the bright pops of sunset colors of blues, purples, reds, oranges, and yellows to bleed through the transparent glass, allowing the train to look “ghostly”. You can see here where the “cow catcher” pops out of the window and onto the border.
It’s equally important to number this part. It will be built completely separate than the Background window, then set aside to await preparation of the next two overlays. The ghost train has 141 pieces of glass in it.
Even though the locomotive will look fine the way it is, in Overlay Two Leia will cut out more solid white details to add to it like 16 gauge pretinned copper wire hand rails, and even more dense piping and hoses just to give it character.
Yep, you have to number this too. Overlay Two has 46 pieces of glass and 6 wire structures.
Last, but certainly not least, is the foreground detail. This one little corner is going to be full of native Chattanooga foliage, golden bleeding heartland flowers and cat tails in tall willowy grasses. In case you’ve never seen them… this is what they look like.
Leia’s being a bit cheeky with this little corner, 20 long blades of grass and 22 cat tails and bleeding heartland flowers. Get it? 2022. Wacka wacka wacka. She’s also toying around with fusing the bleeding heartland blossoms, but that’ll be in another edition.
Here’s the finished blend of patterns! Stay tuned for our next edition, Choosing Glass ô¿ô
354 pieces of glass, y’all… send bandaids.
Master Stained Glass Artisan Leia Powell has been creating glass masterpieces, breaking down barriers, and rejuvenating the old world artistry for over 25 years. The first stained glass artist to be nominated for the coveted Chesley Award, Leia is also the first glass artist in history to be the sole maker of an author’s trademarked characters: Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Her three-dimensional figures and exceptionally intricate stained glass windows have won her multiple art show awards at both LibertyCon and JordanCon. Her fused glass jewelry is a testament to how glorious melting glass at 1200 degrees can be.
Leia keeps apprentices and interns on staff at her studio Wildcat Mountain Artistry in Florence, Alabama, and is determined to teach everyone she can to ensure the flame of stained glass creativity keeps burning.