Harry Clarke trip (part 1) by Sasha Ward

When I first started looking at stained glass I was drawn to the work of Harry Clarke. This was in the 1970s and I was a teenager who collected fairy tale books, so it's easy to see why I liked his style. I found his work as interesting and intricate as the medieval glass I loved, without falling into the trap of trying to copy it.  As my opinions were formed from the pages of books, I realised that it was about time I took a trip to see some of his windows in the churches of Ireland. 

Church of the Assumption, Wexford 1919 - whole window and detail of St Aidan's gorgeous cape.

Church of the Assumption, Wexford 1919 - whole window and detail of St Aidan's gorgeous cape.

First stop Wexford, the Church of the Assumption and a 1919 commission showing the Madonna with Saints Aidan and Adrian. For all of the windows, I've shown the whole window in the first picture because it is the originality of the composition - no conventional borders or figures squeezed under canopies - that I think sets Harry Clarke windows apart from most of the others. Obviously the details are gorgeous, but I don't think beautiful glass painting and etching is as hard to do as a convincing set of figures. The face of the Madonna (below), with background patterns circling her ruby halo is quite mesmerising. There's not too much colour in this window and it works perfectly in the space.

Wexford details - left: faces of the Madonna and child, right: Harry Clarke's signature and fish in the sea

Wexford details - left: faces of the Madonna and child, right: Harry Clarke's signature and fish in the sea

St. Barrahane's Church of Ireland, Castletownsend 1918 - Nativity window and detail of Madonna and child

St. Barrahane's Church of Ireland, Castletownsend 1918 - Nativity window and detail of Madonna and child

In the scenic church of St. Barrahane in County Cork, there are three HC windows, the earliest is a three light Nativity window from 1918. The face of the Madonna again holds your attention and makes an interesting comparison to Wexford, as does the background to the figures, which is split up in a more conventional diamond pattern made of pale textured glass with blobs of deep colour. My favourite part of this window are the angels at the top of the main lights, particularly the jazzy parts behind the figures where the patterns break out of the diamond formation (below).

Castletownsend details - angels above the nativity scene

Castletownsend details - angels above the nativity scene

I was expecting to see the figure of St. Luke (below) in the same church, but hadn't realised how small (less than a metre tall) and therefore exquisite the window would be. Another fabulous face surrounded by small saints, sections of pattern, coat of arms and inscription. There is a little head of the Virgin Mary on the olive coloured palette in the Saint's hand, another piece of wonderful detail and a great colour contrast. 

Castletownsend - St. Luke window in the south wall of the chancel 1926

Castletownsend - St. Luke window in the south wall of the chancel 1926

Christchurch, Church of Ireland, Gorey 1923 - St Martin and St Luke window and detail of St Luke

Christchurch, Church of Ireland, Gorey 1923 - St Martin and St Luke window and detail of St Luke

There are also three HC windows in Christchurch, Gorey in County Wexford (I've not shown my least favourite window in both cases). This is a large church, the windows are lofty and somehow less overwhelming. However the one showing St Martin of Tours with the beggar and the the gorgeous St Luke has a great composition with a diagonal emphasis, tiny figures above and below and a fabulous dark blue oval of landscape that seems to drip off St Martin on the left. As the detail of the tiny St Luke shows, these are lush 1920s landscapes, the brushwork on the pale glass is subtle and organic.

Gorey - St Stephen and angel detail from top of window 1922

Gorey - St Stephen and angel detail from top of window 1922

The tall St Stephen window has the most fantastic border, five rows of round beads and lovely inscriptions at the bottom. The commission is in memory of Percival Lea-Wilson, a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary who was shot by Republicans in 1920. Above the stiff figure of the martyred St Stephen, with stones patterning his clothes, is one of those Clarke angels with protective outstretched arms and a gaze, for once, looking straight at you.

New glass by Sasha Ward

In 2011 Yeovil District Hospital refurbished the Haematology and Oncology Department and asked me to design various artworks spread throughout the suite of treatment, consultation and waiting rooms. They are printed on a variety of materials; transparent window vinyl, vinyl wallpaper, fabric for screens and paper for wall boxes. 2018 has brought a second refurbishment and more opportunities for my work in the new department.

Digitally printed vinyl wallpaper outside consultation room and in waiting corridor.

Digitally printed vinyl wallpaper outside consultation room and in waiting corridor.

I find revisiting old commissions nerve wracking - have they stood the test of time and do people, including me, really like them? What I liked on this revisit was my design, based on wavy lines and filled in with peaceful colours, that links all the different artworks (above). The wallpaper still looks good on the corridor walls, although I wish Dr. Bolam would put his board elsewhere. I particularly like the corridor wall where you can see the waves starting with a shallow curve at the bottom where they hug the crash rail and swelling with life as the curve increases towards the ceiling. 

Design for entrance wall, digital wallpaper and glass square: glass sample in progress

Design for entrance wall, digital wallpaper and glass square: glass sample in progress

The wavy lines were the basis for the new work, but this time I pulled them apart and upside down so they float around in a looser formation. There is more wallpaper, some printing on acrylic and even some glass panels. The design flows across these different materials (above left), in the middle the glass square glows with backlit colour (below right). It was so exciting actually making some glass for a change, see the sample with layers of vivid colour on the sandblasted surface (above right). As usual, the sample was a quite different colour from the real thing. I opened the kiln (below left) and marvelled at the fantastic, luscious pink surface - just one firing! 

