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.

panel 4.jpg

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.