Sunday, 13 October 2013

Film Work

One of the reasons for my lack of postings recently is that I have recently finished a contract to provide 134 diamond quarry glazed windows for the set of an American TV series.  Apologies for being unable to say yet which series.  Once the broadcasting begins, I will be able to say.  Filming began just last week.  The company has established itself in an old factory in Cumbernauld, a town just outside Glasgow.

They made an approach to me in June and, although my response was positive - as I have done work for other film sets - I did not hear anything until the late August.  At that point, the request was to do some tests on the kind of glass that could be used to produce authentic-looking 18th century windows which had distortions and had the character of aged windows.

Experiments began on distorting various glasses in the kiln to produce the look required.  After a number of experiments about the level of distortion and marking of the glass, a combination of Flemish and reamy slab glasses were seen to be the appropriate ones.  A film test of the glass showed that decralead - a stick on lead strip - would not be suitable, as it was obvious on film that the glass was a single sheet.  The leaded glass with a mixture of the two glasses provided the best result for the art director and the camera - for only about 25% more in price.

However, only three weeks now remained before the delivery date (which was one week before filming began), so there was no time to lose.  We took a chance and ordered the lead even before the purchase order was received, because the delivery time for this would be longer than for the glass.  Purchase order received, we then pressed for immediate payment for materials, as the cash flow would fail if we did not get that.  The film company was very good and deposited the money in the bank within a couple of days which meant that we could order the glass.

Then the search for people who could help produce these panels began.  Other glass workers and some students from the City of Glasgow College's Art Glass Design course were drafted in to help produce these panels.  I was fortunate to have Aki Rogers as an intern during this period.  I put to use her background in pattern making for the fashion industry to construct the cartoons accurately after I had determined the opening sizes from the templates supplied by the joiners at the site.  Peter Verrecchia, of Stained Glass Supplies,  then cut the diamond quarries to size in preparation for the other workers to assemble the leaded panels.

Enormous amounts of lead and glass were used. Almost 60 square metres of glass (over 5,000 pieces of glass) and 20 boxes of lead came (500 Kg) were used in producing these windows.  But as a surprise to me, we have only about 50 Kg of scrap lead resulting - people were very economical in their use, I guess.

It is a relief that the work is finished, and with only 4 windows having any problems - two needed to be remade and two were slightly small.  We did have a little thank you party for the 15 people involved in the project a week after finishing.  Now I am finding it difficult to concentrate on the next jobs - I'd just like to have a holiday.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Glass Bra

Another interesting project has come my way.   A burlesque artist approached me with a request for a glass bra.  She is going for an Arts Deco theme and took inspiration from the 1917 film Cleopatra staring Theda Bara

As you can see this was a very dramatic costume as well as having "theatrical" gestures.  The artist also found one part of the bra for sale on ebay.

This is a beaten copper or brass piece with a "jewel" set into the snake's head.  (I wonder how the two parts got separated?)

However the artist felt that a glass version would be more dramatic.  So we began experimenting to get the shapes right for her.  A cast was taken to ensure the pieces would be comfortable.  This was used to make a mould for the glass to drape over.

Fused shapes on mould

First trial
The first trial showed some design faults, requiring the snake's head to be holding the tail, so that it did not slip.  The head needed to be a bit larger, and the linkage system between the two cups improved.  The chain needed to be silver coloured and "flatter".

There were other pieces to be prepared for the costume too.  You will need to wait for the performance for the whole costume to be revealed.  I will add it here when I have the images.

And here is the whole costume:

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

St Mary's, Liss

While on holiday in Hampshire this Summer I took the opportunity to visit some churches.  One of them was St Mary's.  This was built in the mid to late 19th century.  

Station Road side with entrance beyond the chapel

The tower was added later — designed by Edward Maufe, the architect of Guildford Cathedral.
Church yard and tower

As you enter the church the bell tower is on the left with a nice ceiling and the framework for the bell ropes.

