Envelope Collection by Sasha Ward

Entrance drum, Swindon Central Library

My envelope collection has been put to use again. The opportunity came in the form of an exhibition, The Female Aesthetic - Women in the Public Domain, opening this week to coincide with International Women's Day. The exhibition explores the Thamesdown Public Art Archive, choosing work by women from the heyday of public art commissioning in Swindon, or that's how it seemed when we moved to the region in the 1980s. My exhibits are two designs printed on vinyl, one in the windows of the library entrance drum (above) and the other in the Window Gallery nearby (below).

Window vinyls in No 9 Gallery, Artsite, Swindon

I've been collecting patterns from envelope innards ever since I've had a studio. I used them, enlarging and pulling apart the lines that make up the intricate designs, in my commission for Swindon's new hospital in 2002. From talking to people about this piece - a back lit, full height glass wall (below) - I have come to realise that the envelope pattern story really interests them, maybe because it helps to answer the familiar question "Where do you get your ideas from?" 

The Chaplaincy, Great Western Hospital Swindon, 2002    Envelope patterns used in the hospital commission

Detail of Envelope Frieze in Swindon Library

It seemed a good idea to make a link back to that commission in my new work and to make the envelopes more obvious, celebrating their shapes as they fly along the window strip or around a central point in the Gallery Rose Envelope Window.

My collection isn't growing very fast anymore as letters hardly ever arrive and the envelopes are mostly swaps. In desperation I've started to include company logos and even just repeated words, reinforcing the fact that there are only a certain number of patterns, and their variations, in the world. 

Harry Stammers, Lady Chapel by Sasha Ward

On entering St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol                                              Bursting into prayer inside The Lady Chapel

On entering St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol                                              Bursting into prayer inside The Lady Chapel

If you need your faith in twentieth century stained glass restored, go and see Harry Stammers' windows for The Lady Chapel in St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol. Even on entering the church the colour is overpowering, the windows are amazing from a distance and so amazing when you are in the chapel that people were bursting into prayer in front of them. I have included a photo of every window here, but still they do not convey how well the stained glass, rich and beautiful both in overall design and in the detailed painting, works in its setting. There is a complete set of five large windows made from 1960-65, the colours becoming stronger from the front to the back (east) wall, where the central nativity window is filled with colour and detail arranged in a satisfying pattern of blocks and columns.

Nativity window

Nativity window

Angels at the top of the nativity window

Angels at the top of the nativity window

After much reflection, I chose the red and yellow angels (above) as my favourite part of the scheme: it's the part that sings out from a distance and is full of the silverstain/red flashed glass pattern-making that is a distinguishing characteristic of the work of  Harry Stammers (see Jane Brocket's blog on the subject here).

Other sections that fascinated me were Mary lying on straw (below) painted in exactly the way that I show grass and straw in my coloured glass, and the three blue columns that turn into figures when you look at them closely (below right).

Details from the centre and the bottom right of the nativity window

Details from the centre and the bottom right of the nativity window

Windows 2 & 4 (either side of the nativity window)

Windows 2 & 4 (either side of the nativity window)

The other four windows contain large amounts of clear glass, something that I hold against a lot of mid twentieth century stained glass, especially in churches where these types of windows are contrasted with older, less transparent ones. However, here the white and tinted glass sections are not cut into diamond-shaped quarries only, there are some beautifully designed passages where the diamonds change into irregular shapes as they border the blocks of colour.

South facing window & detail from it

South facing window & detail from it

North facing window from inside and outside

North facing window from inside and outside

The high ratio of transparent glass, coupled with the crisp linear painting style, also allows some of the images to be read from the outside, at least on the north side where the light shines right through the chapel.

The whole series of windows shows the life of Mary alongside other female saints, figures from familiar bible stories and groups of people dressed in the clothes of the 1950s and 60s. But I find, as usual, that I am more interested in the abstract/pattern-making qualities that you can find in every panel - like the towers of diamonds pointing to the fabulous jade green triangle (below left). Right at the bottom is a section full of shapes covered in a network of lines and brush marks, so that each piece of blue glass is like a beautiful miniature painting.

Two Churches in Shrewsbury by Sasha Ward

I wandered into these two Shrewsbury churches, St. Alkmund's and St. Chad's, by chance. I found two amazing interiors featuring huge and distinctive stained glass windows with the sort of painted detail - soft clouds and hills and panoramas - that has always inspired my own work.

St. Alkmund's: clear leaded glass window & The Francis Eginton window

St. Alkmund's has windows of plain glass in wonderful leaded patterns and an enamelled window behind the altar. It was painted by Francis Eginton of Birmingham in 1795 and recently restored. It is based on a painting, The Assumption of the Virgin by Guido Reni, but the landscape and background to the figure are the interesting part and quite different from Reni's painting. Through fabulous purple and yellow smoky clouds you can make out details of scenery, layers of depth and intricate detail.

