Sasha Ward

Analysis of The Xmas Cards Part 3 by Sasha Ward

This is the third consecutive year of my Christmas card analysis, see the previous results here and here. Thinking about it, I've realised that some of my categories are a bit arbitrary - the only certainty is the shape of the card itself. This year the square ones have leapt up to 49% as shown in the chart below. 

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Portrait shaped cards look the best on the mantlepiece, but they were in the minority this year.

Some good ones on the mantlepiece, in case you're in doubt - square, portrait, other, sq., sq., sq., portrait, sq., sq.

Some good ones on the mantlepiece, in case you're in doubt - square, portrait, other, sq., sq., sq., portrait, sq., sq.

Cards go sideways on the walls.

Cards go sideways on the walls.

Last year, I was sad about the dropping off of home made cards, as opposed to home (digitally) printed cards. This year I've stopped being so picky and the category title is "a card made by the person who sent it" (31%), not must change over the survey period for this homemade category.

Twin robin cards and some pigeons

Twin robin cards and some pigeons

In terms of subject categories, there were more birds than ever (11 including 4 robins) and 6 cards that included pictures of deer. Only 1 with angels, 2 of the virgin & child and 2 nativity scenes - one of them in stained glass - hurray! But, as I said, my categories are getting confused. In the past I've had "reproductions of well known artworks" and "snow scenes". There are some obvious category-straddlers here, with the robin in the snow (above) & the Edward Bawden deer (below). 

I hate to choose an overall winner, although I don't think there is a big overlap between people who send me cards and those who read this blog. Four favourites below are Robert Rauschenberg's Gold Painting, Janina Konarska's Skiers, Edward Bawden's Deer and Trees, and a mistletoe print - there is such a lovely texture on this genuine handmade item.

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Drive By Design by Sasha Ward

Driving along Cecil Road

Driving along Cecil Road

This is the first part of my commission for a new Lidl store in Kingswood, South Gloucestershire. The side of the building is on a residential street, so the standard elevation has been enlivened with a series of "windows" and a design printed on opaque vinyl that links the three sets of panels with ribbons of colour and pattern.  

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As you can see from the two sets of designs above, things change during the building process. Where there were four windows per set, there are eventually five. Where the landscape design took account of these windows, in the end it didn't and there was a fence with a banner on it partly obscuring the end windows that announced the opening of the shop in November (below).

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However, I am happy with my design. The geometry goes well with the grids of the building and the fence, the stars in various forms link with the lines of trees and upright posts and the colour scheme looks just right under the grey or the blue sky. In the details taken from the partially obscured windows (who knows, the banner may have been removed by now) you can see different types of stars and details from local buildings both printed and reflected in the vinyl.

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Stained Glass Made Simple by Sasha Ward

St Mary, Upavon, Wiltshire, above and below

St Mary, Upavon, Wiltshire, above and below

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I gave a talk last week to a local group at www.pewsey-heritage-centre.org.uk and, needing to gather my thoughts and opinions, took a quick tour of some of the churches nearby. St. Mary, Upavon has a celebrated Nativity window (below) designed by Henry Holiday in the late pre-Raphaelite style. It also has a set of windows of plain pale coloured glass in simple patterns that give a lovely wash of colour to the whole interior of the church. In the corner (above right) I spotted a window that had a few bright red borders, as well as the addition of some painting consisting of traditional iron oxide patterns and some silverstain - the yellow stain made from silver nitrate that gave stained glass its confusing name.

St Mary, Upavon. Nativity window by Henry Holiday 1917

 

These three examples were perfect for showing what a coloured window would look like without paint, whether the window is improved with a little bit of it, and how the painting and leading should work together to create what we call a "stained glass window". This is always one of the main topics when I talk to people who are not stained glass makers themselves. Is the unpainted window stained glass (it's a leaded light really!), is a window without lead but with silverstain (like the things I do) a stained glass window? You can find confusing explanations of how stained glass got its name everywhere, here's an inaccurate one I saw recently in the seat of learning that is Kings's College Cambridge. 

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All saints, Alton Priors, Wiltshire

All saints, Alton Priors, Wiltshire

I found an example of a peaceful atmosphere in All Saints, Alton Priors. This ancient church is now in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust and has a stripped interior, simple furnishings and plain windows. The ones in the main body of this church have very attractive blue metal grills in the leaded framework and an accidental pattern in subtle colours made of shattered glass still in place. The conclusion I drew from these examples was that the stained glass has to be really good to beat a simple leaded window, especially when it includes a view of the beautiful trees and landscapes around this area.

A pair of windows in All Saints

Wilton, Wiltshire by Sasha Ward

Sts. Mary and Nicholas Church, Wilton, showing the three apses.            Passage between tower and church.

Sts. Mary and Nicholas Church, Wilton, showing the three apses.            Passage between tower and church.

This is Wiltshire in October, and the unlikely sight of a Romanesque church under a warm blue sky with light streaming through carved columns and ancient stained glass. It was built from 1841-5 by the architects Wyatt & Brandon and contains a collection of 12th - 17th century European stained glass (the best in Wiltshire?) as well as mosaics, marble furnishings, door panels and wall paintings. 

Looking from the gallery towards the main apse.                               Central panel, large late C12th head of a saint

Looking from the gallery towards the main apse.                               Central panel, large late C12th head of a saint

In the seven lights of the main apse (above and below left) are superb 12th and 13th century medallions of French glass, including three from St. Denis, set into 19th century backgrounds and borders. The most striking is the central panel of a large saint's head with beautiful strong colours and painted brush strokes, an amazing focal point for the lavish decoration on surrounding walls, ceiling and floor. 

Light through medallions hits a painted wall.   Huge wheel window at the opposite end of the church contains a decorative mixture of 16th century Swiss and Austrian glass fragments and heraldic pieces.

Light through medallions hits a painted wall.   Huge wheel window at the opposite end of the church contains a decorative mixture of 16th century Swiss and Austrian glass fragments and heraldic pieces.

Figures from the windows in the small north and south apses.

Figures from the windows in the small north and south apses.

In the two small apses, either side of the main one, are smaller, ancient figures beautifully arranged and restored. I love the delicate paintwork of the angel and saints (above) - the negative/positive hands in the centre and the pink/yellow combination on the right. Here you can also find saints carrying their own heads (I've found differing opinions on which saints these are) with spectacular spurts of blood from the neck.

Martyred saints carrying their own heads - 16th century Swiss or German glass

Martyred saints carrying their own heads - 16th century Swiss or German glass

A tall narrow window in the south aisle stood out because of its bright colouring, and looked vaguely familiar. The central figure of God the Father was made by Arnold of Nijmegen around 1525 as part of a huge window for the church of the Carmelite Nuns in Antwerp. Other parts of the window are in St. George's Church, Hanover Square, London. In both settings the old glass pieces have been skilfully arranged next to sections of glass from other periods and places - much like the Victorian backgrounds given to the figures and medallions in the apses. These are great example of the historical patchwork you find in many stained glass windows.

South aisle window with figure of God the Father/St. Nicholas above a German panel of the pieta.

South aisle window with figure of God the Father/St. Nicholas above a German panel of the pieta.

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.