Dappy’s conclusion

I had a week between my West Dean show and the end of the school term to create the eight glass panels that I was making for DUCKs as the conclusion to my school commission. The panels illustrated eight scenes from my story of Dappy the Duck and each panel was 50x50cm with kiln formed glass images and screenprinted text, so there was a lot of glass to make! Working late into the night every evening was the only way I was going to get it done and I pretty much squeezed two weeks’ work into one week. There was the slight disaster where one of my panels slid into two others in the kiln, but two out of the three panels could be salvaged and, though I needed the extra weekend to remake the unsalvageable piece, I just about made the deadline of the final assembly of the year on Monday morning to present the eight panels to the school.

The panels were hinged together in two sets of four so that they formed a kind of summary of the story. To fill in all the gaps, I also provided the school with the storybook itself, illustrated and printed out so that future classes could read the story and link it to the glass panels.

Ducks panels installed
A few days later after the end of the term, I came back to help install the eight panels in the foyer of the school. The panels were hung low on the wall, and when the children return in September next academic year they will be encouraged to touch the tactile surfaces of the glass. Also on display in the foyer will be the finished model of Dappy the Duck, which was made in collaboration with the children in the accompanying school workshop sessions.

Dappy the Duck

It was an exhausting couple of weeks but very enjoyable to be working with such brilliant children. Who’d have thought a bunch of four year olds could paint a model so beautifully?! Thanks to Jo Parker who instigated and arranged the project as well as the installation of the final work, Helen Dolby who coordinated the parents’ fundraising to provide the budget for the project and Heather Friell, the outgoing headmistress under whose directorship the project was possible.

Built from Scratch

On the Bank Holiday, I had to make an unexpected trip down to West Sussex to deliver work. Strangely, two days earlier my mobile phone had gone crazy and was inexplicably sending texts to a client of mine instead of the friend with whom I was trying to arrange my Friday night plans, but it was timely as my client mentioned that the windows I made for him last year had finally been installed. This gave me a second reason to go down to West Sussex, so I jumped in the car and made it down in record time.

I was delighted to see the almost completely finished house, a magnificent building which the clients had designed and built from scratch on a lovely site near the Cowdray Estate. My windows were designed for the porch so they were the last things to go in, to avoid any builders’ accidents going in and out of the building.

I brought my camera to capture the windows in situ and I was glad to see that the light was balanced well and the panels looked bright and colourful even on this slightly overcast day. The porch acted a little like a lightbox with the light coming through the glass into the darker space within, and with a strong light inside the porch the windows will look lovely from the outside at nighttime. The constant frustration for us glass artists is that our panels can’t simultaneously look good from inside and outside but, such is the nature of the material as it always looks its best viewed from the dark side with the light flooding through.

However with the panels illuminated, lots of detail could be seen up close and these panels were designed to reward closer looking. The clients have an affinity with racehorses and wanted references for this to be subtly included in the panels, as well as a couple of wagtails, one of which had flown into the outbuilding while it was being constructed. The features in each of the panels were inspired by the topology of the surrounding area, so as visitors come in through the porch they will see echoes of the land behind the house. The clients have always owned cats, and so I included a hidden cat in the ‘Water’ panel – I had assumed visitors would spot it fairly quickly but apparently it consistently evades identification. Can you see it?!

Read about the making of the panels here.


A Weighty Proposal

I’m really delighted today to have received an email telling me that I have been shortlisted for a really exciting commission.

The commission is for an artwork to be installed in the entrance to a new science centre at a school outside Oxford. The building is currently in the construction phase and is due to be completed next year. The artwork would be placed within the three storey main staircase, visible from the outside through the glass fronted building.

Science-CentreI have got through the first stage of the application process with a proposal that took me quite a while to prepare. Amazingly the concept for this artwork came to me almost instantaneously upon reading the brief. It has only ever happened once before where I have a complete image in my head of the final piece, without drawing or sketching to develop the concept.

The problem was then to actually get it down on paper, and as I worked on the sketches for submission, the days seemed to evaporate. Finally the deadline day arrived and my proposal was ready but I was slightly shocked to see the size of the digital submission…. 122MB of data was finally uploaded to Dropbox, with a note of apology! My computer was creaking under the weight of it!

Anyway, the selection committee must have been able to open it, as my proposal was put forward as one of 5 from the original group of 64 artists who applied. I will have an interview in a couple of weeks to further lay out my ideas, so it’s back to the old drawing board for some R&D.

Land and Water in West Sussex

I’ve been working on a commission for the last few weeks which has been delivered but not yet installed. I gave a talk over my Summer School course at West Dean College on the making of the two glass panels for this commission so I have photographs of the making process. These panels will be installed into the porch of a house which is currently being built in West Sussex, and they are leaded panels but using thick textured kiln formed glass which will really hold and bounce the light around the patterned surfaces. My clients showed me images of traditional glass windows that they liked so I had an idea of their taste, and they were keen that the panels would include references to the local river, the sandstone in the village houses, local wildlife and the clients’ connection with cats and horses.


After a few weeks of design development they agreed on my designs (above) which included an inscription in English and Latin, their initials and my monogram. The ‘Land’ panel on the left included a depiction of the row of sweet chestnuts behind their house and their kitchen garden as seen from above as well as the racing horses and a horseshoe to imbue the new house with luck. The ‘Water’ panel on the right includes the river flowing past the sandstone walls of the village, a pair of wagtails, and a hidden cat watching the birds, as well as its paw prints following the line of the wall.

Samples were sent (above left) to show the colours and level of texture of each piece in the designs. Once approved, the glass was cut to a full size cartoon. Every part of the panel was made with two layers of glass and its textural qualities were achieved in the kiln using a variety of techniques. Sometimes the texture was on the back surface, but most was on the front where it would be able to be touched once in situ.


Once each piece had been formed in the kiln to get the right colour and textural qualities, I used blue tac to stick them up against my studio windows to get an overall impression with light coming through. Part of the glass artist’s challenge is to envision the whole image as it will be seen in situ. The light can change a composition dramatically with colours or textures reacting in various ways to the differing quality of light coming through the glass. However at this stage the clients were happy and I could see that although some pieces needed tweaking, the overall effect was good.

So the final stage was adding detail either with fusing, or with sandblasting (above left) or screenprinting (above right) and firing at a lower temperature to fix these details. Once all the glass had gone through the kiln for the final time, I used a grinder to get the exact fit between the pieces. This wouldn’t normally be needed with traditional painted glass, but when working with kiln formed glass which is 6mm thick and can get misshapen in the kiln, there is often some fine fitting work to be done which can take a while. Finally the glass is all leaded together using traditional tools, and the joints soldered so that the whole puzzle one has just created holds together. Cement is applied in all the gaps to give the panel strength and durability and then comes the unenviable task of polishing and cleaning the lead and glass….  not an easy job when the glass is pitted and textured. However it is always worth spending a bit of time on the final clean to really get it all pristine and to maximise the contrasts between the coloured glass and the dark lead lines.

final panels

The final pieces were taped up against a background of laminated glass so that I could get a quick snap of them before they were delivered to the site. Proper photos will be taken once the panels are installed.



Praise Be!

StNicholas Font

I got the tip off that my work had briefly featured in Songs of Praise. This episode, Phoenix from the Ashes, partly focused on St Nicholas Church in Radford Semele which was rebuilt after being almost razed to the ground in an arson attack. The programme makers interviewed Emma Blount who made the beautiful leaded glass windows, but there was some brief footage of the glass font bowl that I made.

The section of the programme about St Nicholas Church starts from 6:30 and my glass appears briefly at 8:12 and 8:45