Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Christmas Holiday and Shock

I have had a nice Christmas in London with wife, daughter and grandchildren. I got to clear out an old garden shed that I have been wanting to attack for months and months. It only took two days.

Lazy walks around the Peckham area of London led me to a cemetary that still is in use, but has some very overgrown areas down hill. I found this gravestone still standing upright, although leaning a bit. It is a poignant reminder of how life has been for some and how it could have been for me. The stone records the death of three children, one Dorothy at five months in 1901; another, Irene at 12 weeks in 1903, and then Philip John Woodman at ninteen years of age, fighting in Gaza in 1917. There is no nearby grave of their parents.

When I came home from the walk, I found that Gaza was once again under attack. It was a shock to me, this co-incidence. How long must this fighting go on?

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Stair Window Installation

Among the other things I do is help to install others' windows. I just finished helping Angel Steel install her window. This is it below.

This window is approximately 3 metres high. The image is of the window just after the platforms have been taken away from the window. The scaffolding is still in place and you can see both upright and horizontal poles running across the window. This installation took just one and a half days with three people, although we finished the major parts of the installation in the dark of day one. The second day was to tidy up and make sure all the work had been done properly.

It is so satisfying to stand back (once you are on the floor) and admire the finished work. It was of course, the first time Angela had seen the work in one piece.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sunday Morning Cheer

This morning I opened a discussion list to see my name featuring in the subject line of one of the threads. Of course I had to see what was going on!

I had, with the usual trepidation, entered a few photographs of my past work in the newly established gallery on the site. I am always nervous about putting my work in front of fellow glass workers. It is much more nerve wracking than presenting a design to a client. The work will be judged by so many more people than just the client.

In this case, however, I have had a range of enthusiastic comments, with some of them having even come to this blog to find out more of what I do and have done.


Apologies for the long gap between postings. The preparations for Christmas sales, and recovery from them seem to take up much more time than I ever expect. There have been an unusual number of Children's Hearings that I have been required to participate in this autumn. The preparation for these takes up several evenings before each Hearing. I am also trying to complete projects before my Christmas break which starts on Thursday. But all these are excuses. Have a good holiday season.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Skylight Repair

Below is a picture of a skylight which I repaired yesterday. It is approximately eight and a half feet square. Fortunately, although the replacement glass was slightly lighter than the original, it does not show in the photograph. You also have to look very carefully to see the relplacement and even when you know where it is, it is not immediately apparent. If you want to try to find it it is in the bottom left quadrant among the truquoise blue band.

The access was through a narrow hatch into the loft and then through an equally narrow hatch on to the roof slates. Immediately around the skylight is a flat area, so the two of us required t get the materials and tools up were not in danger of sliding off.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Christmas Shows Time Again!

Halloween and Guy Faulk's Night are over, so it must be Christmas show time! Everybody is doing some shows, fairs, or sales. Everybody is determined to get in on this gift-fest. And I am no different.

The collaborative group in our building called, Parade Artists, is holding Shows over two weekends. They are 29 & 30 November and 6 & 7 December in the WASPS Hanson Street studio building. If you are in the area, it would be good to see you.

I will be selling glass of course, and the 2009 craftscotland calendar.

In some ways, the best part of these weekends are the studio parties after the close of the last day. The relief and a few drinks help you get to know your fellow artists much better.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Little gifts

It is rare that I am asked to design and make something where I do not also have the responsibility for installation. It is even rarer when I have not seen the location nor the final installation. I always wonder about how they look in their final location.

In this case of seeing neither the location nor the completed installation the client sent me a photograph of the completed work today.

This is a door to a bathroom on the half landing. The criteria were to obscure the view into the bathroom, to provide colour to the landing, and to reflect the idea of water. This gives some idea of the result. Of course, the photograph was taken with light in front, so the interplay of the layered colours does not show as it might. Nor can the photograph show the tactile properties of the panels. The panels were fused twice - once with a flat fuse and some of the colour, and a second rounded fuse to give a little sense of apparent depth.

In spite of the limitations of the photograph, I am grateful to him for sending it.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Absence and Return

I haven't been very consistent in posting about my activities. Apologies.

I have had several weeks of doing no glass at all! The first of these weeks I spent on a life drawing course with 7 other people. Five days for only £100. This included meals and all the paper you could use. Oh yes. And a model and an instructor. Although I was only able to do the first 4 days, it was a great experience. I normally think I can do only two hours at a time before my concentration falls. Well with an instructor, I find I can concentrate longer. It was a great group of people from all kinds of backgrounds and experience.

