Posts Tagged 'Amy Mccarthy'



Exeter Community Centre Multi-Sensory Window Commission

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A yRound the Mulberry Tree in situear and a half in the making (from initial idea to finished piece) with a lot of mistakes and disasters along the way; my multi sensory glass window is finally in its new home!  ‘Round the Mulberry Tree and Up the Chocolate Stairs’  is in the foyer and the Mulberry Tree Cafe in Exeter Community Centre on St David’s Hill, Exeter. Below is the full explanation of what on earth its all about. It’s a bit. wordy, but that really reflects how absorbing I have found the process and the social history that underpins the window.

The background

In 1838 The West of England School (WESA) opened its doors to offer ‘instruction and employment’ to blind children across the whole of the West of England. The school grew and by the 1930’s was offering boarding school accommodation, to children with visual disabilities from a wide area. Basket weaving, piano tuning and other vocational skills were being taught to ensure that children left school with employable skills. It’s hard to imagine what it must have felt like to be a small, visually impaired child, separated from your parents (who were as far away as Bristol) and expected to learn to adapt to a new city and an enormous school building. But adapt they did! Some pupils stayed at the school when they graduated and worked there until their retirements, others became piano tuners and basket weavers and far more besides.cast glass piano keys

I was funded by Arts and Health (MMU) and Exeter Arts Council to create a glass panel for the foyer/café of ECC specifically to engage local people over 60 in the Arts.  So in August 2013 I held a one day workshop in the ECC with the some of the alumni of the school and the other organisers and artists contributing to the larger picture . All participants had been pupils there (before the school moved to a new purpose built site in 1965).

The workshop was intended to be part oral memory capture, part engaging local older people in the arts and ultimately to create artwork which I could incorporate into a finished window for the Community Centre. Basket weaving was the obvious choice for our workshop activity, as it was taught widely in the school. The workshop participants still had a good memory for how to weave and we spent the day weaving recycled electrical wiring and remembering the past.

The workshop was a great success; as most of the participants were children in the 1930-50’s and they not only gave me all the material I needed for my panel, but took my back through the history of the area, the terror of the blitz, what all the buildings in the local area were used for and the joys and pains of being a visually impaired child in a boarding school. It was a touching day for all, especially the joy of realising the ancient mulberry tree was still in the garden and then eating the fruit and the disappointment that the chocolate stairs had been removed. The Chocolate Stairs were so named by the children at the school because they were inlaid with squares of wood which resembled the chunks of a chocolate bar.

The Panel

Originally I had intended to make a stained glass window, but it seemed wrong to make a 2d piece of visual art which visually impaired people could not enjoy fully and so I decided to mix photographic firing with textured, touchable glass work.

Three separate rectangular panes of glass are zinc framed and represent the austerity and formality of the building and the teaching that went on within it. Many of the voices were positive about their time in the school and this panel is a celebration of that. But several voices were not so happy and found the building a difficult place to be and were glad to leave.

From the café side of the panel there is no clear images; instead lights, shapes, suggestions of form and texture reflects the experience of visual impairment. Most visually impaired people have some sight, be it fuzzy shapes or shadows and this side of the window attempts to recreate this experience. From the foyer the textural elements of the panel come into play and you are welcome to touch it GENTLY!

The pancast glass mulberriesel really celebrates the exuberance of childhood, I have cast mulberries, mulberry leaves from the tree and the basket weaving created by the participants of the workshop. The colourful nature and multi-plane texture of the piece reflects the different memories and stories – all the fragments of memory coming and going and building on each other. At the bottom right of the top panel there are several balls of wool cast into the glass. These were saved by one of the pupils from their darning lessons and I am so glad I managed to cast them, especially as they had such a delicate texture.

Music in general was very important to the school, which produced excellent musicians and piano tuners, hence the musical notes and the piano keyboard I have cast for cast glass braillethe central section. The school sold many high quality items of basket weaving and the area where the foyer now is would have been part of the shop area, hence all the basket weave textures.

All of the photos have been reproduced with kind permission of WESA, from their archive and all depict the pupils and teachers at the school. The seated 19th Century gent is Robert Hawkins and the only photo I have a name for.

The panel has been made from many small pieces of cast glass which is a technically difficult and time consuming process and if I am honest at times I thought I may never get all the elements to work!  Firstly, I create a mould, using clay and plaster and once I am happy with the mould I fill it with glass and heat in the kiln until it melts to form the shape of the mould. Once cool these are ‘cold worked’ to remove all sharp edges and I have then attached these to a traditional window backing. The finished effect has the formality of the flat window on one side and  the jutting and contours of the textured glass on the other.

Many thanks to everyone who helped with the workshop and participated, especially Stuart Crewes who was a great help through the whole process, my first ever funding application too!

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From dawn till dusk

sunset cowparsley stained glass panel

sunrise stained glass seed headmidday teasels photographic print

The school Easter holidays are in full swing; but I being a self employed artist and a mum means my days are full of sandy children for the next couple of weeks and working life needs to be pushed to the margins. Early mornings and after kids bedtimes have become my hours of work, this is how I worked through their preschool years and I am glad I learned to juggle all of these competing demands right from the children being babies, as I can slip into it quite easily now. But it does slow me down! and I am glad to have this triptych of panels packaged up to go to their new home in Cambridgeshire, as their new owner has been most patient!