Turning back toward the East, you are presented with a nice timbered roof, the colour of which complements the almost uniform white of the walls.

As a result of the time of day and amount of sunlight, my photographs of the East window were over exposed.  They are typical of late nineteenth century windows.  

The other windows at the sides of the chancel are of the same nature as the East window.

The windows here depict St Stephen on the left and St John on the right.

Slightly further into the church there are a group of small clerestory windows above the chapel, of which this is an example.

These are possibly the most charming of the earlier windows in the church.  The remainder of the clerestory windows which are largely within the main body of the church are quarry glazed in this pattern.

The main body of the church contains a number of smaller windows in the North and south aisles of various dates.  Among them are a number of memorial windows depicting various biblical figures.

Daniel Window

St Paul Window

David Window, after 1915

Then, toward the rear of the church are two modern windows.  These are more interesting windows to me as they seem to be responding to the artistic developments of the period.

Window dedicated to Lt. Col. Grubb who died in 1934

Window dedicated to the Rector S N Sedgwick who also died in 1934
This is the most interesting window in the whole church for me.  It is relatively small — only slightly over a metre tall, but is lively in its depiction of the subjects and has a lot of technical interest to me.

A further explanation of this interest will be in another blog post.

Friday, 12 July 2013


This Summer I have had an intern.  As is usual with these things, I was approached by a person.  In this case it was Aimee McCulloch who is a student at Dundee University - Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.   She found me, it is told, via an Australian aunt who she rarely sees, and who knows a person who knows my daughter.!  How many degrees of separation is that?

Aimee contacted me and showed such enthusiasm, that I could not say "no."

In fact Aimee has been a hard working and enthusiastic worker and helper.  Her enthusiasm is shown by her daily commuting from outside Edinburgh or from Dundee, and occasionally at the weekend too.

She has participated in the various activities of the studio even when they are a bit taxing, as cementing on one of the hotter days of the year so far.

But then, like all good interns, she gets to make the tea as a break from her exertions.

Really, I do try to keep her tea making to a minimum.  It would be too easy to give her all the boring jobs because she always seems willing.

Have a look at her blog for her view of her experiences while being in the studio.  Another three weeks for her and then she can have a holiday - but only if she participates in another weekend course - on painting this time.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Victorian Patterned Glass

During some work on the stair of a south side house, a slip led to an elbow being put through some Victorian patterned glass that was on the half landing.  The job was to replace the glass with something as near as possible to the original, but be more safe than previously.

Fortunately we were able to do this on toughened sheet glass.  The installed result looks almost the same as the original glass.  This shows that the original features can be kept in many houses if you ask around.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

A New Sculptural Piece

Although the past months have been a fallow time for me, I have at last completed one piece of work.  I am pleased with the result of the work leading to this.

I have titled this "Pregnant" as it was designed to reflect the shape of a pregnancy with its unknowable developments represented by the vacant, unformed part.  It is composed of a range of blues which interact creating the faint green lines in various locations.

Although it is difficult to represent, this piece curves in two directions, giving a dynamic flow to the work.  This image shows the piece from the right.

This image shows the curve from the left.

The whole is about 800mm high, and 300mm wide, and fixed to a mahogany base.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Strachan Windows in Kilbrandon Church

During my Easter holidays south of Oban, I stayed at the Loch Melfort Hotel and toured around the area.  Great hotel with good views, excellent food and staff, by the way.  In addition to the views shown on the hotel website, this was my evening view every day.

Sunset looking down Loch Melfort toward Jura on the horizon
I indulged myself visiting friends, the cup and ring stones and henges of Kilmartin Glen generally taking in the spring sunshine and scenery.

On my final day after a bit of pampering in the hotel treatment room, a few glasses of wine and a birthday cake, I was told about the windows of Kilbrandon Church.  So of course, the next day I had to go to see them.

To get there you have to cross the "Bridge across the Atlantic" to get to Seil Island.