The last day I had to go to chair the craftscotland Board meeting. We have appointed a new chief executive, and I didn't think I could leave her to cope on her own, nor my vice-chairman. One good outcome of the post meeting discussion was that I think we have convinced the vice-chairman to take on the post of chairman soon.

Then off to London for a week to see my daughter and go to some exhibitions. I got to see the Royal Academy show that included a number of my favourite artists - Braque, Calder, Miro, and Giocometti. It was a great show with lots of big stuff. There also were a number of charming small studies in pencil, charcoal and some pastels that showed the working up of ideas to the final pieces.

I also got in the last week of the BSMGP 40cm2 (Forty centimeters squared) show at the Cochrane Theatre. This required each of the selected artists to use a square format of 40cm. This provided a variegated wall of glass against the windows of the Cochrane Theatre bar area. I was there on a bright day which allowed lots of light through all the windows. A feature of the street scape outside the Theatre is a number of relatively young trees, giving a dappled light for the panels. Lots of variety, but not many surprises. But there was enough to occupy me for a couple of hours.

I went to the Sir John Soan Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields. This is a great museum for those interested in architectural details. The attraction was the invitation to find the pieces of glass, ceramics and a few other materials that were created by students in response to the space. Well some of them were so well hidden that even with a crib sheet they were not easy to find. My favourite though was a "poured" piece of glass falling from a tap in the dressing room.

Good dinners, good conversations, and nice wines.

Then I came back to reality - work.

As you know, I have had difficulty with my large kiln over the past few months. I am now getting more confident about the results that I can get from it. The three pieces below are a screen between a bedroom and the stair up to the loft. It is more about decoration that privacy it seems to me.

The three pieces as shown are for a space 990mm by 860mm

The actual colour is somewhere between these two photographs. The upper one is as it was taken by the camera (me). the lower one is as colour corrected by Adobe. The colours are warmer than the bottom one, but not so yellow as the top. I suspect that I should take an evening class in photography.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Open Studios

The Wasps Open Studios was held this past weekend.

My proposal for a large piece to attract attention was accepted by the organisers. This followed on from my reaction to a series of TV programmes called "Who Do You Think You Are?". In this various "celebrities" are invited to find out about their ancestors. Normally, the line is traced through the male line. This began to irritate me.

So I made the proposal to establish an eight-foot high pyramid called Woman Tree instead of a family tree.

This view shows the view from the entrance of a number of body casts which show the female figure at various ages and states. Three of the sides show a variety of forms.

The fourth side begins at the bottom with a male figure and continues with marked and damaged figures attempting to show a contrast between the growth of the three female sides and the conflict of the "male" side.

Unfortunately I was so busy during the weekend, I was unable gather/overhear comments (if any) on the concept and display.

Fortunately though, I was busy in the studio. There was lots of conversation ranging from how do you do that? does glass flow? to more involved discussions. One of these was about the use of glass as a decoration fused to ceramics. The person accepted that the glass would be crazed as in her current experiments. She was really pleased to find my studio as a source of cullet that she could obtain to break down into small particles.

Another discussion was with a student at one of the local colleges on the Saturday. On Sunday, she brought another student with her to show the studio and its resources. Me being one of those resources. (I really should start a consultancy!). Students from the other college didn't make themselves known to me or didn't come.

One of the most rewarding things though, was that four artists whose work I admire and respect purchased some of my bowls and platters.

So it was a rewarding weekend (from which I am still recovering) in terms of discussions, contacts and sales. It was much better than the three or four previous open studio weekends.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Small Colour Trials

These are two smaller pieces I have slumped in the little kiln. The first is a pretty standard colour combination for me.

The second is a bit of an experiment in combining colours that are not normal for me and adding a bit of darkness for the centre.

I am pleased with effect of the unusual colour combination and the asymmetrical appearance of the opalescent and the transparent. The dark centre gives a bit of depth.

Now for a few days preparing for the WASPS Open Studios weekend.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Fingers Crossed

My big kiln has had a number of difficulties in the last month or so.

First I began blowing bubbles in and through a lot of pieces. I had not changed any of my practices (however unscientific they may be) and could not see what was happening. I tried a number of tests: firing slower, firing lower, venting the kiln, firing on batts instead of the sand, testing the temperature distribution round the kiln.

The last showed that I had hot perimeters in the kiln, very unusual. I checked with the manufacturer who suggested I take the elements out of the ceramic tubes and space them out at the ends. They forgot to mention that they are wired in a single run of 6 metre long length, through 6 tubes. I got the heating of the elements OK on the first one's ends so they were evened out with the rest of the element. Then the problem was to heat the bend of the element and straighten it so it would pass through the second tube. Well, I wasn't up to it. The element broke.

