Heritage Crafts

Stained glass and glass painting

The use of coloured glass to form decorative or pictorial designs, typically by setting the pieces of glass in a lead framework, and sometimes by painting details to enhance the design.
Currently viable
Craft category


Stained glass windows have been made in England for at least thirteen hundred years. The German monk, Theophilus wrote Diversarium Artium Schedula, a manual on medieval stained glass making in the twelfth century: it is one of the earliest sources of knowledge on the matter. The basic techniques have remained the same. As stained windows were a means of biblical story telling, the Reformation had an effect on the craft. With the decline in religious zeal and symbolism, glass painters lost their most important source of work, whilst this left glaziers busy replacing windows. Coloured glass does not fade, much work currently goes into the conservation and repairs of old stained glass , as well as contemporary glass painting production.


Stained glass was made by mixing metallic oxides into the container in which the glass was melted. This was then blown and melted into sheets. Window designs were drawn out to scale, glass shapes were cut to size with a hot bar of iron and smoothed out with a ‘grozing iron’. The individual pieces of glass were decorated and detailed with paint, whilst the rest of the colour was from the coloured glass itself. Once painted, the glass was placed in the kiln, thereby melting the paint to the glass . After this, the glass was laid out over the pattern and bound together. Each differently coloured pane of glass was bound with lead strips, making a well-defined black outline. Size and weight were taken into consideration for transportation and assembled in the place of construction. Iron bars were used to support them. As part of the architecture, changes in the style of painted glass can be seen in reflection to the culture. With gothic influence of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, painted glass became more detailed and windows larger. Yet there were technological advancements as well as cultural shifts. In the fourteenth century, it was discovered that white glass could be stained different colours or shades, which meant that the one pane need not entirely be the same colour. This also allowed for more detailed painting. By the mid-sixteenth century, English glass painters were almost entirely dependent on enamelling as the method of colouring glass which also meant that lead strips were no longer needed to the same extent as they previously were, though some crafts people today still use the heavy leaded technique for desired outcome.


  • Stained glass
  • Glass painting – the craft of painting glassware using permanent and impermanent pigments and metals.

Issues affecting the viability

  • Rise in the number of self-taught hobbyists, outnumbering professional/highly skilled stained class practitioners.

Support organisations

Training organisations


Craftspeople currently known

Other information

  • Swansea College of Art is currently the only course in the country that offers the opportunity of working with glass on an architectural scale as well creating gallery based work. It was established in 1932 under the tutelage of Howard Martin, who also set up the only stained glass studio at that time in Wales, Celtic Studios. During the 70s, 80s and 90s Swansea was internationally renowned, attracting students from Europe, the USA, Australia and Japan.


National Lottery Heritage Fund
Swire Charitable Trust
The Royal Mint
Pilgrim Trust
Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
William Grant Foundation

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