Officially Seil Island is in the Atlantic Ocean, but separated at its closest part by this stretch of water.  The bridge was rumoured to have been built by General Wade (as many Highland roads were) after the '45.  As you will see from the website, it was built toward the end of the 18th century with one of the Stevenson family being the architect.  In any case it is a suitably dramatic bridge toward the Kilbrandon Church and its windows.

This was the view from the entrance to the Church on the day I visited.

The church is simple inside with natural stone walls, timber roof, raked seating and a red carpet leading to and from the pulpit.  It gives a comfortable feeling to the visitor, and I suspect to the worshiper too.

Of course it was the windows of Douglas Strachan that I came to see.  As the website for the church will tell you, the windows were installed in 1938 as a memorial to the Marchioness of Bredalbane.  Some windows have been restored several times, and all of them last restored in 1999 - 2000 by Phoenix Glass.

Most of the windows seem to have water as a recurring theme.  However, the north window is one of the two that don't.

North Window

The general view of this window shows (especially on the left) the structure to hold the stained glass within the opening and behind the external glazing.  It is a clever and strong design.  But it also shows the difficulty of making the divisions in the external glazing "read" sympathetically with the divisions internally.  More thought needs to be given by the conservators on how to improve the way the external glazing interferes with the whole window.  Clearly, simply repeating the division intervals of the original window does not work very well.

This window carries a number of disparate themes.  At the top Christ as the shepherd is depicted.  The strong stylised features of the males is characteristic of Strachan's work. The text of verses 7 - 11 of Psalm 148 flows around the window giving a context for the images.

I included a portion of the central image to show how the images in the window flow from one into the other.  In this central part of the window the four seasons are represented both by colour and what the figures hold.  I wonder if the serpent at the centre represents temptations within each season.

At the bottom of the window the risen Christ is being invited in at Emmaus - "Abide with us for the day is far spent."

At the foot of the window are two entwined figures, said to show a figure bearing the body of Christ.

At the east of the church are two windows surrounding the main east window.  The north east window is like the other two windows concerned with the sea - not so surprising when you remember this church is on an island where both agriculture and fishing are important, and of course the main transport to the mainland had been by boat in the past.

This window has the theme "Do not be afraid."  At the top an angel is lifting a person from the stormy sea.  Here you can see the lozenge shapes with leaf forms that dominate the backgrounds of all the windows.  In some cases they are decorated and become part of the imagery.

The central part of the window relates to Christ walking on the sea and calming the water and the fishermen.

The east window is the main window and is also the strongest of the five windows.  The breadth of the window allows a single theme to be used.

In this case, Christ has awakened and is in the process of calming the storm that arose in crossing the Lake of Galilee.  There are strong diagonals and almost no vertical or horizontal arrangement to reduce the tension within the image.  At centre left stands Christ, his left side almost vertical, with his arm raised in a curve that acts against the strong diagonals of the boat and its rigging.  The almost ghostly figure of Christ contrasts with the straining of two of the men and the beseeching of the third.  A champion of a window.

The window to the right continues the water theme with images from the flood of Noah's time, teaching from a boat and with a seabird of some kind at the bottom.

This window is brighter and gentler than the previous two. The colour pallet is lighter and subject matter calmer.

 The top of the window has the great flood as its theme and the covenant made between man and God. It leads on to the scene of Christ teaching the parables, using the scroll with the words "He that has ears to hear, let him hear" to divide the themes.

The people gather around listening to the teaching, making a crescent shape of figures around Christ at the right.  The window is finished at the bottom by stylised sea birds diving.

The final, south, window has in some ways the grandest themes of all of these windows.  

At the top of the window is Christ in his glory in the kingdom of heaven, possibly with references from the Book of Revelations - seven churches, seven seals, seven candle sticks, seven doves.  Also included are Alpha and Omega, and two pelicans.

Slightly below two angels hold a crown of glory and one of thorns - references to the death and resurrection.