Now the question was whether to try to buy the appropriate amount of wire and wind it myself and then insert it into the tubes, or hire someone else to do it. I decided on the latter. After some consultation we decided to establish the elements in three pairs for each phase. This means the element tails are at the back and I only need to replace one pair instead of a complete run of 6. Much cheaper to repair if needed.

Fired away confident that all was well. And it was. Until the third firing when things seemed a little odd, as the kiln seemed cooler at one end than in the centre and other end. On the fourth firing it was clear that one phase of the kiln was not working. So another large piece lost.

The people came and repaired a broken element, since there was a loose connection that caused the element wire to overheat and then break. Fixed. Not quite. fifth firing was fine, but sixth firing showed only one phase was firing. Now not only the original problem phase but the centre too.

Well, the company has a couple of people who are knowledgeable about glass kilns and they were away in Inverness, and of course, there is a holiday too. So the kiln sat idle for just over a week waiting for repair.

Today the man came and found two other wires leading from the main connections to each of the phases had corroded and failed. Well, they hadn't replaced them when doing all the other work on the elements and wiring. Certified as working as of 11:30 this morning.

Now it has somebody else's tests in it so at least if there are problems, it will not be mine. Then, of course, the first firing after repair has been fine. It has only been later when problems arise. I wonder when I will trust the kiln again.

Oh yes. The bubble problem was an accumulation of dust from sieved thinfire over four years. The sand bed becomes less porous with lots of dust and so does not let the air from under the glass as well as a mix with less dust.

Red or Is It Orange?

Among the other pieces I have retrieved from the big kiln is this one. I have slumped it into a bowl and like the way it changes from predominantly orange to mainly red, depending on how first seen.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Aperture Pour Bowls

I am presenting a few aperture pour bowls that I managed to get done in the big kiln before it once again failed. This time elements in two of the three phases failed. Probably due to element breakage again. The company who did the original work are supposed to arrive tomorrow to fix things. I want them to check all the connections so I can have some trust in the kiln again.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Restoration Work

This is the beginning of what will be a long restoration job. It is from a front door of a large turn of the century (19th) detached house with its gardens. I took on the job, knowing that it was in a poor state with a number of broken joints, tie wires broken, glass pieces broken, etc. I could see it had been repaired before.

When I got it to the workbench and began to investigate it in detail, it became apparent that it had been repaired at least twice. It had a number of additional lead lines to make the repairs of breaks on one side look symmetrical. This had been done enough times to obscure the original design.

I discussed with the client the possibility of a complete re-leading and attempting to bring the window back toward its original state, gluing where no similar glass was available. Now that it is totally apart, the full extent of restoration work becomes apparent. Not all the broken glass can be glued back together, as some of it has been grozed to enable the new lead came to be inserted between the pieces. The window was much heavier than it originally was, as the amount of solder used to fill gaps and compensate for missing pieces of glass was alarming.

This work will continue to appear in my writings for a while. I have to glue what I can after cleaning, try to find matching or compatible glass, and then at last lead up with the appropriate widths of came.

It is a relief to have gotten this far.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Square Platter - Flow 3

Another in the sub-series of "Margins" called "Flow 3".

The edges in this piece are defined largely by the sharp colour changes. The iridescent circle may be the sun, or an eclipse.

Monday, 22 September 2008

More Firsts

I have been back to First Gardens again. This time to complete the installation of the front door and sidelights. The fanlight seems to be original and will be cleaned, but is otherwise sound. The details are taken from other houses in the area and reproduced. It was decided to adapt the replacement front door, to more closely resemble the original door. To save some money, the astragals were not put into the door, but I used 3/4" came to represent them and carry the strong lines of the astragals from the sidelights across the opening.

While there, I took the opportunity to take a photograph from the interior looking outward.

I also took the opportunity to photograph the bathroom door as it has slightly different characteristics from the windows.

I will also be adding my interpretation of the sidelights to the central panel of the outside door. I will present a photo of that when it is completed.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

More Hyndland Work

Repeat business is not a common feature of this business, but referal is. Shortly after compelting the installation of reproduction fanlight windows for a flat, the upstairs neighbour visited and did not like the comparison of the new windows to his old muranese patterned glass. So he asked me to replace his fanlights as I had done for his downstairs neighbour.

By the way, muranese glass has little to do with Murano. The pattern was produced in Glasgow for many years in a factory located in Murano Street, in the Maryhill area of Glasgow. It was popular around the West of Scotland and clearly much further afield than that, as it has come to be reproduced by Wissmach Glass Co in the USA. The modern glass has a smaller pattern and is sharper and deeper in its patterning that the original is.

