Thursday, March 17, 2011

Feeling the Pane

One of the biggest laughs I've had on the project was when, years ago now, Mark Fullerton, my hero with the laser cutter, generously sent me a variety of laser cut acrylic forms made to my specs. Some were in an intact form while others were incised/etched, etc. On the bag that had all the individual window panes cut out he wrote (seen above top) "Are you Crazy? Don't even try this (but it would be the coolest)" It was such a sweet and funny comment. I loved that he wrote it. It only took me a nano-second to know which set I would have to use to get that special Tudor window sparkle from each pane being set slightly off from the next.

I had worked out a method of making the three panels two years ago but the problem with such a long term project as this is that I totally forgot the method by the time Carol showed up to help me build them. I had hand painted all the panes with either clear urethane (in nontox glue form) or with tinted gloss in the colors of the cottage. I'd long ago glued down pressed rose leaves and other inclusions and decided that the mullions were to be cut straight twigs to give the half organic/grown--half traditional architecture feel. But when Carol started in to assemble them with hot glue the other day loads of difficulty showed up. It was far too ramshackle (HA! What do you call Rana the goat woman's cottage? a Ram SHACKle--lol), I thought as I watched her, to hot glue the twigs to a single layer of panes. It was aright, but it wasn't working well enough for me.

So I continued my window making saga for days after. I have been barking up the wrong tree on this cottage feature over and over (see waste-of-my-time old posts on the subject) but I'm happy to say NOW THEY ARE ALL DONE and they look beautiful to me. (final installed shot coming in future post)

I went NUTZ and decided that the windows had to be double paned (and it was a double/triple pain indeed) I took real butterfly wings that Constance had brought to Halfland (from where they died natural deaths in her window at home). I used the wrong stuff for this, acrylic gel, which unexpectedly bubbled in the low oven when I had to heat them to get them to dry clear. Some panes even slumped (too high too long toxic--I know--won't do that again.) Didn't matter to me, I was on a tear. I was using these mofos no matter what. ONWARD! In the end I'm glad because now they windows aren't all the way transparent which means I don't have to build a backdrop to cover my computer from that angle on the set. Light gets through but not direct image.

With double thick panes, filled with leaves, wings of all sizes (one with even a natural sheer window in itself), and silk threads in color, Cicada wings from Halfland's Official Naturalist in Georgia, etc. it was far easier to puzzle together the panes and twigs.

The first step was to make a paper pattern directly on the previously built bay window of the cottage. These were in no way regular shapes, more like torqued trapezoids, and each of three were utterly different. I used my hand to press brown paper into the openings as a way of getting an accurate pattern. Even so, I can't recount to you how many mistakes I made turning the panels around the wrong way or mixing them up. I am no Andrew Fucking Brown, let me tell you. (Hate his flawless set building ability with a cold passion.)

Great New Material Alert: Ice Resin (UPDATE: I cannot recommend anyone use Ice Resin after I found out that the product is in fact toxic during use. They are  in my opinion using deceptive advertising to state that it is non-toxic. When pushed they have admitted that the product is non-toxic ONLY after it is dry/cured, I'm glad I had it for the windows and wish it was possible to use it for other purposes but I avoid using things that require wearing a respirator.)

Here's what saved the day, non-toxic jewelers-grade clear resin called Ice Resin (see above update). It's a careful measure 2-part gel--but no harmful fumes (not true while in use). I wore gloves and used near open window for good measure because I trust no one. But I have to gladly report that this stuff is absolutely winning. (used it for other things too, details coming)

I blue-taped the mosaic as it was built to hold it in place, turned the panel over and poured a small batch of the resin over the whole face of it. It takes three days to dry chemically. Unfortunately the tape was not enough to seal every seam and so great pools of (rather expensive) resin collected on the undersides. This ruined my bare twig mullion idea and somewhat squashed my sparkle pane hopes as it essentially made a solid piece of resin out of the panel, at least on one side.

After painstaking removal of the blue tape (why it came off successfully at all I won't know) I rallied once again and hand painted the mullions with matte medium to differentiate them from the glossy panes a bit and struggled to hack-saw the excess edges off each panel to size. I also had to carve out the wood casements in spots to make it all fit.

Next came shoe-molding as further casement framing as the three panels were finally installed in the bay. As I look through the window from the interior, with it's hand-dyed vintage fabric cushions and warm woolen blanket, I am immediately transported to Halfland and can actually feel the urge to curl up there and take a nap.


  1. Oh my gosh, this is the coolest thing in an entire project of cool things. I want windows like this on my house! I wish I lived in California so I could come and play at your house.

  2. Thanks so much, Tea Rose! I can't wait for you to get a load of how the finished bay window side of the cottage looks. I'm working fast to get the exterior details done so I can photograph it to show.

    I wish you could see this set in person too. It's outrageously exciting to peek into in person, even for me!

    Everywhere your eye looks is a little bit of life and detail. It looks like someone actually lives there for real! Or at least as half real--half imagination.

    Be sure to come over if you're ever in LA, you know, if LA's here when you're coming by.

  3. It's always the same: I turn away from reading blogs for a few days, and every time I come back you posted amazing new stuff. ;)
    Again, Shelley, this is soo beautiful!