Between the angels there is a creation scene with the sun earth and moon, the division of water and land, creation of animals and birds, and at the lower centre the figures of Adam and Eve.

A nativity scene fills the lower part of the window. This includes all the traditional elements, but arranged to give some perspective and a feeling of movement.

At the foot of the window a figure lies, possibly weeping.  It echos the entwined figure at the bottom of the opposite, north, window.

These are windows of quality that have artistic merit beyond their adjunct to the worship of the congregation.  In addition, the congregation know the artistic treasure in their trust.

If you have the chance, these are windows worth visiting.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Gordon Webster Domestic Window

Recently I have been given the opportunity to take out one of the last windows that Gordon Webster created for his house from scraps around the studio. This house has remained in the family until now. With the requirement to move elsewhere, the family decided that they wanted to take the windows that had been installed as secondary glazing by their father and grandfather.

Hall windows and front door panels

I was chosen to remove, pack and store the panels of the windows and to create windows that were in keeping with the originals. The family took me into the basement area which had functioned as Gordon Webster's studio to show me a number of the things remaining. In amongst the material was a small rectangular panel which proved to be the original fanlight above the door.

Door panel with fanlight

This enabled me to create a design that was in keeping with the original windows of the house. Removal of the windows began this week and will continue next.

Progress of the removal and installation
As the weather was pretty cold this week, we decided to do a panel at a time to reduce the cold getting into the house, and to enable us to have reasons to come out of the wind.

The removal of the windows took remarkably long. The panels were installed tightly within the wooden frames inside the primary glazing outside.  At first the panels appeared to need to come to the inside of the house.  However the putty that had oozed behind the clear external glazing had stuck to the interior panels.  A re-think on the method of removal was required.  We decided to sacrifice the external glazing to make the removal of the Webster windows to the outside possible.

Each of the three windows is made in three panels - one above the astragal and two below.  It averaged approximately 1.5 hours for each panel to be removed and replaced - much longer than expected.

The replacement panels
The Webster panels are remarkable for several things.  They are made from his scraps which now are highly sought after.  They are made from thick glass pieces requiring high heart leads that even then were almost too small to contain the glass.  The panels are incredibly heavy - more than twice the replacement panels.  

The design is also interesting as there are horizontal lead lines only where the glazing bars are in the main part of the panels.  So, although there are vertical "folding lines" there are no horizontal ones, preventing any "accordion" style collapse.  This might be a lesson for me and others when designing regular glazing patterns.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Debt Recovery Follow-up

I received an email today from the company (of which I am no longer a customer) saying that a lot of people have been getting such calls as I had.  This is their response.

Dear Customer,
It has again been brought to our attention that a number of customers have been receiving a large numbers of calls from other business directories claiming to be ourselves. The complaints have been appalling, some customers have been threatened with debt collection companies and being asked to pay bills of up to £10,000. These people who are pretending to be ourselves will contact you saying they are calling on behalf of 'UK Business Directory Ltd' They will then attempt to make you pay them by BACS payment not card payment, the reason they do this is because you can cancel your card and get your money back BUT you can never get your money back when you pay by BACS payment. Do not pay anybody by BACS payment unless you are 100% sure of who the company is your paying. These people are not debt collectors and will not turn up to your house, they are simply trying to scare people into paying for nothing.
UK Business Directory Ltd does not deal with any debt collection companies and never will do. We have also had complaints about other rude phone calls from companies or individuals swearing and using offensive language which is not acceptable. We have contacted the police and the trading standards and hopefully all these issues will be resolved. To try and combat this situation we now give out unique passwords to each customer and every time we call you we will quote this password to you. This will then assure you that you are speaking to UK Business Directory Ltd and not another company or persons. If you do not have or know your password please reply to this email and we will send you a new password.
At UK Business Directory Ltd we hope to make your advertising worthwhile to yourself and without unnecessary problems. If any of these problems relate to yourself or if you have any other questions please contact us via email or by telephone.