stained glass

From Glass to Needlework by Sasha Ward

Window of the risen Christ and detail showing the little gold head, John Hayward, 1968.

Window of the risen Christ and detail showing the little gold head, John Hayward, 1968.

There’s lots of good twentieth century stained glass in the Church of St Mary and St Bartholomew, Hampton in Arden in the West Midlands. The window shown here is by John Hayward - with the unmistakable figures in profile, some hidden in backgrounds made of crisscross lines on blocks of colour. As usual, I prefer the details and the minor characters, for example the little gold head under Christ’s arm, to the overall composition. But the window looks great in its setting (below) with a wonderful bit of coordinated interior decor (how un church like!) in the embroidered cushions on the long bench leading up to the window.

View of the church interior, looking east from the entrance door, showing long bench on the south wall.

View of the church interior, looking east from the entrance door, showing long bench on the south wall.

There is an impressive information booklet that goes with the needlework, such as you never get for a stained glass window. Not only subject matter - “it depicts the risen Christ, holding aloft the flag, with his angels going out to bring the light of the resurrection to the souls of the departed” - but also details on the design and manufacture, with acknowledgements not only to the donors but also to the frame maker, design tracer, upholsterer and suppliers of the materials (John Cordwell, Robin Watkin, Parkes of Earlsdon and stitches of Solihull). The village needlewomen tell us they made a panel each and the project lasted from 2002-5 (!!!). They write “We were once again privileged to have the inspiration of the Reverend John de Wit, our priest in charge 1994 - 2004, for the design. It was decided that this should link with the window and thus bring the while concept into the body of the church….. One of the challenges has been to maintain the continuity of the designs because they flow from one panel to another and this had to be so exact for the joining of the sections” The concept and the linear version of the design works really well, although inevitably the bench was covered with leaflets and boxes when I was there.

Glass angel by John Hayward, needlepoint angel by Janet Hardcastle

Glass angel by John Hayward, needlepoint angel by Janet Hardcastle

It is interesting to compare the stained glass angels to the needlepoint ones, the hand positions show you which is which. More from the booklet “The canvas on which we worked uses ten stitches to the inch, which made the depiction of the details very taxing. For instance, one stitch in the face of an angel can make a huge difference to the expression!”

Needlepoint angels by Marjorie Iles and Janet Griffiths

Needlepoint angels by Marjorie Iles and Janet Griffiths

Christ Church, Southgate N.14 by Sasha Ward

North Aisle, left to right: Liberalitas & Humanitas (1899), Prudentia & Justitia (1885), Temperentia & Caritas (1876), Spes & Fides (1876)

North Aisle, left to right: Liberalitas & Humanitas (1899), Prudentia & Justitia (1885), Temperentia & Caritas (1876), Spes & Fides (1876)

I’ve rediscovered my enthusiasm for the stained glass of Morris & Company after visiting Christ Church in Southgate, North London. The windows in this church cover every period of the firm’s production from 1861 until the twentieth century, with designs by William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Ford Madox Brown, Philip Webb and Edward Burne-Jones. The photos I’d seen were mainly those rare early windows designed, made and painted by the partners in the original firm, in the Victorian Medieval style i.e small figures engulfed by patterned borders and backgrounds. But the ones I really liked are shown in the photo below. There are pairs of figures in all the windows of the north and south aisle, they look great from a distance because of this consistency of design and are full of amazing detail and colour. Burne-Jones designed all except the figure of St. Francis which is the latest and is by Henry Dearle (1911).

Left: Detail from Liberalitas. Right: The figure of Justitia

Left: Detail from Liberalitas. Right: The figure of Justitia

The eight figures in the north aisle are all fantastic examples of the firm’s stained glass style as it developed, with gorgeous patterned backgrounds and drapery in Liberalitas and Humilitas (above left) and the use of amazing coloured glass, particularly in Justitia (above right.)

The next two pairs of windows were made earlier, the figures of Temperentia and Caritas are flowing and curvy, with a pair of astonishing babies, shown below left. The earliest two, Spes and Fides are plainer, calmer and they let in a lot more light.

Left: Babies at the feet of Caritas. Right: The figure of Fides

Left: Babies at the feet of Caritas. Right: The figure of Fides

South Aisle, left to right: Patientia & Pax (1909), Martha & Phebe (1903), King David & St Francis (1911), St Peter & St Paul (1865).

