Glass Art with Julia Kellaway / Copper Foiling

Having removed my glass from the kiln, I inspect each piece as I carefully lift it off the kiln shelf.

This is not because I am worried about dropping it! It’s about now that I amaze myself with how blasé I can be about handling something fragile that I have spent an age cutting, grinding and painting. No, instead it’s because of the ceramic-based kiln paper that I line my shelf with, which tends to turn to dust at the slightest touch after firing.

I am now ready to copper-foil my glass. I use this method a lot, and often together with leading because it allows me to use more different types of glass in a panel, as well as adding variety to the thickness of lines in the design. So I gather the tools for this part of the process: a roll of copper-foil, obviously, a pair of scissors, a board to work on, and my fid. This is a funny-looking tool used to manipulate lead came, but is also most handy for the job in hand.

Copper-foiling is perfect for occupying a winter’s afternoon, preferably in front of a roaring fire, and definitely with a cuppa to hand. The recent run of bitter weather was perfect!

It’s a pretty straight forward operation. Take the roll of adhesive foil, hold the glass on edge, centre the foil and attach it around the entire perimeter of the piece of glass, cut and secure by overlapping slightly with the beginning. Then carefully fold and press the foil onto both the front and back.

Easy – Well sort of! The trick is getting an even coverage to both front and back. Long stretches can be difficult to stay centred, small shapes can be tricky, the inside of curves may split and corners need to be hospital-bed sharp, and so on. After that, the foil needs to be secured by burnishing – rubbing to thoroughly secure it to the glass, which is where my fid comes in. Repeat until all of the glass is wrapped.

It is a slow, repetitive and careful job. A useful time for contemplation, drinking tea, or simply taking in what my Dad fondly referred to as ‘a grotty old film’ (basically anything in black & white, a war film or made before about 1960 (don’t ask me why), or a combination of all three).

Job done! I like this bit, because the process of getting this far has been quite time-consuming and now things are really beginning to take shape. I can see the end result in those pieces of glass, each one wrapped in copper foil and placed together on my working drawing – now usually well-covered in pencil scrawls, small amendments and blood stains. My capacity to pick up a piece of freshly cut glass extremely carefully and still end up stabbing the end of my finger with it always amazes me!

Most of my pieces are small, and I usually work on a few at once, for instance a trio of pieces inspired by a visit late last year to Bodmin Moor. Illogically, while I am still totally engrossed in my current project, not bored by it one bit, and looking forward to the next step, it’s about now-ish that my mind begins to  flit butterfly-like among all the things I could be making next.

I seem to be inspired by so many things, that I can’t keep up. At the moment I simply lack the stamina. Right now I find myself captivated by the stunning skies we’ve had recently, dramatic stormy clouds, heart-warming sunrises and relaxing dog-walk sunsets.  But then again, the cold has been banished, however temporarily, and I catch sight of some optimistic little catkins, a subtle interplay of greens and pinks gently swaying in the breeze. Then again, there’s the picturesque pair of bullfinches that have taken to visiting the mess of shrubs outside my window…

Skip to content