Christmas Wishes by Sasha Ward

It’s not that I’m getting bored with the Analysis of the Christmas Cards, now in its fourth year, but the statistics are getting repetitive. Home made or designed is at a steady 34% (31%, 34%, 35%) and square still the most popular shape at 32% (48%, 34%, 38.5%). Landscape format is on the increase now at 30% (26%, 12%, 14%) - in the brackets are the previous years’ percentages.

This year (scraping the barrel!) I also looked at the backs of the cards to see where they came from: 28% of the cards supported a variety of charities, The Dogs’ Trust being the most popular, while only 9.5% were bought from museums or galleries.

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The look of this year’s cards was mainly monochrome (22.5%) or muted, as in the selection above. “Winter landscape” is a vague, welcome and glitter-strewn category, it was the most popular at 32%. 17% of the cards included animals or birds, see some tasteful muted ones from this category below.

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I have fun linking cards by shapes, colours and imagery like this line of my top three below - a home printed card, an Edward Bawden and a 3D layered glittery winter landscape. This year I have a winner which is the tree below left because it is bigger, brighter and simpler than all of the others.

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Clifton by Sasha Ward

Inside All Saints: The River of Life and The Tree of Life - west windows.

Inside All Saints: The River of Life and The Tree of Life - west windows.

On a trip to Bristol, we visited a church and a cathedral on the same street in Clifton, both with unusual windows from the 1960s and 1970s. The first, All Saints, was bombed in 1940 and a new church designed by Robert Potter, completed in 1967, was built around the remaining elements. All the windows in the church are by John Piper, they are made of fibreglass on to which Piper poured coloured resins. These windows are controversial because of this experimental technique which has not weathered very well. I had seen pictures of the west windows (above right) and although I knew I didn’t like the simplistic design, I also knew I had to see them in situ to make a considered judgement. Actually I found the Tree of Life repellant in real life: the oversized branches with the dots on them look to me like someone shouting and pushing you away.

Inside All Saints, looking east towards the altar.

Inside All Saints, looking east towards the altar.

However, when you turn around you are in for a lovely surprise. The angled walls (above right) behind the altar and the decorated canopy are plain and flanked by two tall subtle windows, there are blue Piper windows in the Lady Chapel to the right as well as numerous narrow windows of coloured dots on a dark ground. All of these, none particularly transparent, make the interior dark, interesting and coordinated. I could see where the windows were deteriorating, with streaks and white patches on the coloured layers, but this sort of adds to the experimental qualities in these works - one of only two churches where Piper used the technique.

Detail of east window and blue windows in the elevated Lady Chapel.

Detail of east window and blue windows in the elevated Lady Chapel.

Across the road is Clifton Cathedral, designed by Percy Thomas Partnership and completed in 1973. There are many wonderful things about this building including the hexagonal sanctuary space, the roof shapes, the stations of the cross by William Mitchell and the Lady Chapel candelabra (below right) designed by the architects and made at Prinknash Abbey. All these make for a beautifully coordinated interior.

Inside the Cathedral Church of Ss. Peter and Paul, with stations of the cross by William Mitchell and candelabra.

Inside the Cathedral Church of Ss. Peter and Paul, with stations of the cross by William Mitchell and candelabra.

The stained glass wall is set slightly apart on an angled wall in the narthex and is the work of Henry Haig, another artist whose windows I know quite well. The subject matter is “Pentecost” and “Jubilation”, but I read them as landscapes, one gentle (below left) and one fiery (below right). The experimental technique that he used for these was dalle de verre set in epoxy resin, with chunks of thick, textured glass (because you break it with a hammer) providing all the colour that the interior needs.

Henry Haig’s dalle de verre windows

Henry Haig’s dalle de verre windows

Detail of left hand window and close up of the chunks of glass set in resin.

Detail of left hand window and close up of the chunks of glass set in resin.

This was a quick visit that provided an obvious contrast in stained glass techniques: the rich material quality of Haig versus the fluid washes of Piper. My companions weren’t particularly impressed with the Haig windows, and I’m not mad on the random vagueness of the design either. However because they are contemporary with their setting they look completely right for the place and totally solid. The buildings are easy to spot as they both have unusual prominent towers, it’s a great treat to see two interiors that look so “modern” almost fifty years on.

Rooflines by Sasha Ward

Staircase windows, each panel 880 x 300 mm

Staircase windows, each panel 880 x 300 mm

Just installed is this three part internal window for artist blacksmith and friend Melissa Cole in her newly built house. At front left in the snap above you can see a corner of her balustrade, it’s made of lines of metal that look like a scratchy drawing, and hopefully a bit like the scratchy lines in the landscape part of my design. The themes in this window revisit subject matter from my Kelmscott designs where roof shapes were placed in a pattern made from the local landscape.

When I visited the house during construction, the set of plans (below) was up on the wall - how could I resist basing my design on a roof plan that looked like a flower?

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Roof under construction: flower roof

Roof under construction: flower roof

I liked my first sketches, collages of the roof under construction and the flower roof shape. However, I found it hard to work them into the format of the window openings. So I made a 3D model of the roof, with the aim of stretching it to a landscape format without losing the real shape.

