Drawings to Glass by Sasha Ward

Below is window panel three from a set of four with the watercolour design on the left and the completed glass on the right. I’ve put these images side by side because I feel as if I’ve made progress over the years in showing clients a design that gives a good indication of what the finished glass will look like. I’ve just completed the panels, but it will be a while before I get photographs of them installed so I thought I would look at the progress of ideas from paper to glass.

One of four panels for a private house, 1200 x 460 mm. Left watercolour, right glass.

One of four panels for a private house, 1200 x 460 mm. Left watercolour, right glass.

A collage, partly shown below left, was one of my early designs and it turned out to be the key to sorting out this composition. The quality I copied from the paper to the glass was the contrast between a matt neutral ground and pools of pale, decorated, transparent colour. In glass terms, this became sandblasted dirty pink ground (a great new enamel colour mix) against a very transparent hand painted blue pool.

Central section of panels 3 & 4. Left collage, right glass.

Central section of panels 3 & 4. Left collage, right glass.

In another watercolour/collage, below left, I worked out some details and found a new pattern to suggest a wooded background. I didn’t really like the overall look of this design, and was surprised when I put it against the glass in progress, below right, to see how much I had stuck to my original shapes. These two glass panels on the lighbox before their first firing show how much the colour of the enamel changes when fired.

Panels 1 & 2. Left watercolour/collage, right glass panels on the lightbox before firing.

Panels 1 & 2. Left watercolour/collage, right glass panels on the lightbox before firing.

When I look at a photo (below left) of the first, unfired layer of enamel I used to create the background, I can hardly remember how I did it. I can see the drawn lines are the same in the finished version (below right) and I have my notes, which tell me that the brown turned grey and the green went pink - as planned obviously!

Background detail. Left on the lightbox before firing, right same section completed.

Background detail. Left on the lightbox before firing, right same section completed.

A third comparison (after paper to glass and unfired to double fired) is from artificial to natural light. The panels will be installed in an existing four light window with a light box behind each one. The colours work much better in artificial light - as planned obviously! You can see this in the photos below. However, when the glass has daylight behind it my original concept, matt ground against pale pool, is really emphasised and gives me something I want to take into my next piece of work.

Top half of the glass completed. Left on the lightbox, right against the window.

Top half of the glass completed. Left on the lightbox, right against the window.

Epic Sandblasting by Sasha Ward

Ten versions of my design for the left hand door, the design is mirrored for the right hand one.

Ten versions of my design for the left hand door, the design is mirrored for the right hand one.

The epic sandblasting project is for the Moravian Church in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, currently being renovated by the Friends of Athelstan Museum. My brief was for a design to be sandblasted onto two huge (2.5 x 1.8 m) internal sliding glass doors at either side of the building. The design chosen by the Friends from my initial sketches is the one that was considered the most simple - top middle in the set above.

Computer cut adhesive vinyl stencils, weeding out the design before applying stencils to glass.

Computer cut adhesive vinyl stencils, weeding out the design before applying stencils to glass.

There will be more about the design and the building itself when the renovation is finished, this post describes the process we used to sandblast the doors. Normally I do my sandblasting in a booth in my shed or, for bigger projects, at a glass processing factory. In this case we wanted to avoid moving the heavy toughened doors from place to place, so all the stages had to come to the glass which was laid out on pallets under a carport belonging to the hospitable building contractor. The photos below show the glass in the picturesque carport, we have applied the stencils and in the back corner Ray is tidying up the edges.

Glass doors covered with vinyl stencils under a carport near Malmesbury.

Glass doors covered with vinyl stencils under a carport near Malmesbury.

To do the actual blasting I hired Terry who had a generator towed by his van, in the back of the van was the hopper full of white blasting grit. I banged the hopper (every type I have ever used seems to get blocked at some point) while Terry blasted the panels. The workplace was filled with beautiful colours - pink van, yellow stillage and hose, blue stencils, purple carpet - although for once the artwork would be monochrome.

Sandblasting in progress

Sandblasting in progress

Lifting a corner of the stencil to check the sandblasted marks; glass arrives at the Moravian Church.

Lifting a corner of the stencil to check the sandblasted marks; glass arrives at the Moravian Church.

Stencils are pulled off the glass and discarded in a heap.

Stencils are pulled off the glass and discarded in a heap.

The glass doors were taken straight from the carport to the church and installed in channels on the floor and the balcony above. I saw them in daylight (below right) then changing in tone and throwing shadow patterns when the sun came out (below left). When the doors are in the open position, they slide across a row of white cupboard doors so the design is always on view. The quality of the sandblasted detail is excellent and everyone is pleased with the result. The doors look just right for the space and I’m looking forward to seeing the beautiful interior fully renovated.