The figures on the south side are all much darker, particularly the matching backgrounds. Below are details of two of the figures, with beautifully painted faces, hands and clothes. In the set of windows in this church the faces are all different and quite mesmerising. At the end of the row (above right) are earlier windows of Saints Peter and Paul with wildly patterned surrounds, they are figures familiar to me from other Morris & Co windows.

Left: The figure of Patientia. Right: The figure of Martha.

Left: The figure of Patientia. Right: The figure of Martha.

The other pair of windows that show the designs of EBJ at his flowing best are high up on the north wall of the chancel, apparently the first ones where he used photographic enlargement of drawings to prepare the stained glass cartoons. All in lovely light colours and with a great detail of a rip over the knee of the ragged girl (below right) visible even from a distance.

North chancel: Left, Dorcas. Right, The Good Samaritan (1876).

North chancel: Left, Dorcas. Right, The Good Samaritan (1876).

Clifton by Sasha Ward

Inside All Saints: The River of Life and The Tree of Life - west windows.

Inside All Saints: The River of Life and The Tree of Life - west windows.

On a trip to Bristol, we visited a church and a cathedral on the same street in Clifton, both with unusual windows from the 1960s and 1970s. The first, All Saints, was bombed in 1940 and a new church designed by Robert Potter, completed in 1967, was built around the remaining elements. All the windows in the church are by John Piper, they are made of fibreglass on to which Piper poured coloured resins. These windows are controversial because of this experimental technique which has not weathered very well. I had seen pictures of the west windows (above right) and although I knew I didn’t like the simplistic design, I also knew I had to see them in situ to make a considered judgement. Actually I found the Tree of Life repellant in real life: the oversized branches with the dots on them look to me like someone shouting and pushing you away.

Inside All Saints, looking east towards the altar.

Inside All Saints, looking east towards the altar.

However, when you turn around you are in for a lovely surprise. The angled walls (above right) behind the altar and the decorated canopy are plain and flanked by two tall subtle windows, there are blue Piper windows in the Lady Chapel to the right as well as numerous narrow windows of coloured dots on a dark ground. All of these, none particularly transparent, make the interior dark, interesting and coordinated. I could see where the windows were deteriorating, with streaks and white patches on the coloured layers, but this sort of adds to the experimental qualities in these works - one of only two churches where Piper used the technique.

Detail of east window and blue windows in the elevated Lady Chapel.

Detail of east window and blue windows in the elevated Lady Chapel.

Across the road is Clifton Cathedral, designed by Percy Thomas Partnership and completed in 1973. There are many wonderful things about this building including the hexagonal sanctuary space, the roof shapes, the stations of the cross by William Mitchell and the Lady Chapel candelabra (below right) designed by the architects and made at Prinknash Abbey. All these make for a beautifully coordinated interior.

Inside the Cathedral Church of Ss. Peter and Paul, with stations of the cross by William Mitchell and candelabra.

Inside the Cathedral Church of Ss. Peter and Paul, with stations of the cross by William Mitchell and candelabra.

The stained glass wall is set slightly apart on an angled wall in the narthex and is the work of Henry Haig, another artist whose windows I know quite well. The subject matter is “Pentecost” and “Jubilation”, but I read them as landscapes, one gentle (below left) and one fiery (below right). The experimental technique that he used for these was dalle de verre set in epoxy resin, with chunks of thick, textured glass (because you break it with a hammer) providing all the colour that the interior needs.

Henry Haig’s dalle de verre windows

Henry Haig’s dalle de verre windows

Detail of left hand window and close up of the chunks of glass set in resin.

Detail of left hand window and close up of the chunks of glass set in resin.

This was a quick visit that provided an obvious contrast in stained glass techniques: the rich material quality of Haig versus the fluid washes of Piper. My companions weren’t particularly impressed with the Haig windows, and I’m not mad on the random vagueness of the design either. However because they are contemporary with their setting they look completely right for the place and totally solid. The buildings are easy to spot as they both have unusual prominent towers, it’s a great treat to see two interiors that look so “modern” almost fifty years on.