Back to the glass. You can see from these three photos, that a liveliness is imparted to the hallway by these fanlights.

Now the client has asked me to provide reproductions for the three paneled light above the bath.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Completed Repairs

I have now competed, at the third visit, a series of repairs for a flat in the area where I live. This is a development of about 10 streets done from 1898 to 1912. This particular flat was completed about 1904. All the flats in the older parts of Hyndland have variations of stylised art noveau stained glass. The Wikipedia entry gives a variety of sources. More stained glass survives in some flats than in others.

The image here is of the bathroom entry. The fanlight is approximately 1220mm wide and just over 650mm high. It is stabilised by two vertical tie bars only, but even after a century is still stable. It required the removal of varnish and paint in addition to years of grime.

The door and side light below it was in less good condition. The door panel had to be taken out to the studio to have broken leads replaced and the whole re-cemented. When replacing, a series of blocks had to be added to keep the panel from shaking loose again. The panel is inserted into a slot in one side of the door and then moved back into a shallower slot on the other side. I had to add blocks to the lock side of the door to keep the panel stable. Then add the putty and tie bars to keep the whole stable. In the picture you can see the two bars. There is not a bar crossing the amber flower shape, which makes it a little weaker, but definitely more pleasant to look at.

The other repair was to the door. This is a design that is a combination of two. The original is in the three upper lights of the door. The main panel is taken from the design of other flats in the area. The central emblem may be original, as significantly older glass is used there than in the surrounding area. In any case, they were not originally together. But I repaired the main panel and re-inserted it with a laminated sheet in front for security.

I enjoy these "low grade" jobs because it keeps the traditional glass in the buildings for which they were originally designed. They require a high level of patience and considerable skill to keep things as near to the originals as possible, and to keep the client pleased with what they have. Most do not want cracks anywhere, although I often try to talk them into glueing pieces where the character of the broken glass cannot be matched with modern pieces.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Autumn Already?

Still at work with variations on the "Margins". These colours remind me of dawn in the late autumn. Dark when you get up (in Scotland at least) with amber and even brown light merging (sometimes) to bright sunlight.

Then there are also the long evenings of the summer, when the sun has set and only a little pink remains in the sky before, gradually the light goes. The long summer evenings in northern (and I suppose, southern) latitudes is glorious.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

More "Edges"

I am still working with the "Margins" series, and finding the boundary aspect of the concept interesting. Here the image (in my head) is of water flowing into an estuary with obstructions in the way of the flow. The boundary is an arbitrary straight line of the political kind we draw across continents dividing one person from another, lupming diverse peoples together without regard to how they fit.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Autumn in Summer

You may have noticed an autumnal feeling to the colours in the last couple of postings. Well, it has not been a really good summer in Scotland (or the UK either). There is more than just the autumnal leaves on the water about these two. There is a heaviness looming over the pieces, apparently brilliant varigated colour, but concealing the blackness.

Autumn Water

Layered Boundaries

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Reflections on the Day

Reflections on the day, because these two pieces are about different days. In Scotland as in many other areas near the sea, the days are variable both within the day and between days. Some days have dark bounds to them - early mornings and late evenings - but separated by brilliant sunlight and activity.

Other days are stormy. The cloud is low, the light is dim. Leaves, trees, detrius and water are blown by raw strands of wind.

Monday, 8 September 2008


I've just heard that a gallery in London has taken Flow as their name to indicate how things change.

For me in the "At the Margins of the Day" investigations, it has taken on the expression of the evidence of the passing of time. As in an estuary seen from above. The patterns in the flow of the water create layered lines on the shores and within the water. All this happens at the boundary between land and water, solid and fluid.

Flow 2

Blue Flow

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Serious Play

As I work with my theme of "At the Margins of the Day", playful elements keep creeping in. Some are serious, others just play. The flow boundaries that can be seen in estuaries from the air or in marsh lands, are really interesting elements about margins.

"Flow 1"
Others are just playful. This one needed an odd shape to fit with its strong colours.


Thursday, 4 September 2008

More Kilnformed Work

It is such a pleasure to get some work done with a piece of equipment that has been idle or broken for a while. Here are two more pieces from my firings in the renovated kiln.

I have called this one "Pink Dawn"

"Interference" because it just doesn't fit into the series neatly.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Back to the Kiln

After a long pause to have the kiln elements renewed, I have begun further work on my "At the Margins of the Day". The kiln had begun to produce very odd results, so I began testing a variety of possibilities. One of these tests showed the kiln was heating very unevenly, so I began to take the kiln apart to get at the elements.