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My Life in Black and White by Sasha Ward

Last week, from Monday the 3rd to Sunday the 9th of September, I posted a daily photo on twitter recording my life in black and white, following the rules ‘no humans’, ‘no explanations’. This enjoyable ‘challenge’ did made me think about my week in a different way. So I’ve put the seven days together along with a few extra shots and some rule breaking explanations.

Day 1: Driving through the Cotswolds to the site of my latest commission in a house with an amazing view. Classic bit of church nonsense in St David, Moreton on Marsh where a Kempe window is obscured by the stack of chairs.

Day 1: Driving through the Cotswolds to the site of my latest commission in a house with an amazing view. Classic bit of church nonsense in St David, Moreton on Marsh where a Kempe window is obscured by the stack of chairs.

Day 2: Oxford Road, Manchester, and what would FMB think if he saw this place now? An early breakfast meeting so Gemini Cafe was closed. View from the offices of the old hospital building opposite.

Day 2: Oxford Road, Manchester, and what would FMB think if he saw this place now? An early breakfast meeting so Gemini Cafe was closed. View from the offices of the old hospital building opposite.

Day 3: Sandblasting tests on a farm with a view near Fairford, Gloucestershire. Day 4: Studio window. Day 5: Studio workbench. I realise yet again that a productive working day does not produce such an interesting photo.

Day 3: Sandblasting tests on a farm with a view near Fairford, Gloucestershire. Day 4: Studio window. Day 5: Studio workbench. I realise yet again that a productive working day does not produce such an interesting photo.

Day 6: A walk in Savernake Forest. Day 7: A walk in the Pewsey Vale. Breaking out into colour and humans for the last shot of the weekend with the knowledge that black and white is not really my thing.

Day 6: A walk in Savernake Forest. Day 7: A walk in the Pewsey Vale. Breaking out into colour and humans for the last shot of the weekend with the knowledge that black and white is not really my thing.

All Saints Church, Drimoleague, County Cork by Sasha Ward

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Coming down the hill into Drimoleague I saw a large concrete and stone church, built with no internal columns or divisions so I could see straight through it, ablaze with coloured light. Some of it came from plain yellow glass and some from an amazing concertina shaped window that is opposite the row of plain windows in the photo above. The church, designed by the modernist Cork architect Frank Murphy, was built in 1954-56 and the stained glass, from the studio of Harry Clarke, was installed in 1957. Although there are many interesting features in the building, including a huge mural behind the altar, I was drawn up the stairs to the gallery where I could get a close look at the stained glass.

South side of the church: Interior with yellow glass - transparent over the entrance doors, opaque at the sides.

South side of the church: Interior with yellow glass - transparent over the entrance doors, opaque at the sides.

The stained glass designer was William J. Dowling (1907-1980) who Harry Clarke had first employed in 1928 to help cope with an increasing number of commissions and who became the last manager of the studios up to their closure in 1973. The subject matter of the nine windows is the Catholic way of life, listed on the original design (which is in Trinity College Library) as 'Subjects adjust to Baptism, Family Prayers, First Communicants, Choosing Way of Life, The Mass, Work and Play, Extreme Unction, Judgement, Ascent of Soul to Heaven'. What makes the windows so interesting is that these scenes are set in 1950s Ireland.

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Row of windows on the south side of the church from the outside and the inside (above).

Row of windows on the south side of the church from the outside and the inside (above).

From the gallery, row of windows looking one way and the other.

From the gallery, row of windows looking one way and the other.

Half of the windows are made of blocks of bright uniform colours, these give out the blue glow that you see from a distance. In the morning sun, they also cast a strange blue glow on the face of the windows at the end of the sequence (above left). The same overwhelming colours are also used in blocks above and below the nine scenes. I was dazzled with bright colour, critical of the rather crude compositions and borders of some of the scenes (what would Harry think!) but so impressed with the actual figures and the painting of the faces. 

Panel 1 Baptism, Panel 2 Family Prayers, Panel 3 First Communicants

Panel 1 Baptism, Panel 2 Family Prayers, Panel 3 First Communicants

Close up to the panels, there are numerous gorgeous period details, from the furnishings, the clothes and shoes to the sandwiches and cups of tea (below right). My favourite groups of figures are the young couple having their baby baptised (above left), and the group wearing beautiful skirts and shoes pondering their futures - priesthood, religious life, marriage? (below left).

Details from Panel 4 Choosing a Way of Life & Panel 6 Work and Play

Details from Panel 4 Choosing a Way of Life & Panel 6 Work and Play

Having spent the previous fortnight looking at windows by Harry Clarke made mostly in the 1920s, it was difficult to see the influence of the studio on these ones. However, a close up of the faces of the congregation at mass (below) shows a hand that knows how to paint an interesting, convincing person  that doesn't copy Harry Clarke's idiosyncratic manner but updates it to a style that is very 1950s.

