Malmesbury

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 Iā€™m looking forward to seeing the beautiful interior fully renovated.

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A WM Wiltshire Stained Glass Tour by Sasha Ward

Map of North Wiltshire showing the location of the three churches - it's about seven miles between Sopworth and the other two.

Map of North Wiltshire showing the location of the three churches - it's about seven miles between Sopworth and the other two.

We started at St Mary's Sopworth, where a low, south facing three light window shows Mary Magdalene, The Virgin Mary and Mary of Cleopas. I had never seen a reproduction of this window and was amazed at how beautiful it looked, with lovely colour, detail and organisation of the background space. The figures were originally designed for Bradford Cathedral, the central Mary by Edward Burne-Jones, the outer two by William Morris. The Mary of Cleopas panel is simple and stunning - I've always heard that Morris couldn't do figures, perhaps it's the skilled glass painter's work that I admire the most.

Window in St. Mary's Church, Sopworth and detail of the right hand panel. EBJ & WM 1873. Click to enlarge.

Next we went to Malmesbury Abbey to see a much later Edward Burne-Jones window. These figures I did recognise from their appearance in earlier windows made by the firm of Morris and Company, where Faith was originally St. George, Courage originally King Ethelbert of Kent and Devotion a centurion. The backgrounds and foliage are also quite standard, but fit well with the lofty space of the Abbey. Painted details, especially on the clothes, are as usual fantastic.

The Luce Window, Malmesbury Abbey. Made by Morris & Company in 1901 to designs by EBJ. Click to enlarge.

Three miles south of Malmesbury is Holy Rood Church, Rodbourne, with some small windows made in the early years of the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company. The designs are by Ford Madox Brown and Dante Gabriel Rossetti; there is also a pelican roundel by Philip Webb in another small window. I love Rossetti's angel and the crucifixion with red background above it. These must have been painted in the period when the firm's paint recipe contained unstable elements because much of the lettering and detail has come off. Strangely the paintwork on the pelican roundel is still perfect, lovingly painted too.

Holy Rood, Rodbourne. Left: The Fall by FMB. Above: Annunciation by DGR.  Pelican roundel by Philip Webb. Click to enlarge.