Rooflines by Sasha Ward

Staircase windows, each panel 880 x 300 mm

Staircase windows, each panel 880 x 300 mm

Just installed is this three part internal window for artist blacksmith and friend Melissa Cole in her newly built house. At front left in the snap above you can see a corner of her balustrade, it’s made of lines of metal that look like a scratchy drawing, and hopefully a bit like the scratchy lines in the landscape part of my design. The themes in this window revisit subject matter from my Kelmscott designs where roof shapes were placed in a pattern made from the local landscape.

When I visited the house during construction, the set of plans (below) was up on the wall - how could I resist basing my design on a roof plan that looked like a flower?

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Roof under construction: flower roof

Roof under construction: flower roof

I liked my first sketches, collages of the roof under construction and the flower roof shape. However, I found it hard to work them into the format of the window openings. So I made a 3D model of the roof, with the aim of stretching it to a landscape format without losing the real shape.

House in the landscape: paper model of the roof

House in the landscape: paper model of the roof

sketches showing development of the design

sketches showing development of the design

As I developed the design, the geometric shape of the roof flowed into curves that spread into the surrounding areas. The straight lines tie the panels together across the roof cross, in the glass these are picked out with a sandblasted white line. I was pleased with the restraint I exercised in my use of colour. Once Melissa had chosen the strong orange and I had mixed up a metallic pink/purple for the roof (marvellous new colour that changes with light on or through it), there was only room for neutrals and a lot of white - the neutrals appear very green in the photo of the panels in my studio window below. As they should, the panels look best in the place they were made for. Thanks to an ideal, positive talking commissioner who insisted that it’s the artist who has to be happy with the work as much as the client.

Panels in the studio this summer.

Panels in the studio this summer.

Paintings In Church by Sasha Ward

Left: The Resurrection Chapel. Right: Gladioli and Stephen stoned by Clayton & Bell (1870s)

Left: The Resurrection Chapel. Right: Gladioli and Stephen stoned by Clayton & Bell (1870s)

St Mary Abbots Church in Kensington is large and grand, designed by George Gilbert Scott with stained glass by the firm of Clayton and Bell. The Resurrection Chapel was redesigned by G.G.S’s grandson in the 1920s, and last week was beautifully decorated for remembrance day. For once the familiar sight of stained glass obscured by flowers didn’t annoy me at all.

Juliet’s Goodden’s paintings on the left hand side of the west wall.

Juliet’s Goodden’s paintings on the left hand side of the west wall.

On one wall of the church, either side of the west door, was an exhibition of paintings by Juliet Goodden celebrating interfaith week. I am a fan of Juliet’s paintings. In this series, which is about diverse faiths living side by side, she has painted religious souvenirs and fragments of patterns and places on top of prayer flags and saris. There is not a lot of painting on some of these intricate pictures, she said a lot of the work was in thinking about what should go where. Amongst the small stained glass windows in the nave and the stone memorial plaques they looked totally at home, glowing in the gloom.

Juliet Goodden’s paintings on the right hand side of the west wall.

Juliet Goodden’s paintings on the right hand side of the west wall.

However the church is brighter than it used to be - in the 1950s the firm of Con and Barnet carried out stained glass repairs and also decided to remove the borders and canopies of Clayton and Bell’s nave windows replacing them with white glass (below left). This strange decision emphasises imaginary tracery and makes the windows seem as if they weren’t made for this church. It also causes the light to flood on to the surface of the glass making the details harder to see.

Left: nave windows. Right: window showing St. John in Patmos.

Left: nave windows. Right: window showing St. John in Patmos.

You can see the glare and gloom effect along with patches of artificial light in the photos of the nave above and below. You can also see the wonderful detail in the figures and the birds flying through patterned backgrounds.

Left: nave & clerestory windows. Right: baptism window.

Left: nave & clerestory windows. Right: baptism window.

The patterns on the glass, particularly in the cloth and the backgrounds, take you back to Juliet’s paintings where plant derived patterns mingle with architectural shapes. Amongst the sgraffito floral glass backgrounds I spotted a couple of bright red pieces (above the hand holding the lantern below) that don’t match up. I imagine these to be hasty replacements by those vandals Con & Barnet - but this scratchy drawing is so lively that it just adds to the charm.

Left: detail from window of St Timothy. Right: detail from nativity window.

Left: detail from window of St Timothy. Right: detail from nativity window.