glass painting

Two Churches in Shrewsbury by Sasha Ward

I wandered into these two Shrewsbury churches, St. Alkmund's and St. Chad's, by chance. I found two amazing interiors featuring huge and distinctive stained glass windows with the sort of painted detail - soft clouds and hills and panoramas - that has always inspired my own work.

St. Alkmund's: clear leaded glass window & The Francis Eginton window

St. Alkmund's has windows of plain glass in wonderful leaded patterns and an enamelled window behind the altar. It was painted by Francis Eginton of Birmingham in 1795 and recently restored. It is based on a painting, The Assumption of the Virgin by Guido Reni, but the landscape and background to the figure are the interesting part and quite different from Reni's painting. Through fabulous purple and yellow smoky clouds you can make out details of scenery, layers of depth and intricate detail.

Foreground thistle, bottom left:  background hills, centre right

More than half of the window is sky, the translucent billowing clouds achieved by painting and firing vitreous enamel on layers of glass that are framed in a cast iron gilded grid. The grid seems to work particularly well with the top section where the clouds make a pattern, or an abstract composition.

Top of Eginton's St. Alkmund's window

St. Chad's: window by David Evans & detail showing left hand panel with leaded cloud and little vignette below

St. Chad's is the only grade 1 listed circular Georgian church in England, the interior is lofty and decorative. There are many patterned windows, but also a series from the 1840s by a Shrewsbury stained glass artist, David Evans. His windows include one behind the altar that is also based on a painting, Ruben's The Descent From The Cross. Here it was a dazzling little vignette at bottom left that caught my eye. The shape of the hole, the bright light it transmits and the hardly visible painted details seem to me a great use of the medium - again the glass is cut in a rectangular grid. As a contrast, look at the cloud detail above it, a lead line delineating its edge - could anything be less cloud like?

Interior of St. Chad's showing two of the David Evans window and a landscape with cloud detail from another

In one of the soft, panoramic landscapes that I particularly like, lead lines also do a bad job around the edge of a hillside (below right). From the same window comes an example where the lead lines are either hidden in the painting or part of an unobtrusive grid, techniques that will be familiar to people taught traditional stained glass. It shows two figures and a tree in front of a blue hole that creates another little eye-catching vignette.

Details from "Lazarus Come Forth" one of four windows by Evans donated by Reverend Richard Scott 1842

Glass Enamel Samples by Sasha Ward

Enamels in the studio

Enamels in the studio

Since I started using glass enamels in 1984 (date verified by original Blythe pot above) I have sampled the products of most enamel suppliers. I have just tried out some ancient looking envelopes of Reusche enamels, very fine but expensive, given to me by a colleague. I save my old enamels for small projects as many of them are now unobtainable because of the elements, including lead, that they contain.  In my favourite range I have completely used up some colours - my best ever test strips are on the windowsill below right, next to the new Reusche samples. 

Colour samples in my studio window                                                    Best ever enamel test strips & recent (smaller) Reusche strips

Colour samples in my studio window                                                    Best ever enamel test strips & recent (smaller) Reusche strips

The test pieces, which I sometimes vary by using dots or another layer of colour going the other way, look great in the studio windows but because they are usually on 6mm (thick) glass, it is hard to use them in stained glass commissions. They have recently been sorted or chucked during the great studio clear out. For our new shed door (below left) I used fifteen sample panels of the mostly brown enamels from a job shown in the photo at top right - complete with notes on colour mixes scratched through the paint. For one of my first ever stained glass commissions (below right) I made fake sample strips, this time texture added with acid etched stripes, an even more deadly substance that I no longer use.

Our shed door, 2014                                                                   Detail from front door commission, 1988

Our shed door, 2014                                                                   Detail from front door commission, 1988

Kelmscott design no. 3 by Sasha Ward

3 glass sketches for the repeat design Kelmscott No. 3

3 glass sketches for the repeat design Kelmscott No. 3

Glass and print versions of the design to show how the repeat works

Glass and print versions of the design to show how the repeat works

I've put my three wallpapers and corresponding glass panels up next to each other in an exhibition about artists' residencies. Design No 3. links Kelmscott Manor with the River Thames and its gardens with clumps of  waterside plants. I'll be tweaking all of these designs in the next few months - seeing them printed on a large scale and all together gives me a great opportunity to evaluate my work from the residency.

The three Kelmscott wallpaper designs installed together in an exhibition at New Brewery Arts

The three Kelmscott wallpaper designs installed together in an exhibition at New Brewery Arts