Posts Tagged 'Exeter'

Windows inspired by Derbyshire

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I have just finished three panels were commissioned for a house near Malborough, in Derbyshire and they will sit next to each other horizontally. The family love the rolling hills, dry stone walls, sheep and fields of vegetables in the local area. The left hand panel shows their own house, the middle a view of the local market square and the right hand panel incorporates sheep drawn from their own photographs. Other personal symbols are included, from flying geese to small rabbits to entertain their grand children.

The panels are for an internal wall between the kitchen and the dining room, the limited colour palette fits with the kitchen colour scheme and they will bring interest, light and colour into a restored country cottage. They are made using traditional leading techniques and I have painted the glass with traditional kiln fired glass paints.

 

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!

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.

The big reveal!

looking up at Mountain Ash in situThis year for Devon Open Studios I decided to have a change of scene and participate in a couple of sculpture trails. As a result, Yarner Wood has been the main focus of my work for a while now, its a English Nature reserve outside Bovey Tracey on the edge of Dartmoor and is being restored to a Western Oak Wood. The theme of the trail is man’s relationship with the environment and I have taken the history of the wood as inspiration for my pieces which combine cross sections of tree trunk from Yarner Wood (48ish year old Douglas Fir) with fused and mosaic glass. Speaking to the staff at the woods gave me the idea of the wood being at the heart of all the human activity in the woods and in turn human activity having shaped the woods use and appearance. This is turn led The bomb that saved the wood, detailto the idea of taking the core, or heart out of the discs of wood and fill them with glass pieces; the juxtaposition of the natural wood and the very modern man made glass is very appealing to me. There are 10 artists exhibiting on this fabulous trail from conceptual to sound artists and everything in between and I am very excited to be part of such an interesting project.

I picked the tree trunk up in 3 and 6 inch cross sections, with quite a lot of wild life attached and I must confess it was a bit daunting….but then my ever useful Dad arrived and looking up at Mountain Ash 2cut all the central cores out of the slabs of wood, many thanks to him, I would never get any sculptures made without his patience! Each of the sculptures is cast to the size of the individual holes and are made from recycled waste glass. This series of sculptures is my largest series of sculptures to date and I am very pleased with the results.

green man 2The first piece on the trail is my take on the age old Green Man ‘Welcome to the Woods’, it is right at the start of the trail and is there to welcome people to the woods, reflecting man’s symbiotic relationship with nature and the timeless cycle of life.  The first firing of this piece cast all the scraps of clear, green and yellow glass into a disc shape, then I painted the design on and fired it again.

Becoming Autumn is the second piece on the trail. Again I used recycled waste glass (this time Spectrum 96 series), and depicted oak leaves changing Becoming Autumn in situcolour as the season changes. The trail starts at the beginning of autumn and it seemed like a great reflection of human enjoyment of nature for leisure, a very modern use of the natural environment!

My third piece on the trail is also inspired by the modern use of woodland for peace and reflection. ‘ Looking up at Mountain Ash’ takes inspiration from the wonderful Rowan trees in the wood and the simple pleasure of looking up at the shapes and light of the woodland. As with the previous piece this one is fused with small scraps of Spectrum 96 glass. While I was installing this piece I had a fabulous interaction with a young male deer (whose antlers were still small and fuzzy) who came bounding through the wood, regarded me and then turned and bounded on through the undergrowth.

copper blue in situThe wood has not always been a tranquil retreat from the pressures of modern life and 150 years ago a very active copper mine was on the site, lots of charcoal burning and the lord of the manor owned the area and exercised his horses on the wood. The next piece ‘Copper Blue’ riffs on this history, the blue glass is copper bearing and the cast disc has copper sheet inclusions and is hung between two fence posts, a prolific sign of how humans have shaped the wood!

In World War II the wood was earmarked to be cut down to assist with timber for the war effort, however, when a German bomber discharged his last bombs after a raid on Plymouth (in order to get home faster) the wood was hit and many of the trees then grew twisted and damaged, no good for timber manufacturing. This has inspired the next piece ‘The Bomb that Saved the Wood’.  Here 2 pieces hang one above the other. The top one has 2 discs of glass bang! detailwithin it to give a sense of depth and fire and the one below has a fun Pop Art feel with the word BANG painted across it.