Foreground thistle, bottom left:  background hills, centre right

More than half of the window is sky, the translucent billowing clouds achieved by painting and firing vitreous enamel on layers of glass that are framed in a cast iron gilded grid. The grid seems to work particularly well with the top section where the clouds make a pattern, or an abstract composition.

Top of Eginton's St. Alkmund's window

St. Chad's: window by David Evans & detail showing left hand panel with leaded cloud and little vignette below

St. Chad's is the only grade 1 listed circular Georgian church in England, the interior is lofty and decorative. There are many patterned windows, but also a series from the 1840s by a Shrewsbury stained glass artist, David Evans. His windows include one behind the altar that is also based on a painting, Ruben's The Descent From The Cross. Here it was a dazzling little vignette at bottom left that caught my eye. The shape of the hole, the bright light it transmits and the hardly visible painted details seem to me a great use of the medium - again the glass is cut in a rectangular grid. As a contrast, look at the cloud detail above it, a lead line delineating its edge - could anything be less cloud like?

Interior of St. Chad's showing two of the David Evans window and a landscape with cloud detail from another

In one of the soft, panoramic landscapes that I particularly like, lead lines also do a bad job around the edge of a hillside (below right). From the same window comes an example where the lead lines are either hidden in the painting or part of an unobtrusive grid, techniques that will be familiar to people taught traditional stained glass. It shows two figures and a tree in front of a blue hole that creates another little eye-catching vignette.

Details from "Lazarus Come Forth" one of four windows by Evans donated by Reverend Richard Scott 1842

Analysis Of The Christmas Cards Part 2 by Sasha Ward

Part One analysed the spread of cards from Christmas 2015, as you can see if you follow this link http://www.sashaward.co.uk/blog/2016/1/2/analysis-of-the-christmas-cards  This year, I enjoyed the arrival of the cards even more as I anticipated what fun I would have counting up the varieties of manufacture, shape and subject matter once the whole business of Christmas was over (hooray!). 

The 2016 statistics are as follows: 20% home made, 14% home printed, 66% bought.  34% square, 43% portrait, 12% landscape, 5% postcards, 5% shaped. Not much change from last year, but I'm glad to see that home made cards are slightly on the increase while square cards - awkward to display I find - are slightly on the decrease.

The most popular subject matter was one of my favourites, a snow scene (7), see above, with examples showing Vermont, London, Siberia; streets, parks and gardens. There were 6 cards of single trees, 6 of birds - 4 of these actually recognisable species, see below. 

The main difference between this and last year's cards is the dropping off of reproductions of well known artworks. Last year's most popular category was down to one example this year, a disturbing state of affairs slightly alleviated by the two stained glass cards we received. You can see these on the mantlepiece below, particularly thrilling is the card on the right which shows the stained glass before and after restoration. 

My favourite cards on the mantlepiece, particularly the patterned ones in the middle with seasonal colours and glitter! Click to enlarge.

Sliding squares by Sasha Ward

The Motorway from a field in Wanborough, 146 x 217mm    View of Motorway and Swindon, 146 x 217 mm

The Motorway from a field in Wanborough, 146 x 217mm    View of Motorway and Swindon, 146 x 217 mm

I found some of my old glass squares and decided they needed rearranging, much like the sliding squares game in feel (especially as I tried to use the thinnest possible lead and the slightly smaller blue piece kept dropping out of place). The glass came from a project I worked on for The Community Forest in Wanborough in 1993, where I did pages of sketches looking at the view towards Swindon.

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Drawings from a field in Wanborough 1993, the two views were used in the glass panels above.

Drawings from a field in Wanborough 1993, the two views were used in the glass panels above.

I still find that area fascinating, just a couple of fields separating some classic Wiltshire villages from the motorway cutting and the dual carriageway that marks the start of Swindon. I particularly love the view of the Honda factory on the east edge of town, in the sunshine it looks like a shiny ocean liner.

'Honda Factory and Charlbury Hill', drawings numbered 7 & 8 from my 1993 series.

'Honda Factory and Charlbury Hill', drawings numbered 7 & 8 from my 1993 series.

I was so happy with the results, it seemed such an easy way of getting somewhere that I thought I'd do some more - pulling apart old stained glass panels, sandblasting, painting and refiring sections. However, it is hard to make something that looks effortless. My next composition needed a lot of shifting around, eliminating unnecessary pieces, trying to keep hold of my original intentions and retain an element of playfulness.

Work still in progress 'Sliding Squares: Honda Factory' 1993 -2016

Work still in progress 'Sliding Squares: Honda Factory' 1993 -2016