Of course this means taking off the top, then one layer of very itchy insulation (much like fiber glass insulation for the home) followed by another layer of fiber blanket just above the elements. This showed that the elements that are inside ceramic tubes are wired six to a unit. This is a three phase kiln so each phase took care of six lengths each.

The only way to get at the elements to spread the coils apart was to ease them out of the tubes, then straighten the tails and try to get all six out without breaking them. Guess what! I broke the first one. After some calm reflection (you guess how long this took!) I decided to have all the elments replaced but on the outside of the tubes as is more normal.

The element coils are now on the outside of the tubes, the insulation back in and the top screwed down. These two items are among the first finished in the rewired kiln. Please don't ask how much this has cost.

Water's Edge

Morning Water

Saturday, 23 August 2008

First Gardens

This is the address of a 1920's bungalow in Dumbreck, Glasgow that I have been working on for some time. It is a little enclave of houses that look almost identical until you look at the detail in the four streets of about ten house each. Each street is named from First Gardens to Fourth Gardens. They a form a small conservation area and so attract matching funding for maintaining or returning the buildings to the original character.

[Left front]

[right front]

The house I am working on had some of the glass in the upper sashes remaining, but many had been replaced with "stick on" lead lines. That leaded glass which remained needed complete re-leading as the ties to the re-bars had failed, there were breaks at many of the lead joints, and there were repairs to be conducted.

[leaded glass installed in left front]

[leaded glass installed in right front]

The front of the house has now been finished and has a completely different appearance.

[view from the street]

I am happy with the appearance of the front. The client is too. Now to work on the sides and back and on the front door.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Installation finished

The finished installation was successful. I had a call from the client saying he was thrilled by the result. He did not say "at last", but I did for him.

These photos show some of the windows created from the design of the door's fanlight.

The two above are the fourth and fifth rooms off the hall from the left to the right.

This is an image of the fanlight for the third room from the first.

A really nice part of the whole project was the request to design a window in keeping with the Arts Nouveau for the bathroom. This is a big window (approximately 1.4 metres by .9 metres). The object was to obscure the view inwards, but let a lot of light into the room. It is a very long corridor of a bathroom (Don't worry it is a dead end). This window is important in allowing natural daylight into the room.

I looked at a number of themes from the period. I used both books and my own images to come up with the modified water lilly theme shown below. The client agreed. And I began work. I enjoyed the process, although the leading is very complicated in places. I finished it in about a week and a half. So it was under priced, but more enjoyable than many other projects.

I am happy with the result and, more importantly, so is the client.

Installation problems

At last I have finished an installation of five fanlight windows in a posh Glasgow flat/apartment. The client wanted windows that reflected the time the building was constructed. This was during the full flowering of the Arts Nouveau.

There is a nice design in the fanlight above the door that is original to the flat, so I suggested this should be taken and adapted for all the fanlights around the central hall. The photo shows the existing design that I took to make "reproduction" windows.

All went well until it came to installing the windows. The facings on the openings ran from floor to the top of the fanlight. They were impractical to remove. So the spacing timbers had to be pried out of their location between the glass and the facings. Fortunately the glass could be sacrificed. It was truly horrible. I won't even consider putting a photograph up (not that I took one anyway). This then revealed that the size of the space was larger than allowed for by as much as 20mm in some cases.

The windows were manoeuvred into place by bending leads and panels. Then the windows needed extra strips of lead to keep them in place. Also because the spacing timbers had to be destroyed during the removal, I contracted a joiner to replace them. However he did not realise the importance of matching the spacing timbers to the lines of the facings.

The client called me back, because the panels must have slipped or something. In fact the panels were OK except for one which had genuinely slipped. In looking at the placings in the fanlights, I decided the best would be to remove the existing leaded windows, and make templates of the openings to enable me to remake the outside parts of each window. I got the joiner back to help take out the spacing timber.

Now I know how to do it much faster than before - destroy the timber with a chisel, rather than trying to pry it out. It always helps when you know your materials!

I took the templates on stiff card, and rebuilt the outer parts of the panels, using 16mm(5/16") lead came. This enabled me to bend the leaves of the top and bottom cames so the panels could slip into the opening through the facings. Then the effort was to straighten the flanges while in the opening. This is a two person job. One to hold the panel, the other to work the flanges. They all fitted.! One fitted so snugly that the bottom flanges had to be cut off. Now another firm of joiners is coming to fit a shaped spacer that will set off the windows very well.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Margins of the Day part 4

More of the series of "At the Margins of the Day". There is a shift to thinking about the margins between the water and the sky as the colour combination. These show some of these colour investigations.