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