    If all the progress is somehow related to the beginning of spring when everything starts to grow again, and sun replaces the darkness of the winter?

  4. Shelley, I would be ever so honored if you would take a peek at what I'm making on my blog, Needle and Clay ( It was partly inspired by your project. I'm not an animator or filmmaker, but I make doll clothes and props, and I've been working on these little trees. Anyway, you have to see it to appreciate it.

    I'm still trying to figure out how to make windows like yours on my house...

  5. Thanks, Jessica! Yes! Spring Spring Spring! Bring me the Spring of positive growth and action!

    I forgot to say in the post that the reason it worked MUCH better with double panes of the glass is because it made the edges have enough surface area to securely glue onto the twigs.

    This effect can be seen at the bottom of the first cluster of photos.

    Of course I'll go look at your blog, Tea Rose!----whoosh--->>

  6. WoW! I'm in love! Tea Rose, your forest thrones are coming out AMAZINGLY gorgeous! Well Done! You can in no way call yourself a noob--no way.

    I love how you share each step and part of your process of working and you are charming and funny as you do it!


  7. PS: Tea Rose, are you wishing to make Tudor windows for your real life housey house or for a miniature one?

    Because I've got a ton of left over panes (thanks to Mark Fullerton) that I'd be delighted to share with ya!

  8. Oh, thank you so much! I'm glad you like my trees. I'm kind of impressed with them myself; I had no idea they'd come out this well.

    I was thinking about Tudor windows for both my real home and a mini one, lol. My front door is half glass, and it already has these oversized diamond-shaped panes like a half-hearted attempt at Tudor windows. I've always wanted to do some kind of faux stained glass thing in them.

    But I also want to make a 1/3 scale Tudor room box for my ball-jointed dolls, so I can do a fairy tale photo shoot. Both projects are still in the "thinking about it" stage.

    Did you really get the panes to stick firmly to your twigs using hot glue? I would think the round surface of the twigs would just be impossible to work with. Did you trim the edges of the twigs? Or did it take the ice resin to make it all hold together?

  9. Well isn't this perfect!? Halfland is exactly 1/3 Scale! YAY! If you like, I can send you leftovers from the windows here. Just tell me the size(s) you had in mind and I'll see if what's here is enough.

    NO!!!! The twigs would not hot glue to the panes. That's what the trouble was. I mean they would, but it was very hard to do and looked really scruffy/shaggy. I used Ice Resin to adhere the panes to the stick "mullions".

    You'll need straight straight straight sticks! That was tricky! The slightest crook to any and the whole window would distort. I got mine from a single package of branches from a giant floral supply store here called Moskatell's downtown in the floral district. I had to clip all the straight lengths from each branch to get enough for the three panels here.

    Ice Resin is expensive, about $30 for plenty for the windows and more to do other fun things but it's non-toxic (so winning right there) and it cures crystal clear and tough enough to hack saw without shattering. (wear a mask when sawing for the dust particles.)

    You know, you might want to do something different for your door window at home. I might consider adhering pressed flowers or butterfly wings, etc. to your panes as they are, color them, what have you, and then slather on top a layer of the Ice Resin, tinted perhaps, to unify it all and to make the stained glass your own.

  10. Yes, I noticed that Halfland was 1/3 scale. :) That Ice Resin stuff sounds really interesting -- can you point me to some good info about it? It looks like it makes paper transparent? And stronger? I need a good material for windows in plastic robots and spaceships, lol.

    I'm scared to do anything permanent in my front door, but I've been thinking about making faux stained glass panels and gluing them in. I love the butterfly wings in your window; I'm definitely stealing that idea. I also love the bubbly frosted look in some of the panes, and the randomly placed color panes.

    I wonder if you could make faux twigs between the panes. You'd glue the panes to wire, maybe, or cut-wood strips, and then sculpt the twigs over them with something like Apoxie Sculpt or Green. You'd have to paint it, but it'd never come apart.

    I'd love to have your extra acrylic panes, but I don't really have any measurements yet since I haven't started the project.

  11. This video is the one that got me to order it....

    Very cool stuff.
    Would be perfect for casting custom windows in spaceships!

    If you are renting and don't want to alter the window permanently, then maybe printed window clings would be nice for you--they come right off. There's also window paints that peel right off.

    I wouldn't try to make faux twig mullions, b/c by the time you go to all that extra work, they wouldn't look natural. Adhering real twigs works very solidly as long as the panes are near the same thickness as the twigs. Or... you can wrap each pane in foil tape and solder them together like real stained glass. Using these panes would save you from having to hand cut all the pieces and it is lighter weight than glass would be.

    Anytime you're ready for the panes, just email me a mailing address to send them to!


    Tea Rose! I'm so glad you asked about Ice Resin b/c I found a blog post that convinced me it is toxic after all!!! I didn't want to believe that a company would label a product as non-toxic when it in fact is. But it did seem to good to be true to have a non volatile 2-part resin.

    HOWEVER in that same post came another option that seems in fact a less hazardous product. I plan to try it in the future.

    Eco Epoxy Craft Resin:

    It's MSDS on it rates it as:


    I would say that a respirator and chemical resistant gloves should be worn even when products are labeled non-toxic.

    Magic Sculpt--I'm looking right at YOU @..@


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