Detail from Panel 5 The Mass

Detail from Panel 5 The Mass

Harry Clarke trip (part 2) by Sasha Ward

This is a continuation of my Harry Clarke tour, with visits to another three buildings in the south of Ireland. Seeing the windows that I know so well from books reinforces the fact (that I also learnt from books) that stained glass is an architectural art, dependent on its surroundings for the impact it makes.

The Honan Chapel, University College Cork, exterior: 2 of HC's windows: St Declan 1916, Our Lady of Sorrows 1917

The Honan Chapel, University College Cork, exterior: 2 of HC's windows: St Declan 1916, Our Lady of Sorrows 1917

The windows I really wanted to see are in the Honan Chapel of St Finbarr in Cork. These eleven windows, Clarke's first significant commission at the age of 25, show eleven Irish Saints with small figurative scenes above and below each magnificent, exotic figure. In this chapel, built in the style of the Celtic Art revival from 1915-16, the balance of light was all wrong - overlit inside, overcast outside - so you could hardly see through the windows, apart from the two in the unlit chancel that include the beautiful Our Lady of Sorrows (above right).

Head of St Gobnait                                                                  Head of St Declan

Head of St Gobnait                                                                  Head of St Declan

The windows in the nave, all made in 1916, are set in deep stone niches above eye level, the colours and details are gorgeous and Clarke's windows put the others in the chapel, made by An Tur Gloine (Sarah Purser's studio) at the same time, in the shade. St Gobnait is the most eye-catching figure, see her profile above left, with the red and blue beads advancing from the borders to make a background for her flying bees. The borders and the scenes above and below the other saints are filled with writing, figures, patterns and stories. Wonderful to see a grotesque Judas with frightened pilgrims behind him at the bottom of the St Brendan window (below right) and great to know that the strangeness of these characters didn't stop other churches commissioning work from young Harry.

Lower panels for St Albert and St Brendan

Lower panels for St Albert and St Brendan

Interior of Duhill Catholic Church, County Tipperary

Interior of Duhill Catholic Church, County Tipperary

Sometimes it's hard to focus on the beauty of the stained glass when you are confronted with all the other stuff you need in a church. The photo above shows the interior of a small rural church in Duhill, two fantastic Clarke windows and me close to the left hand window, having moved a banner that was hiding the lovely patterned lower section.

Vision of Bernadette at Lourdes, 1925

Vision of Bernadette at Lourdes, 1925

The morning light was flooding through this window that shows the vision of Bernadette. The two figures are beautiful and glow against a stripy sky with the silhouettes of trees and towers. Zooming in on Mary, I love the way her radiance is surrounded first by rocky crags and hanging flowers, then by a border of bright beads that puts the whole scene into a more interesting craggy shape. Although the other window, with a dramatic scene showing Salome carrying the huge head of St. John the Baptist, is equally good, the balance of light that morning - too much natural light this time inside the church - made it more difficult to read. The tops and bottoms of these two windows are filled with tiny patterns, doodles on pale glass around a bright geometric flower; intricate, abstract panels and borders that really compliment both of the complex figurative scenes.

The Beheading of John the Baptist, 1925: Lower panel

The Beheading of John the Baptist, 1925: Lower panel

An Diseart, Dingle, County Kerry. Institute of Irish Culture and Spirituality, formerly Presentation Convent Chapel

An Diseart, Dingle, County Kerry. Institute of Irish Culture and Spirituality, formerly Presentation Convent Chapel

The six pairs of lancets in Dingle are in the first floor chapel of the former Presentation Convent -on the left in the photo above. They were made to his design by Clarke's studio in 1925 and represent the life of Christ. In comparison with HC's early masterpieces in Cork which he painted as well as designed, it is easy to spot some painted passages, particularly the bland heads of Christ, that were executed under his supervision but by other artists in the studio. However, set in the small, narrow space of the beautifully furnished chapel, these windows are overwhelming, rich, detailed and delicate. 

The clear glass in the borders, tops and bottoms is very effective, and the rest of the backgrounds are filled with flowers, 1920s style in a brilliant colour palette. I love the design of all of these windows, the position of the figures, the groups of heads in profile, the clothes and shoes and the fantasy landscapes in the backgrounds. This is the place that I would recommend for a visit, not only for Harry Clarke, but for the whole of the beautiful Dingle peninsula.

Below: Double light windows 1 - 6

1. The Visit of the Magi                                                           2. The Baptism of Jesus (detail)

1. The Visit of the Magi                                                           2. The Baptism of Jesus (detail)

3. Let the Little Children Come to Me (detail)              4. The Sermon on the Mount

3. Let the Little Children Come to Me (detail)              4. The Sermon on the Mount

5. The Agony in the Garden                                                         6. Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene (detail)

5. The Agony in the Garden                                                         6. Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene (detail)