Stained glass is an art form in which colored glass is cut into shapes and placed into a mosaic to form a picture. The glass is held in place by metal strips soldered together to gives the window or other object strength and stability.
Church windows often include stained glass, where it typically depicts saints or scenes from the Bible. These windows do not necessarily have to depict a scene at all, however; they can simply be a brightly colored geometric design. The famous Rose Window of Notre Dame is made up of many small pictures that together form a geometric pattern, which creates the overall impression — a person must study the window in detail to see that it is indeed a collection of small pictures. The Rose Window's name refers not to the scenes themselves but to the wooden or stone structure that supports the glass, which is radial and composed of many small, petal-like openings into which the glass is set. Often, fine details of the scene are painted on the colored glass, which is then heated to bond the paint to the glass, and thereby "stained."
The glass is colored in the manufacturing process by the addition of salts that cause it to take on particular colors. Then the glass is made into sheets, from which individual pieces can be cut with glass cutting tools. The sheets can be made in a variety of textures, and the uneven or pebbly surface of some glass sheets gives the resultant picture a jeweled look when light passes through it.
Although stained glass windows, whether for church or home, are the most common form of this artwork, it is also used for decorative features. The famous lamps of Louis Tiffany are examples that are much admired and imitated today. Tiffany added opaque or milky glass to the palette, which greatly increased the effects that could be achieved. Today, stained glass art is a popular hobby, and many people enjoy cutting and fitting together pieces of colored glass to form attractive pictures both large and small. When a piece of art is small and meant to be displayed in the window where it catches the sun, it is often called a suncatcher.