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Commissioning a Pet Portrait Panel

Since 2008, I have combined my love of stained glass with my lifelong love of pets to create beautiful, original, life-like portraits of beloved animal companions in glass. These "pet memorial portraits" have provided joy and comfort to dozens of pet owners grieving the loss of a their beloved companion. Portraits have included dogs, cats, birds, horses, and even a donkey and a goat!

Today, a hand injury prevents me from being able to keep up with portrait commissions. However, I still offer the custom designs that bring these portraits to life - designs that you won't be able to find anywhere else. I also work closely with another local glass artist (Cathe Carnes), so that, together, we can still bring you a complete, finished panel - or, you can take your custom design to an artist in your own area for fabrication.

Here's how it works:

Step One: Send Your Photos.
Please send 3-4 photos by e-mail. For best results, photos should be 300 dpi and at least 400KB in size. Photos taken with a cell phone are usually not adequate. Remember that to create a panel, a photo will have to be enlarged to many times its original size! If your pet has specific markings, please be sure your photos show them.

Example: This was a project for a client in the United Kingdom. She wanted the panel to show both dogs, and wanted it to reflect their mutual love of hiking. She sent about 10 photos. I started with the three photos below...

Step Two: I Prepare 2-3 Preliminary Designs.
Using your photo(s) and a professional glass design program, I will create two or three preliminary design sketches for you to examine. These will be sent to you by e-mail.

Step Three: Working Together, We Will Create Exactly the Panel You Want.
At this point we will work closely together to develop exactly the panel you want to achieve. For example, you may like the pose of the pet in one photo, but the background in another. No problem! We can switch in another background, or even "create" a background from scratch that reflects an aspect of your pet's personality. (For example, one of my portraits was for a outdoor rescue dog - while the photo showed the dog indoors, I was able to create an outdoor scene of mountains and forest to "illustrate" the dog's favorite activity.) At this step, we will invoice you for the design fee.

First I combined the photos to place both dogs in the same panel, then added a forest scene to demonstrate the hiking theme. Here are two of the preliminary designs:

Step Four: Your Portrait is Finalized with Colors and Glass Suggestions.
In preparing the final design of your portrait, we will also discuss colors and types of glass that would work well with your panel. When your final design is delivered, you will receive a black-and-white pattern that can be used for the creation of your panel, and a sample color pattern. Please note that the colors in this "sample" are generated by computer, and the actual glass will be much more rich and vivid. If desired, we will also provide you with a list of suggested glass options (including manufacturer, color and product number). This will be of great help if you choose to take the pattern to another artist for final fabrication of your panel.

The client chose the design she preferred; we then worked together to choose glass colors and make final tweaks to the pattern. The image on the right shows the final glass selection.

The final panel. The client was delighted!

If you choose to work with Cathe Carnes, another local glass artist, I will put you in touch with her directly. Cathe Carnes has been working in my studio for several years, creating panels and constantly upgrading her skills. She does an absolutely amazing job making my designs come to life! Of course, you are perfectly free to take the finished design to any glass artist of your choosing. But if you choose to have Cathe put the panel together, you can rest assured that the final piece will meet the highest standards of the profession. I highly recommend her for the building of your piece.

At this point, the next steps will be as follows:

Cathe in the studio with a just-completed panel

Cathe also fabricated 90% of the Three Wise Men panel that I designed for my sister - at that point my hand was almost useless and I could never have completed it without her!

Step One: You will be placed on the schedule.
Your panel will be placed in Cathe's commission queue. Keep in mind that it can take up to 4-6 weeks to craft a full-size glass panel. This is true regardless of where you have your panel crafted, so if you're hoping to have a panel crafted in time for a specific event (e.g., a birthday, anniversary, or holiday), please be sure to take the time constraints into account when planning your piece. To obtain a panel in time for Christmas, for example, it's a good idea to get started no later than August!

Step Two: The Glass Is Cut and Assembled.
Assembling a panel is not a quick process! First the pattern is printed out on a large sheet of paper called a "cartoon." A second copy of the pattern is printed and cut into the individual pieces. Most projects involve anywhere from 130-300 pieces. Each piece is traced onto the appropriate piece of glass, cut out by hand, ground to the exact requirements of the pattern, and fitted together. Once all the pieces are fitted correctly, adhesive-backed copper foil is applied to all the edges. This usually involves a bit more grinding and fitting for last-minute adjustments. Small details (such as facial features, claws, etc.) may be added with foil overlays. This is time-consuming, but adds a great deal of realism to the final panel. A 50% deposit on the total cost of fabrication will be required at the beginning of this step.

Step Three: Pieces Are Soldered Into Place.
Once all the pieces fit together perfectly, solder is applied to all the copper surfaces on both sides of the panel. This is a two-step process: First, a flat solder cover is applied over the copper; then, a second smooth, raised "bead" of solder is applied to every line. This gives the panel a greater dimensionality. Details too small to render in glass or foil are applied at this point with glass paint (including the name of the pet if desired). The panel is then soldered into a zinc frame, including hangers and a chain from which to hang the finished panel.

Step Four: The Panel Is Cleaned and Polished.
After soldering, the panel is thoroughly cleaned to remove all residues. A coat of glass polish is applied to remove any solder tarnish and make the piece shine!

Step Five: The Panel Is Ready to Ship!
Once the panel is complete, Cathe will contact you by e-mail to confirm the final shipping address. Shipping is normally handled by UPS or FedEx, which takes 3-5 business days; expedited shipping can also be arranged. Once your panel has been weighed and shipped, you will be invoiced for the balance and shipping costs. Payment can be made by check or PayPal (there is a 3% surcharge for payments by PayPal). Once payment is received, your panel will be on its way to you!

Step Nine: Enjoy!
Your panel is a permanent tribute to a beloved companion who spent years enriching your life. We hope that it will be a loving reminder of a precious memory! (Please visit our Testimonials page for some comments from happy pet lovers.)

Sunny Brook Studio
2704 Sunnybrook Dr. · Jonesboro, AR 72404 · (870) 972-5822
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All stained glass images and patterns shown on this site are © Robin Anderson and may not be posted, reprinted, or used in any form without the artist's written permission.