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.

November Afternoon Light by Sasha Ward

In the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Manchester on a November afternoon there was hardly enough light to see the colours and details in your average stained glass window. Instead, I was drawn to the most simple windows with glittering gold borders and some views of the world outside, including eye catching interaction with a huge tree.

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Oxford Road, Manchester.

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Oxford Road, Manchester.

As I was leaving, the light caught a small window (below) and showed off the different textures in the many types of white glass used. There is a fabulous pattern made by a staircase outside, together with the contrasting straight and loopy leading this makes a perfect composition in my eyes.

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Across the road and wandering around the University buildings, I was drawn to this decorative door and fanlight, where the glazing bars look like a sketch of something impractical, getting towards the loopy without quite making it. There is a huge amount of effort on display in the woodwork and the glass cutting, but the georgian wired panel at top right didn’t like what it was asked to do and broke at some stage.

The windows in Whitworth Hall are lovely decorative things. Natural and geometric forms in sympathetic neutral colours, as the lights come on inside the effect is a stunning display of pattern making that fits so well with the neo gothic building (Alfred Waterhouse 1902).

Leaded lights in Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester

Leaded lights in Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester

Directly opposite, mounted on the Williamson building, the low light illuminated “Manchester Sun” by Lynn Chadwick. This is a beautiful sculpture, contemporary with the building and another great example of art in public places.

Lynn Chadwick’s Manchester Sun on the Williamson Building, University of Manchester (1963).

Lynn Chadwick’s Manchester Sun on the Williamson Building, University of Manchester (1963).

Drawings to Glass by Sasha Ward

Below is window panel three from a set of four with the watercolour design on the left and the completed glass on the right. I’ve put these images side by side because I feel as if I’ve made progress over the years in showing clients a design that gives a good indication of what the finished glass will look like. I’ve just completed the panels, but it will be a while before I get photographs of them installed so I thought I would look at the progress of ideas from paper to glass.

One of four panels for a private house, 1200 x 460 mm. Left watercolour, right glass.

One of four panels for a private house, 1200 x 460 mm. Left watercolour, right glass.

A collage, partly shown below left, was one of my early designs and it turned out to be the key to sorting out this composition. The quality I copied from the paper to the glass was the contrast between a matt neutral ground and pools of pale, decorated, transparent colour. In glass terms, this became sandblasted dirty pink ground (a great new enamel colour mix) against a very transparent hand painted blue pool.

Central section of panels 3 & 4. Left collage, right glass.

Central section of panels 3 & 4. Left collage, right glass.

In another watercolour/collage, below left, I worked out some details and found a new pattern to suggest a wooded background. I didn’t really like the overall look of this design, and was surprised when I put it against the glass in progress, below right, to see how much I had stuck to my original shapes. These two glass panels on the lighbox before their first firing show how much the colour of the enamel changes when fired.

Panels 1 & 2. Left watercolour/collage, right glass panels on the lightbox before firing.

Panels 1 & 2. Left watercolour/collage, right glass panels on the lightbox before firing.

When I look at a photo (below left) of the first, unfired layer of enamel I used to create the background, I can hardly remember how I did it. I can see the drawn lines are the same in the finished version (below right) and I have my notes, which tell me that the brown turned grey and the green went pink - as planned obviously!

Background detail. Left on the lightbox before firing, right same section completed.

Background detail. Left on the lightbox before firing, right same section completed.

A third comparison (after paper to glass and unfired to double fired) is from artificial to natural light. The panels will be installed in an existing four light window with a light box behind each one. The colours work much better in artificial light - as planned obviously! You can see this in the photos below. However, when the glass has daylight behind it my original concept, matt ground against pale pool, is really emphasised and gives me something I want to take into my next piece of work.

Top half of the glass completed. Left on the lightbox, right against the window.

Top half of the glass completed. Left on the lightbox, right against the window.

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 I’m looking forward to seeing the beautiful interior fully renovated.

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