Great Western Hospital

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.