M&M Stained Glass Commissioning
The following information will explain the commissioning process. There is no set standard for the time it takes to complete a commissioned work. The time period is dependent on the complexity of the project. While the design process may take longer for one commission, the manufacturing process may be longer on another. Also, there is not one part of the process that is more important than another in completing a successful commission. Below is the basic outline of the commissioning process. Following the outline is a more detail look at each phase of the process.
Feel free to e-mail us if you have questions.


FIRST CONTACT - in person - phone - e-mail
SETTING UP THE FIRST APPOINTMENT - design books - portfolio - sketches
MEETING - Customer’s needs - Budget - Type of project - Size - Theme - Time frame
THE DESIGN PROCESS - Determine the basic design - Complete preliminary drawings - Finalize design
CHOOSING THE MATERIALS - Determine needs - Acquire samples - Choose glass
COMPLETING THE COMMISSION - Acquiring materials - Cutting the glass - Foil or lead work - Solder - Finish
DELIVERY/INSTALLATION - Pack and ship - Prepare area - Install


The first contact may be in person, via the telephone or via the internet. We have made the first contact with customers in person at craft shows, art gallery openings, and in social surroundings. Customers have made first contact by telephoning us to discuss a commission, and we have received many e-mails from potential customers. No matter how that first contact is made a lot of information is usually exchanged. This is beneficial to both parties and this is the start of the commissioning process. Depending on how the first contact was made, a follow-up conversation or exchange of information may take place before setting up the first appointment.


While setting up the appointment, information is exchanged to make the time spent meeting most useful. Like making first contact, setting up the first meeting may be done in person, over the telephone, through the exchange of e-mail or even in a chat session over the internet. Whatever the means of exchange the goal is the same - to best prepare for the first meeting to discuss the commission.

It helps to know the commission is to be for a lamp shade and not a beveled window for a front door or vice versa. The more specific the discussions the better. For example, if it is for a lamp shade,
- what kind? a floor lamp, hanging lamp or table lamp?;
- a Tiffany style or a Frank Lloyd Wright?:
- one depicting dragon flies or flowers?
- any particular kind of flower?

Well, you get the idea! Obviously the customer will be answering most of the questions. Valuable time will be saved during the meeting if this part of the process is successful. We can narrow down your area of interest and be prepared with design books, sketches, and examples of the type of work you are looking to commission. You may or may not be interested in reviewing a portfolio of our work.


Meetings are usually best if held in person, but we have held successful meetings through chat sessions via the internet. We can scan pictures and designs and transfer them to your computer for review. However, it is best to hold this meeting in the place where the project will be installed. A sort of site survey. This is not always possible. Like when the commission is for a front door of a house that is yet to be built. In this case the meeting may take place with the architect or on the builder’s site in a model. In some cases it is not practical or necessary to meet where the project ends up. For example, you live very far away, then it may be necessary or preferred for you to send pictures of the location.

The meeting usually starts with a review of the location for the project to be installed. There may be other factors involved, like additional framing or the removal of a window. If necessary, measurements are taken and documented. A very crucial part of the site survey if the window is to fit in a specific location.

The customer’s needs will be careful documented during this meeting. Do you require a leaded window? Is a specific type of glass needed? Do you have a budget set for this project? Is there a specific completion date? After we determine the scale of the project we can start discussing specific designs.

A customer’s needs may rule out some areas of design. For example, if the window requires lead or zinc came construction because it will be exposed to the exterior, then an intricate design that can only be achieved through copper foil construction would have to be ruled out. Many factors go to developing a design for a customer. These factors include, but are not limited to, the construction needs, the surrounding environment, the size and, of course, the needs of the customer. If possible some sketches are produced during this meeting to capture all these factors. Our goal is to come away from this meeting with a clear understanding of what sort of design is required and to give the customer an estimate within 10% of the total cost of their project.


The goal of this phase is to complete the design to be used. After the first meeting with the client, the design is refined. Several options will be researched to incorporate all the elements needed by the customer. Several preliminary drawings are completed and several meetings or discussions may be required during this process. Depending on the design needed a few different designs will be in development. The discussions between the glass artist and the customer ensure the final design is something that can be executed satisfactorily.


This phase of the commissioning process can be the most difficult or the easiest depending on the factors involved. Either way a successful commission is dependent on choosing the right materials. The hardest part of this phase is choosing the glass. It can be difficult because there are so many different pieces of glass to choose from. It may be very easy as the needs of the customer and the design may dictate a certain type of glass. From our perspective this is one of the best parts of the process, as all glass artists love to look and touch glass. Still a lot depends on the needs of the customer or the design. Designs tend to drive this process more than any other factor. This is especially true if the design depicts real life in some form or other. For instance, irises are an extremely popular subject for stained glass windows and there are only a couple of dozen pieces of glass that depict a blue or purple iris petal. A customer may have the need for a window to add privacy to their home. This is another factor that is taken into account when choosing glass. Choosing the other materials, like the lead or zinc came, the framing or the vase cap are also important. Definitely no where near as important as choosing the glass, but still important. A great design can only be made great by choosing the right materials for the project.


This phase starts by acquiring all the materials needed for the project. Finding each sheet of glass, having each custom bevel polished or finding the perfect colonial zinc came. This can be a daunting task on its own. Now the real stained glass craftsman takes center stage to start to complete the commission. This is by far the most demanding and time consuming part of the commission. Only experienced stained glass craftsmen can successfully complete every commission they attempt. The artist interacts one on one with the materials to produce the finished project. Rarely is there any customer interaction. This phase starts with a completed design, sheets of glass and a pile of supporting materials. The craftsman starts by precisely cutting and grinding each piece of glass. In the case of some designs and some glass the craftsman is also choosing the part of the sheet to use for each piece of glass in the project. This phase can take many hours as some projects contain over a thousand pieces of glass. Next comes preparing all the pieces of glass for completing the project. This may mean wrapping each piece of glass with copper foil or cutting lengths of lead or zinc came to hold the pieces of glass in place. From a pile of materials to a lot of pieces of individual glass the project gets closer to the finished process as the craftsman prepares to solder. Lets use a flat panel as an example. Imagine tens or hundreds of pieces of glass each individually wrapped in foil side by side by side. Each piece of glass surrounded by other pieces of glass, foiled edges touching other foiled edges. The craftsmen cleans the foil by brushing on a flux and then applies solder using a very hot iron to produce a consistent rounded solder line which adheres to the surface of the foil. In the case of a leaded or zinc came project, the craftsmen fluxes each joint and applies solder to bind the cames together. For a came project cement or putty is used to fill the gaps between the glass and the came to seal the window. Applying patina to produce the right color on the solder lines can be an art in itself. Finishing the commission includes cleaning, polishing and possible adding framing. Every stained glass craftsman enjoys the moment they hold up the finished project. The next great moment will come when the customer gets to see their finished commission.


All else goes to waste unless this phase goes successfully. Success means getting the finished commission to the customer in the same condition it left the studio. If installation is required, the area must be properly prepared. Other contractors may be involved in this process. Many customers and craftsmen will say a silent pray watching a large commission being lifted into place. Once the commission is in place and installed, both parties will give a sigh of relief. This will be quickly followed by the joy of seeing a successful commission completed.

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Web Page created by M&M Stained Glass, Saturday, March 4, 2000
Last Update: 1/2/2013