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).

Drawings to Glass by Sasha Ward

Below is window panel three from a set of four with the watercolour design on the left and the completed glass on the right. I’ve put these images side by side because I feel as if I’ve made progress over the years in showing clients a design that gives a good indication of what the finished glass will look like. I’ve just completed the panels, but it will be a while before I get photographs of them installed so I thought I would look at the progress of ideas from paper to glass.

 One of four panels for a private house, 1200 x 460 mm. Left watercolour, right glass.

One of four panels for a private house, 1200 x 460 mm. Left watercolour, right glass.

A collage, partly shown below left, was one of my early designs and it turned out to be the key to sorting out this composition. The quality I copied from the paper to the glass was the contrast between a matt neutral ground and pools of pale, decorated, transparent colour. In glass terms, this became sandblasted dirty pink ground (a great new enamel colour mix) against a very transparent hand painted blue pool.

 Central section of panels 3 & 4. Left collage, right glass.

Central section of panels 3 & 4. Left collage, right glass.

In another watercolour/collage, below left, I worked out some details and found a new pattern to suggest a wooded background. I didn’t really like the overall look of this design, and was surprised when I put it against the glass in progress, below right, to see how much I had stuck to my original shapes. These two glass panels on the lighbox before their first firing show how much the colour of the enamel changes when fired.

 Panels 1 & 2. Left watercolour/collage, right glass panels on the lightbox before firing.

Panels 1 & 2. Left watercolour/collage, right glass panels on the lightbox before firing.

When I look at a photo (below left) of the first, unfired layer of enamel I used to create the background, I can hardly remember how I did it. I can see the drawn lines are the same in the finished version (below right) and I have my notes, which tell me that the brown turned grey and the green went pink - as planned obviously!

 Background detail. Left on the lightbox before firing, right same section completed.

Background detail. Left on the lightbox before firing, right same section completed.

A third comparison (after paper to glass and unfired to double fired) is from artificial to natural light. The panels will be installed in an existing four light window with a light box behind each one. The colours work much better in artificial light - as planned obviously! You can see this in the photos below. However, when the glass has daylight behind it my original concept, matt ground against pale pool, is really emphasised and gives me something I want to take into my next piece of work.

 Top half of the glass completed. Left on the lightbox, right against the window.

Top half of the glass completed. Left on the lightbox, right against the window.

Epic Sandblasting by Sasha Ward

 Ten versions of my design for the left hand door, the design is mirrored for the right hand one.

Ten versions of my design for the left hand door, the design is mirrored for the right hand one.

The epic sandblasting project is for the Moravian Church in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, currently being renovated by the Friends of Athelstan Museum. My brief was for a design to be sandblasted onto two huge (2.5 x 1.8 m) internal sliding glass doors at either side of the building. The design chosen by the Friends from my initial sketches is the one that was considered the most simple - top middle in the set above.

 Computer cut adhesive vinyl stencils, weeding out the design before applying stencils to glass.

Computer cut adhesive vinyl stencils, weeding out the design before applying stencils to glass.

There will be more about the design and the building itself when the renovation is finished, this post describes the process we used to sandblast the doors. Normally I do my sandblasting in a booth in my shed or, for bigger projects, at a glass processing factory. In this case we wanted to avoid moving the heavy toughened doors from place to place, so all the stages had to come to the glass which was laid out on pallets under a carport belonging to the hospitable building contractor. The photos below show the glass in the picturesque carport, we have applied the stencils and in the back corner Ray is tidying up the edges.

 Glass doors covered with vinyl stencils under a carport near Malmesbury.

Glass doors covered with vinyl stencils under a carport near Malmesbury.

To do the actual blasting I hired Terry who had a generator towed by his van, in the back of the van was the hopper full of white blasting grit. I banged the hopper (every type I have ever used seems to get blocked at some point) while Terry blasted the panels. The workplace was filled with beautiful colours - pink van, yellow stillage and hose, blue stencils, purple carpet - although for once the artwork would be monochrome.

 Sandblasting in progress

Sandblasting in progress

 Lifting a corner of the stencil to check the sandblasted marks; glass arrives at the Moravian Church.

Lifting a corner of the stencil to check the sandblasted marks; glass arrives at the Moravian Church.

 Stencils are pulled off the glass and discarded in a heap.

Stencils are pulled off the glass and discarded in a heap.

The glass doors were taken straight from the carport to the church and installed in channels on the floor and the balcony above. I saw them in daylight (below right) then changing in tone and throwing shadow patterns when the sun came out (below left). When the doors are in the open position, they slide across a row of white cupboard doors so the design is always on view. The quality of the sandblasted detail is excellent and everyone is pleased with the result. The doors look just right for the space and I’m looking forward to seeing the beautiful interior fully renovated.