House in the landscape: paper model of the roof

House in the landscape: paper model of the roof

sketches showing development of the design

sketches showing development of the design

As I developed the design, the geometric shape of the roof flowed into curves that spread into the surrounding areas. The straight lines tie the panels together across the roof cross, in the glass these are picked out with a sandblasted white line. I was pleased with the restraint I exercised in my use of colour. Once Melissa had chosen the strong orange and I had mixed up a metallic pink/purple for the roof (marvellous new colour that changes with light on or through it), there was only room for neutrals and a lot of white - the neutrals appear very green in the photo of the panels in my studio window below. As they should, the panels look best in the place they were made for. Thanks to an ideal, positive talking commissioner who insisted that it’s the artist who has to be happy with the work as much as the client.

Panels in the studio this summer.

Panels in the studio this summer.

Paintings In Church by Sasha Ward

Left: The Resurrection Chapel. Right: Gladioli and Stephen stoned by Clayton & Bell (1870s)

Left: The Resurrection Chapel. Right: Gladioli and Stephen stoned by Clayton & Bell (1870s)

St Mary Abbots Church in Kensington is large and grand, designed by George Gilbert Scott with stained glass by the firm of Clayton and Bell. The Resurrection Chapel was redesigned by G.G.S’s grandson in the 1920s, and last week was beautifully decorated for remembrance day. For once the familiar sight of stained glass obscured by flowers didn’t annoy me at all.

Juliet’s Goodden’s paintings on the left hand side of the west wall.

Juliet’s Goodden’s paintings on the left hand side of the west wall.

On one wall of the church, either side of the west door, was an exhibition of paintings by Juliet Goodden celebrating interfaith week. I am a fan of Juliet’s paintings. In this series, which is about diverse faiths living side by side, she has painted religious souvenirs and fragments of patterns and places on top of prayer flags and saris. There is not a lot of painting on some of these intricate pictures, she said a lot of the work was in thinking about what should go where. Amongst the small stained glass windows in the nave and the stone memorial plaques they looked totally at home, glowing in the gloom.

Juliet Goodden’s paintings on the right hand side of the west wall.

Juliet Goodden’s paintings on the right hand side of the west wall.

However the church is brighter than it used to be - in the 1950s the firm of Con and Barnet carried out stained glass repairs and also decided to remove the borders and canopies of Clayton and Bell’s nave windows replacing them with white glass (below left). This strange decision emphasises imaginary tracery and makes the windows seem as if they weren’t made for this church. It also causes the light to flood on to the surface of the glass making the details harder to see.

Left: nave windows. Right: window showing St. John in Patmos.

Left: nave windows. Right: window showing St. John in Patmos.

You can see the glare and gloom effect along with patches of artificial light in the photos of the nave above and below. You can also see the wonderful detail in the figures and the birds flying through patterned backgrounds.

Left: nave & clerestory windows. Right: baptism window.

Left: nave & clerestory windows. Right: baptism window.

The patterns on the glass, particularly in the cloth and the backgrounds, take you back to Juliet’s paintings where plant derived patterns mingle with architectural shapes. Amongst the sgraffito floral glass backgrounds I spotted a couple of bright red pieces (above the hand holding the lantern below) that don’t match up. I imagine these to be hasty replacements by those vandals Con & Barnet - but this scratchy drawing is so lively that it just adds to the charm.

Left: detail from window of St Timothy. Right: detail from nativity window.

Left: detail from window of St Timothy. Right: detail from nativity window.

November Afternoon Light by Sasha Ward

In the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Manchester on a November afternoon there was hardly enough light to see the colours and details in your average stained glass window. Instead, I was drawn to the most simple windows with glittering gold borders and some views of the world outside, including eye catching interaction with a huge tree.

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Oxford Road, Manchester.

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Oxford Road, Manchester.

As I was leaving, the light caught a small window (below) and showed off the different textures in the many types of white glass used. There is a fabulous pattern made by a staircase outside, together with the contrasting straight and loopy leading this makes a perfect composition in my eyes.

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Across the road and wandering around the University buildings, I was drawn to this decorative door and fanlight, where the glazing bars look like a sketch of something impractical, getting towards the loopy without quite making it. There is a huge amount of effort on display in the woodwork and the glass cutting, but the georgian wired panel at top right didn’t like what it was asked to do and broke at some stage.

The windows in Whitworth Hall are lovely decorative things. Natural and geometric forms in sympathetic neutral colours, as the lights come on inside the effect is a stunning display of pattern making that fits so well with the neo gothic building (Alfred Waterhouse 1902).

Leaded lights in Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester

Leaded lights in Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester

Directly opposite, mounted on the Williamson building, the low light illuminated “Manchester Sun” by Lynn Chadwick. This is a beautiful sculpture, contemporary with the building and another great example of art in public places.

Lynn Chadwick’s Manchester Sun on the Williamson Building, University of Manchester (1963).

Lynn Chadwick’s Manchester Sun on the Williamson Building, University of Manchester (1963).