The brief for the commission was to create three 30 cm square panels, each reflecting a different part of the day from sunrise to sunset. The client provided some of her photos for me to include and wanted a version of my ever popular teasels photo in the mix too.  The three panels are to run vertically down an internal wall  in a newly remodelled kitchen and the colours go from subtle yellows and light blues at sunrise to purples and pinks for a dramatic sunset.

The panels are made by firing photographic images onto the glass in my kiln and then leading them up in the same way as any other traditional leaded stained glass panel. The photographic images are permanently attached to the glass so the panels are as durable as normal stained glass.

Anyway, off to the post office and beach, in that order to get these panels off to their new home! Enjoy the sunshine on this sunny Monday morning.

 

 

 

Red Bamboo and Dragon flies

Bamboo and Dragon fly, bespoke stained glass window

Bamboo and Dragon fly, bespoke stained glass window

This panel was installed last week, it fills a window between the kitchen and dining room in a 1930’s house in Exeter. The opening between the front and back of the house allows more light into the kitchen area as well as a wonderful focal point for both rooms.

Every commission comes with a brief and I managed to create a design that had bright colours and bamboo and water with dragonflies.

There is a pleasing sense of movement in the bamboo due to using Spectrum Water Glass and I have painted the shading and detail onto the bamboo stems.

I have used a mixture of antique mouth blown glass and modern Spectrum Glass. I have used traditional glass paints and luster which Dragon Fly and Bamboo Detailhave been fired in the kiln. This is a big panel and to give it extra strength I have used some internal reinforcing and a rigid metal frame.

To find out what the differences between different types of glass are click here 

See how mouth blown stained glass is made at Lambert’s UK glass factory by clicking here

Intaglio glass casting mold

Intaglio glass casting mold

Started on my cast glass multi-sensory window. I am making the clay base, the crushed glass then melts into the imprints in the clay when it melts in the kiln.

Mezzanine Mountain Window

contemporary stained glass panel with fused glass detail This panel was created for the first floor mezzanine window of a beautiful new build contemporary mountain stained glass window house in Exeter. On the first floor it is at the end of the corridor, resting on the floor. From the ground floor it is visible high up on the wall of the downstairs study.

The panel gets lots of natural and artificial light at different times of day/night and will hopefully be dramatic in a totally different way at night, when the reds and yellows will be picked up more on the first floor. and the design was inspired by the client’s love of mountaineering and the strong, warm colours of the landscape of the Himalayas. The strong colours look great against the white walls and is a mixture of mouth blown Polish glass and Spectrum glass of varying textures. I created the effect of the sunrise bouncing off the mountain side by painting ground up glass (frit) onto the mountain pieces and then firing them in the kiln, to fuse with the streaky glass base

blue_purple_yellow_grey_white

First I cut the glass

 

 

Then I paint ground glass onto the pieces of glass and fuse them in the kiln. My first attempt I fired it too hot and although I loved the effect of the fused glass the pieces had changed shape too much to fit into the leaded panel and I had to both redo this and rethink my design a little.

 Once I had got the fusing right I was ready to lead up, cement and fishing the panel as with any traditional stained glass panel and then it is just a case of fitting it into the window frame.

blue_purple_yellow_grey_white

Finished pieces, new commissions and small rewards

Did I say I was going to update this everyday of Devon Open Studios? Ha, ha! how over ambitious! Well, first things first, my frit experiment mentioned in the last post came out well, as you can see, and I am going to use this effect to represent the sunrise bouncing off the mountainside of my next commission.

My acid etched Islamic inspired panel is leaded up and waiting to be cemented and I have cut the glass for a new fish geometric panel, they are coming on nicely.

I have made a full size cartoon of my next mountain commission and I am just trying to position the sunrise so that is looks right AND allows me to cut the sky from one continuous piece of glass.

The customers came to collect their glamorous Art Deco door panel (hopefully it will fit into their front door like a glove) and no sooner had that panel left the studio than my next clients came in to discuss the design for the first panel for their new build home, the front door panel (then hopefully 4 window panels to follow).

I have had lots of other visitors, fellow glass artists, stained glass students, neighbours and friends. I have swapped some bunting and a bird cage for a  new hair do from my hairdresser friend and drank tea with ceramicist friend Cresta Glass and it has been a good few days.

I had a resident artist with me today, who coloured me a lovely picture of my studio!

I filled the kiln with painted pieces of glass for flower garlands and bird cage panels to be sold at InsideOut and they will be fired tomorrow.

Oh and last, but not least, when I turned on the computer this morning I had a great email from stained glass news informing me I had won their panel of the month with my Boats on the River Teign Panel, which is was a lovely surprise and a great bit of advertising for my business, thank you very much!

There is still Friday and the weekend to come and see me, as you can tell, its a busy studio and a great chance to see an artist at work. Opening Times/directions   

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Cementing and Soldering Stained Glass

Open studios rumbles along and I have spent my day cementing and soldering.

acid etching stained glassMy big glamorous Art Deco door panel is now cemented to make it weather proof and we have to wait a couple of days for that to harden off now…

My acid etched panel is coming on nicely, the patterns have come out very well.

I have almost finished a birthday commission Love Bird piece

Oh and I have a new panel with fused bird inclusions and lino cut prints ready to be framed now! 

Strange fact of the day = ALL  my visitors today for Open Studios do glass as a hobby or are students of glass (as we all are of course!)

There is still lots of time to come and see me, click here for details of opening times and so on.

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I am a stained glass artist working in Exeter and a busy mum of 2; trying to carve a path through the tide of washing and children's toys that stands between me and making beautiful things.

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