Thirty Year Old Enamel by Sasha Ward

Chapel window for L.M.S. 2.4m x 1.2m. & detail of central panels. Recent photos after cleaning.

Chapel window for L.M.S. 2.4m x 1.2m. & detail of central panels. Recent photos after cleaning.

My first large commission, in 1987, was for my old school, Lady Margaret School in Parson's Green, London. This commission for the chapel marked the school's seventieth anniversary, so for the occasion of the 100th birthday party I decided to revisit and give the window a good clean. No reflection on the cleaning regime at the school, it's just that I have seen what can happen to an unprotected enamel surface over the years, particularly in damp conditions. In this case, the window looked dull and opaque because of the build up of a patina on its surface, but the window was dry and the enamel underneath the grime unharmed, as you can see in the details above and at the bottom of this post. I used cotton wool and the  cleaning paste "astonish" to shine up the greens and yellows. The blue at the top and bottom was always semi opaque and scuffed to look a bit like my water colour design (below).

Left: Original design for the chapel window.  Right: Bottom of the final design (compare with the same section in glass shown above).

Left: Original design for the chapel window.  Right: Bottom of the final design (compare with the same section in glass shown above).

I dug out the design when I got home and remembered that they had initially asked for just the central six panels (above right), then extended the commission to cover the whole window. I reworked the design, swapping the colours around so that I had more of the lovely layered green. On the day of my visit I found the design quite basic, but I think it also looks strong and the geometry works well with the architecture and as a framing device for the birds. I used birds because of my previous commission where this was the stipulated subject matter. My bird shapes and their regular placing in the composition came from my stamp album where stamps were sorted by subject matter rather than country. The bird detail at top left (below) looks like a good copy of Uruguay (below right).

Some of the bird pages in my old stamp album.

Some of the bird pages in my old stamp album.

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In these four details you can see the layers of transparent enamel contrasted with areas of silverstain, opaque iron oxide, clear glass and acid-etched details, all in pretty good condition.

Pugin Patterns by Sasha Ward

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Since a visit to Pugin's house and church in Ramsgate, I've had the picture of these roundels (above) on my wall to remind me about good stained glass design. They are from a series in the cloister of St. Augustine's Church, and were designed between 1846 and 1858 either by Augustus Pugin or his son in law John Hardman Powell. Their design shows how Pugin used plant forms as flat patterns to fill up the space they were intended to enrich, keeping them formalised and abstract rather than three-dimensional. As our guide to his house, The Grange, commented 'no Pugin, no William Morris'.

Windows in South Aisle West, Pugin Chantry South and Lady Chapel East

Windows in South Aisle West, Pugin Chantry South and Lady Chapel East

The church interior is fabulous, both in terms of the integrated design details and furnishings and, as we were invited to notice, by the way that every view is interesting. The layout is unexpected, the windows are all spectacular and full of meaningful details. In the three pictures above, I have tried to show them in their architectural context. The top lights were all made in 1848 and 1849, while the lower panels are from the 1850s and 60s. Pugin died in 1852, like the roundels the later lower panels were designed by John Hardman Powell from the firm Hardman of Birmingham who were the makers of Pugin's stained glass from 1845.

Wallpaper fragments and the reprinted version in a different colourway

Wallpaper fragments and the reprinted version in a different colourway

Seeing Pugin's wallpaper design somewhere had made me want to visit the house. The scraps that have been found and preserved (above left) and the version that has been reprinted and hung in the hall all use great colour combinations. The colours continue in the painted borders in the chapel, and the bird pattern reappears around a stained glass map of Thanet in a sitting room window. What I like about this house are the details and the links between the decorative finishes.

Chapel window with Pugin portraits & coloured border: sitting room window

Chapel window with Pugin portraits & coloured border: sitting room window

Pugin's two sons, Edward and Peter Paul, became architects too, and made alterations to the house and church. They are shown in the bottom of one of the chapel windows (below), the other one (above) shows Pugin on one side and his third wife and daughters on the other in traditional pose and in clear, bright colours.

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The Colours of Compton Verney by Sasha Ward

Lothar Götz room in "The Art of Perception"

Lothar Götz room in "The Art of Perception"

The last gallery in the excellent exhibition at Compton Verney The Art of Perception contains a mural by Lothar Götz. I couldn't resist taking some photos (above), although they look like everyone else's photos of the room, that is simple and effective. The colour combinations however are not simple, and they remind me a lot of the restored eighteenth century glass in the newly restored Compton Verney Chapel, the colours in the middle one of the three (top window, below) match the mural particularly well. 