The trail now turns a corner and the piece of the woodland really encompasses you, this is where I have placed my last hollowed wood piece, ‘Tranquil’. Tranquil cast acorns detailI have used various pieces of blue and sea green scrap glass to create the disc and then cast a separate acorns and oak leaves from crushed cast glass which have then be attached to the disc.

I continued with cast glass objects for the next piece, ‘Which came first?’. Here I have mosaic waste white and cream scraps of glass to the shape of the central core of the wood, which is happily egg shaped and then attached my cast glass bird. I am very pleased with both my cast pieces and this is a skill I am very much still learning this complicated area of glass art! which came first

cogs in situMy final serious sculpture on the trail is ‘Cogs’ made to express how we are all part of the great machine of life I have taken 3 of the cores my Dad removed from the wood and created different coloured bands which match up with the tree rings below.

All this serious art work is all well and good, but we all need a bit of fun and to add this to my trail I have made a child side bird house from recycled marine ply, which I got from the fabulous Bristol Wood Recycling Project. Permanent markers will be available for visitors to decorate the bird house as the pass it and lots of colourful material will be inside for children to make their own birds nest.

The trail opens on Saturday 7th September and is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until the 22nd September, refreshments are available in the woodland centre and the trail is free and only 2.5 km, so a child friendly distance! click on the link for more details http://www.artecology.co.uk/page2.php

Our preview is Saturday 7th September and all the artists will be on hand to talk about their work and show people round the trail.

 

 

From Dull Downstairs Toilet to Enchanted Forest

arch window with red tree - Copy

I have just fitted this panel into a large downstairs toilet window, replacing the ugly textured glass that had been there since the 1970’s.  The house is a listed lodge in Higher Cemetery near my home in Exeter and was once the grounds keepers cottage; now it’s a family home. It was built in the Gothic revival style so popular at the time by architect Edward Ashworth and is great, quirky old building.

The panel needed to obscure the person sitting in the loo, have natural details and a large central tree; the clients love green and the panel has a large green border of streaky green glass which gives the small room a green hue, like you are in a forest. I have lino cut printed ivy leaves onto the bottom corners of the panel and the central landscape is packed with painted detail of grasses, leaves, animals and birds. It was quite a challenging window as it is a very big window in an extremely small room, so you see it from very close up, which is quite unusual for such a large, grand opening!

Past Present Future Project

Really pleased to formally announce I have been chosen as one of the artists commissioned to make a piece of art as part of  the Exeter Community Centre’s  Past Present Future Project 

I am very excited to be involved and will be making a window for the Centre in response to the memories and discussions of local people over 60 who live locally, or have a connection to the St David’s area of Exeter.

blind children from the turn of the century The Exeter Community Centre had a prestigious history as the West Of England Blind School, from the mid 19th Century to 1965 (when it moved to a new site) and blind people from all over the country were educated in a range of practical and traditional academic subjects in the building. The site now has a  new lease of life as a community centre, with local charities offices, local groups and classes and an excellent cafe.  To celebrate the past and future of the building I intend to make a multi-sensory piece with lots of textures for people with little or no sight to enjoy as well as sighted people and I hope to incorporate some braille as well as interesting textures. The window will sit between the cafe and the main foyer in a prominent position.

I have been greatly helped by the West of England School Association with archive material (including some excellent photographs of past students) and hopefully I will be running my workshop with past alumni of the school. This is really exciting to me as I cant wait to hear their memories of the school and what they have gone on to do since those days.  Being a visual artist I am obviously very dependent on my sight and its going to be a fabulous challenge to make

prestigious past student of the school

prestigious past student of the school

something which will also appeal to the other senses and to get the opinions of people without sight. historic blind school

St Davids is an ancient part of Exeter, with a rich and very varied history; capturing the memories of people who have a  life-long connection with this central Exeter district will be really fascinating.

What we need is LOTS of memories of the area, so if you know a person who is over 60 and wants to be part of the project then please encourage them to get involved!

 

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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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