Glass square in the kiln after firing: during installation in the newly papered entrance wall.

Glass square in the kiln after firing: during installation in the newly papered entrance wall.

Detail of the finished glass square (575 x 575 mm).

Detail of the finished glass square (575 x 575 mm).

The second glass panel was for a screen in the waiting area. I made this piece over a weekend - every process went smoothly including installation and admiration. In the design for this one, and by the way the design takes far longer than the manufacture, I took out the wavy lines one by one until only two remained to link this artwork to the others.

Design for glass insert in screen: finished glass panel photographed in studio: glass installed in waiting room screen

Design for glass insert in screen: finished glass panel photographed in studio: glass installed in waiting room screen

Detail through screen, showing hand cut, painted and printed detail in transparent enamels.

Detail through screen, showing hand cut, painted and printed detail in transparent enamels.

Locked Doors by Sasha Ward

Getting into churches is a chancey business, often about half the ones on my planned route are locked. Some are locked in a very uninviting way that makes the church look like a building site, such as All Saints, Netheravon, Wiltshire (below), with an arrow to an entrance that looked as if it was never used.

West facing door, All Saints, Netheravon

West facing door, All Saints, Netheravon

Two of the churches on this route along the River Avon in Wiltshire had inviting doors, an outer one at Figheldean (below left) and a solid dated interior door at Fittleton cum Haxton (below right). At this stage, after four churches (two open, two locked) I hadn't found any stained glass that was interesting or different from windows that I had seen before, the doors were all that I wanted to photograph.

South porch doors: Left St Michael & All Angels, Figheldean: Right All Saints, Fittleton

South porch doors: Left St Michael & All Angels, Figheldean: Right All Saints, Fittleton

However as I was leaving Fittleton church, I looked towards the tower through a filthy glazed screen and saw two brown rectangular stained glass panels (below). As the door to the tower was locked (sigh!) I could only see from a distance the vaguely heraldic pattern in the middle of patterned stars.

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A locked door usually leads you to look at the back of the windows. Here they look great (below), such lovely colours and textures in the combination of glass, lead and stone. The glass paint is totally opaque so all you can see are brown tones in a pattern of lead lines governed by the way the glass has been damaged, in a completely different way for each window. They were obviously worth preserving. 

West facing window, All Saints, Fittleton

West facing window, All Saints, Fittleton

My last church, open so final score 3-2, had a beautiful interior (below). It is one of those churches with clear glass in the windows and, perhaps as a result, it is the pale coloured stone of the carved arches and columns that glow with light. 

Inside All Saints, Enfold and a squint in the nave wall.

Inside All Saints, Enfold and a squint in the nave wall.

Battleships by Sasha Ward

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The second part of my commission for the Lidl store in Kingswood, South Gloucestershire has just been installed following the sort of massive delay that has happened a lot over the past year. You can just see the new tile panel next to the Lidl sign in the photo above, for a description of the windows that make up the earlier part of the commission see my previous blog here.

The tile panel links to my designs for the windows that are set along the back of the building on this busy residential street (Cecil Road). It is made of Italian porcelain tiles in a range of beautiful colours, overprinted with layers of detail in ceramic enamel. The oranges are so much more orange than the ones you get in glass, as well as being a great match for the spirit level during installation (below left)

Tile panel during installation and completed: dimensions 1.6 m (h) x 2 m (w).

Tile panel during installation and completed: dimensions 1.6 m (h) x 2 m (w).

4 stages of the design on squared pape

4 stages of the design on squared pape

I call this commission "battleships" because when I was working out the design, concerned about balancing the blocks of detail in the overall composition, I realised I was drawing out a sea full of cruisers, destroyers and battleships as if I were playing the game, with none of them touching each other. I was pleased to find that the printed tiles came with a numbered plan (below) that you could probably use to play battleships as well as getting each tile in the right position.

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There was another lovely sky on installation day, the colours looked great on the side of the building and were much admired by passers by. They are behind the green grid of a mesh fence, but you can get down the side of the building for a closer look.

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Another Return to the Thames by Sasha Ward

Fanlights for two upstairs bathrooms

Fanlights for two upstairs bathrooms

This set of windows are for bathroom fanlights for the same house (as my last post) in Oxfordshire. The shape of the windows, the function of the rooms and the local landscape all led me to return to the River Thames for my subject matter. Although I had walked, photographed and drawn along the path of the river a couple of years ago, I hadn't found a good enough way to show the reeds along the river banks and the general stripiness of the flat landscape before. 

Fanlight one

Fanlight one

The photos of the windows installed, above and below, show the different colour of the light coming through windows and skylights in the bathrooms . The colours of the hand painted enamels are the same for each window, with the image of the blue river flowing to join the pictures together.

Fanlight two

Fanlight two

I spent a long time on the design for these windows, struggling with my riverbank drawings. The designs look very similar to the finished windows, as is shown in the photo of glass on top of the drawing below. Back in my studio the drawings are still on the wall, giving me ideas for the next piece of work.

Detail from window two: sample for window one on top of the sketch design.

Detail from window two: sample for window one on top of the sketch design.