I am very fortunate with my clients and those of you who receive my newsletter know that I have been making a third window for someone with a keen interest in history. My panels replace internal windows above doors in the upstairs of their 1970's house in Charlbury. The previous owner had simply painted over them, which was not a good look.
The first window I created was a lattice of diamond shapes (or 'quarries') populated with birds inspired by medieval glass in St Bartholemew's Church in Yarnton and York Minster. The second window featured animals - a deer, a hare, a squirrel and a hedgehog. For some of these images I looked at illustrated manuscripts, as well as glass.
For the third window, which is over the door into the study, we became grander in our inspiration, looking at the stylised emblems in Holy Trinity Church in Tattershall. The client also wanted to incorporate the plump wood pigeons she sees in the garden below.
The research and design process is key to the success of the project. The birds I could find in images of glass were often doves or eagle-like. My challenge was to observe woodpigeons and interpret them in a medieval(ish) style and using my limited materials and tools. I am of course not a medieval artist, and I wanted them to be both stylised and alive and recognisable as pigeons.
There is a strong problem-solving aspect, too. Elements that I was guessing were done on a larger scale with separate pieces of glass, I decided to create using enamel. Red was chosen to add to the heraldic character of the star and roses. Like the layers of glass paint, enamel contains ground glass and it is fired onto the glass in the kiln, fusing onto the surface.
Working on clear window glass for the emblems and handmade reamy glass for the pigeons, I traced the outlines in black, fired them and then applied a matt of paint to to be drawn into and scraped away. For the pigeons I used a bistre brown matt and a stiff old hog hair brush to suggest the sheen of feathers. After firing again, I applied two different strengths of silver stain to to the reverse to build up a golden glow in some areas. I virtually never wash the stain palettes as the powder is so expensive and I can manage to revive it.
I kept keep checking on how each piece was fitting into the whole, sticking the pieces on a glass 'easel' with blobs of plasticene.
Then it was time to lead, solder, cement, clean up the panel and black the leads. I put it in gentle internal light at home and was pleased to see all the different textures of the glass chosen: seeded (bubbles), reamy (wavy lines), crackle, rolled...
And today I have seen it installed in the doorway. You never know until you see it in situ whether it has worked, and I was so glad to see the morning sun shine through and create an inviting entrance to the study.
I am a glass artist based in Charlbury, Oxfordshire. I work in stained and fused glass. I work to commission and teach stained glass in my studio. I open my studio to visitors during Oxfordshire Artweeks.
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