Three restored C18th stained glass window tops in the north side of the Chapel

Three restored C18th stained glass window tops in the north side of the Chapel

Inside the chapel, and one of the windows on the south side

Inside the chapel, and one of the windows on the south side

The chapel, built between 1776 and 1780, is a rare example of a place of worship designed by Capability Brown. The beautiful white interior has been restored, and the windows replaced with leaded lights containing hand-made glass, most of it clear as much of the medieval glass fragments that the original windows contained had been sold off in the 1920s. What remains of the eighteenth century glazing are the three window tops on the north side in the glaring colours you see in stained glass from this period.

Stained glass in the north windows of the Chapel

Stained glass in the north windows of the Chapel

I love these type of windows, with complicated decorative patterns and bits of detailed painting, where geometry clashes with nature. The link I have made to my own work goes right back to 1995, and a series of small windows made during a residency in Bournemouth and Poole (below). It's not only the loops, but also the pink/blue/orange combination and the thrill of putting clashing patterns and details up against each other.

My windows for Sea View Centre, Poole & Forest View Centre, Bournemouth made in 1995

My windows for Sea View Centre, Poole & Forest View Centre, Bournemouth made in 1995

Wedding season by Sasha Ward

I've had a lot of fun making stained glass panels of marrying couples' initials (as presents) over the last few years. However, as fellow makers will know, having a lot of fun isn't the same thing as doing a good piece of work. When I started this week's panel, I decided to make it look like fun, with a jaunty angle and a rainbow.  I haven't photographed every panel I've made, one I remember (M&J) doesn't even appear in the pages of a sketchbook. And a note to self: dating your work adds so much interest, I wish I'd done it more.

Stages of Making by Sasha Ward

Left: Strips of 6mm float glass                       Right: After first firing, the simple part of the design.

Left: Strips of 6mm float glass                       Right: After first firing, the simple part of the design.

This summer I installed a commission in the garden of Booth House, a Salvation Army Lifehouse in Swindon. It's a donations panel, with removable glass tiles so that names can be added to the work, mounted on a fence and therefore with no back lighting. These constraints made it a technically complicated commission so I photographed the stages of making, showing how the glass went from a pile of strips in my studio (above left) to the finished piece at the bottom of this post. 

Left: Lee at Booth House with one of his pieces before firing.  Right: Sgraffito pieces from the workshops after firing.

Left: Lee at Booth House with one of his pieces before firing.  Right: Sgraffito pieces from the workshops after firing.

The design also had to incorporate contributions from the residents of Booth House who were invited to join glass workshops. Their sgraffito drawings on enamelled glass tiles with inscriptions in mirror writing really enlivened the simple composition. This is based on rows of staggered plants climbing up an imaginary trellis. Everything from the workshops was included in the finished artwork so the design changed and grew during the making process.

When you take your work outside, it suddenly looks very small, dwarfed by the big wide world. To fill a reasonable amount of space on the fence, I worked out that I needed to make 72 pieces of glass, each measuring 120mm x 250-350mm. Every piece is unique - with a tiny number scratched in the enamel after the first layer of green/brown painting and firing (top right). The second layer of painting added plain colours as backgrounds for the names, these commemorate people and organisations who have made donations of various kinds to Booth House. 

Left: first batch of glass pieces on the lightbox before second firing.  Right: all the pieces have been painted twice, half of them still need their second firing.

Left: first batch of glass pieces on the lightbox before second firing.  Right: all the pieces have been painted twice, half of them still need their second firing.

Left: the master list                                                        Right: piece no. 51, just the name left to add

Left: the master list                                                        Right: piece no. 51, just the name left to add

That was really the fun part over. The fired pieces had to be taken to the tougheners, then brought back to the studio along with 72 pieces of mirrored glass slightly taller than the enamelled pieces to create tiles with two stepped edges, able to slide in and out of the frame.  Next I cut three layers of laminating stuff and taped them between the enamelled and mirrored glass, ready for lamination. The last process was sandblasting names onto the front of some of the tiles. And the most time consuming part of the process - scraping off the stuff that oozes out during lamination - didn't even appear on my master list. The piles of glass pieces looked great, really bright and reflective on a sunny day in the studio (below left). The colours of our green, shady garden were reflected when I piled them on the table outside.

Reflected colours: inside the studio (left),      in the garden (right).

Reflected colours: inside the studio (left),      in the garden (right).

Corner in the garden of Booth House                                          Detail with reflections

Corner in the garden of Booth House                                          Detail with reflections

The frame for the glass pieces is an ingenious thing devised by friend and neighbour Fred Baier. We customised strips of composite decking material and slotted them together on two boards which we installed on a section of fence that creates a little corner. The colours on a summer's day couldn't be brighter, with reflections from the garden and the wall opposite and a spectacular merging of colours, names and patterns at the corner joint. I took a photo from Spring Gardens car park that overlooks the garden, of one of the residents looking for her painted piece (bottom right), showing how the mirrored enamel stands out even from such a distance.

Detail showing corner and neat end caps                                                    From Spring Gardens car park

Detail showing corner and neat end caps                                                    From Spring Gardens car park