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My Life in Black and White by Sasha Ward

Last week, from Monday the 3rd to Sunday the 9th of September, I posted a daily photo on twitter recording my life in black and white, following the rules ‘no humans’, ‘no explanations’. This enjoyable ‘challenge’ did made me think about my week in a different way. So I’ve put the seven days together along with a few extra shots and some rule breaking explanations.

 Day 1: Driving through the Cotswolds to the site of my latest commission in a house with an amazing view. Classic bit of church nonsense in St David, Moreton on Marsh where a Kempe window is obscured by the stack of chairs.

Day 1: Driving through the Cotswolds to the site of my latest commission in a house with an amazing view. Classic bit of church nonsense in St David, Moreton on Marsh where a Kempe window is obscured by the stack of chairs.

 Day 2: Oxford Road, Manchester, and what would FMB think if he saw this place now? An early breakfast meeting so Gemini Cafe was closed. View from the offices of the old hospital building opposite.

Day 2: Oxford Road, Manchester, and what would FMB think if he saw this place now? An early breakfast meeting so Gemini Cafe was closed. View from the offices of the old hospital building opposite.

 Day 3: Sandblasting tests on a farm with a view near Fairford, Gloucestershire. Day 4: Studio window. Day 5: Studio workbench. I realise yet again that a productive working day does not produce such an interesting photo.

Day 3: Sandblasting tests on a farm with a view near Fairford, Gloucestershire. Day 4: Studio window. Day 5: Studio workbench. I realise yet again that a productive working day does not produce such an interesting photo.

 Day 6: A walk in Savernake Forest. Day 7: A walk in the Pewsey Vale. Breaking out into colour and humans for the last shot of the weekend with the knowledge that black and white is not really my thing.

Day 6: A walk in Savernake Forest. Day 7: A walk in the Pewsey Vale. Breaking out into colour and humans for the last shot of the weekend with the knowledge that black and white is not really my thing.

All Saints Church, Drimoleague, County Cork by Sasha Ward

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Coming down the hill into Drimoleague I saw a large concrete and stone church, built with no internal columns or divisions so I could see straight through it, ablaze with coloured light. Some of it came from plain yellow glass and some from an amazing concertina shaped window that is opposite the row of plain windows in the photo above. The church, designed by the modernist Cork architect Frank Murphy, was built in 1954-56 and the stained glass, from the studio of Harry Clarke, was installed in 1957. Although there are many interesting features in the building, including a huge mural behind the altar, I was drawn up the stairs to the gallery where I could get a close look at the stained glass.

 South side of the church: Interior with yellow glass - transparent over the entrance doors, opaque at the sides.

South side of the church: Interior with yellow glass - transparent over the entrance doors, opaque at the sides.

The stained glass designer was William J. Dowling (1907-1980) who Harry Clarke had first employed in 1928 to help cope with an increasing number of commissions and who became the last manager of the studios up to their closure in 1973. The subject matter of the nine windows is the Catholic way of life, listed on the original design (which is in Trinity College Library) as 'Subjects adjust to Baptism, Family Prayers, First Communicants, Choosing Way of Life, The Mass, Work and Play, Extreme Unction, Judgement, Ascent of Soul to Heaven'. What makes the windows so interesting is that these scenes are set in 1950s Ireland.

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 Row of windows on the south side of the church from the outside and the inside (above).

Row of windows on the south side of the church from the outside and the inside (above).

 From the gallery, row of windows looking one way and the other.

From the gallery, row of windows looking one way and the other.

Half of the windows are made of blocks of bright uniform colours, these give out the blue glow that you see from a distance. In the morning sun, they also cast a strange blue glow on the face of the windows at the end of the sequence (above left). The same overwhelming colours are also used in blocks above and below the nine scenes. I was dazzled with bright colour, critical of the rather crude compositions and borders of some of the scenes (what would Harry think!) but so impressed with the actual figures and the painting of the faces. 

 Panel 1 Baptism, Panel 2 Family Prayers, Panel 3 First Communicants

Panel 1 Baptism, Panel 2 Family Prayers, Panel 3 First Communicants

Close up to the panels, there are numerous gorgeous period details, from the furnishings, the clothes and shoes to the sandwiches and cups of tea (below right). My favourite groups of figures are the young couple having their baby baptised (above left), and the group wearing beautiful skirts and shoes pondering their futures - priesthood, religious life, marriage? (below left).

 Details from Panel 4 Choosing a Way of Life & Panel 6 Work and Play

Details from Panel 4 Choosing a Way of Life & Panel 6 Work and Play

Having spent the previous fortnight looking at windows by Harry Clarke made mostly in the 1920s, it was difficult to see the influence of the studio on these ones. However, a close up of the faces of the congregation at mass (below) shows a hand that knows how to paint an interesting, convincing person  that doesn't copy Harry Clarke's idiosyncratic manner but updates it to a style that is very 1950s.

 Detail from Panel 5 The Mass

Detail from Panel 5 The Mass