Creative Process at Biddington's

MacDonald MirrorRichard Macdonald
Stained-Glass Artisan

In this archived interview from 1997, CREATIVE PROCESS visits the Maine studio of stained-glass artisan Richard Macdonald.

MACDONALD: We operate a stained-glass studio dedicated to producing items destined for galleries and homes--rather than items for religious institutions and architectural settings.

We try to be different from everybody else. There are some people doing really beautiful work out there. But in my 35 years of glass-working, I haven't found another studio anywhere that offers the variety of work and the individuality that ours does.

We make wall sconces and table sconces to be lit with candles, plus all kinds of contemporary lighting which can be custom made or from our catalogue of illustrations--all designed here in this studio.

This is the process:

You have a sheet of glass. It's scored with a carbide wheel. (A technological advance over the old steel wheels, but it works exactly the same.) You're putting a scratch into a fifth state of matter which is glass. It is a non-crystalline structure and breaks at the weakest point.

Then, the glass piece is very carefully broken out by hand. It's wrapped, and the edges are framed in a very fine copper tape.

Next, the solder--half lead/half tin--is melted over that taped surface. The glass fragment is flipped on the other side, and the process repeated. This forms a lead frame around each piece.

That's the entire process; it is very simple.

We use Tiffany foil motif methodology where you melt the lead rather than church window technique where you use channel leads and solder the corners and use cement. We make a real effort here to keep the art alive.

Much leaded glass is very professionally done. I find it overly neat with too much concentration on perfection of line and body. What we do here is much more robust.

All the design is my own, still our work changes all the time. Even though I taught my techniques to the eight people operating here in the studio, each produces his own little differences. Whenever you buy something from this studio, you're really getting the input from a whole bunch of people.

The colors are in the glass. I go to New York regularly and hand select glass. Facted glass is basically inch-thick slabs of glass which are faceted with a sort of jewelers hammer. It is not at all a random technique. You can facet things in various shapes out of the glass. What you're looking at is the thickness of the glass.

I do a lot of experimenting. The most obvious thing to do for a production studio is to standardize everything. We standardize nothing.

Our patterns are constant. So if you order a "Dover Sconce" it will have the form of a "Dover Sconce", but the colors will always change and the texture of the glass will always be different.

If a different kind of purple comes out from some manufacturer that is better than the one we're using, we instantly use it.

The glass texture itself often suggests what it wants to have done with it. And that can be dramatic, really dramatic.

Macdonald Stained Glass
Boothbay Harbor, Maine 04538
Telephone: 207 633-4815

Original interview: MARGARET SHEAN.

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