Exhibitions – Pallant House Gallery. The British Society of Master Glass Painters.

In general people will assume that if you are an artist you therefore exhibit your art in galleries.

For those of us who design and make installed architectural artwork this is not necessarily the case.

The fact that one’s work is in the public domain usually forms the biggest gift to the widest audience and for the longest time; in essense a permanent exhibition.

During my career I have only very rarely exhibited in galleries. Many of my autonomous pieces are created as experimental works, and are often kept at the studio to serve as springboards to future installed commissions. Within these pieces I have poured inventiveness and ideas destined for larger works. This inspires me, so I keep these works around.

A local exhibition I took part in in 1997 at Pallant House Gallery stands out for me. It was called called ‘Eight by Eight’ .

‘Eight by Eight’ was inspired by an ingenius exhibition called ‘The Thirty Four Gallery’ that took place between the wars in 1934, and contained the works of leading and lesser known artists at the time. It included: Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore but to name a few notables. The 1934 collection of works were miniature artworks – such as could be transported in a suitcase. It was presented as a miniature gallery of modern art. Pallant House displayed 25 of the original Thirty Four Gallery pieces. At the same time the inventive concept was extended into its own exhibition of leading and lesser-known artists.

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/visual-arts-1244597.html

In 1997 I had not long recieved a grant from the Prince’s Trust for my stained glass studio. I was invited to exhibit two pieces of 8 inch x 8 inch glasswork.  At the private view I recall two men looking at my wall mounted pieces  and turning to one another with raised eyebrows – what was decorative glass doing in a main stream gallery? These were were the days when art and craft were poles apart.

Just as in 1934, this ‘Eight by Eight’ exhibition[1] featured works from leading and lesser-known names, some of the notable participants this time were Maggi Hambling, Peter Blake, Beryl Cook and David Bowie.

In 2004 I organised the first contemporary exhibition held by The British Society of Master Glass Painters. I remember working for many months on the event, not alone, but with the help of other enthusiastic members.

The exhibition was called ’30 x 30′ and it was held at The Cochrane Gallery in Southampton Row, London (sadly no longer a gallery), next to the then Central St Martins.

The exhibition of 30cm x 30cm glassworks attracted a diverse collection of pieces from all over the country. The small scale of each intense work allowed artwork submissions to travel to us from far and wide. The festival atmosphere at the private view was wonderful.

The BSMGP repeated this exhibition format in 2009, with ’40 x 40′.

You can see my exhibits from both BSMGP exhibitions below.

 

BSMGP_Howse

Mel Howse 2004. Title: ‘Antidote’. Sandblasted glass and flicked glass paint.

CAT 32 Howse

Mel Howse 2009. Title: ‘Sound and Silence’. Float glass, silver nitrate stain, vitreous enamel and gold lustre.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Eight by Eight exhibition Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, United Kingdom held  5 August to 11 October 1997

Link

I am pleased to be able to write that this year I became a trustee of The Radcliffe Trust.

John Radcliffe was descibed by his obiturist in 1714 as “the most eminent physician this England has ever produced”.

The Radcliffe Trust was created as one of the very first discretionary grant-making charities, and has now achieved three hundred years of charitable benefactions and philanthropy.

Today its charitable interests are in music (traditional and contemporary), craft skills, and the field of heritage skills built environment.

https://theradcliffetrust.org/

Peter Collins and Hourglass

On Friday 20th July 2018, family and friends of the Peter Collins (1951 – 2018) gathered in affection and admiration.

His funeral was attended by his family, loyal workforce, architects, designers, and artists, some of whom had known him for many years.

Peter was the free-spirited founder of a unique glass processing business – Hourglass.

Entrepreneur, friend and mentor, his ingenuity and strength of character built a factory capable of glass working in many dimensions. From bespoke shop fitting, to architectural installations and art. As the decades rolled on he invested greatly his energy and his money in an extensive collection of plant and machinery, and a cohort of great people.

I remember first stepping through the door to the shop floor and being staggered by the cathedral of industry in front of me.

In 2009 I arrived at Hourglass for a short time to make an architectural commission, moving into the factory at the invitation of Peter, to work with and alongside them. I have been following my dream to make unique art work using industrial processes ever since. Here was a meeting of open minds and a shared love of a wonderful and versatile material: Glass.

My experience of the last decade has given me a life-changing view of my medium, and it is a privilege to be a designer and maker in this environment, without the constraints of tradition.

Peter’s virtuosity and creative spirit will live on in the work produced at Hourglass as well as in our many memories. He loved a challenge and had a wicked sense of humour.

He will be often missed as one sees his influence reflected in every stock sheet rack, every time the beloved crane sails across the factory in a movement akin to ballet, the jet-cutter spurts water across the room, and the CNC roars and spins.

This was his playground, his cathedral of industry.

Thank you Peter for your kindness, generosity, support and experience.

Mel Howse

The Cartoon

In stained glass tradition the working drawing that an artist uses to create the final glasswork is called a cartoon.

This cartoon is a full scale-drawing or artwork, in colour or black and white. It conveys the essence of the glass work to come; its size and the shape of the glass pieces, and details of applied techniques; paintwork or etching for instance. Quite simply, it is the glass artist’s working guide for creating the work. It represents the artistic transition from scale design to full size work.

Here once, at cartoon stage, you worked out all your compositional and practical challenges.

I was trained at the Swansea Architectural Stained Glass course (1989 – 1992). We had one day a week devoted to life drawing, and learnt to cartoon at 1:1 with Colwynn Morris who had worked for Powells of Whitefriars. It was important grounding in drawing and draughtsmanship. Throughout my career I have continued to use my skills for technical drawing, and direct free-hand working by eye.

Like many contemporary artists I take the best of what is available to me and use it!  Today, it is possible, and also at times appropriate, to create that cartoon electronically. The printed version can be very useful creatively and practically, and also a liberating creative springboard. An example of this in my portfolio is the Sainsbury’s facade where the cartoons were scaled up electronically and used merely as a guide. The actual enamelling was all free hand.  Read about this project in my published journal of 2009: ‘Vitreous Art’.

The thing you have to understand about simply enlarging a small image, is that you enlarge both the bits you like, and the bits that are unconsidered or unseen. You create new design information, sometimes unrecognisaed at small scale. A new brief can emerge – one that must either be managed, or left to chance as part of your art.

In recent years I have reinvented cartooning for my projects. Due to my experience of working with industry, I am taking a different explorative perspective on the part cartoons play in my creative journey.  However, it is a process of distillation where I build even more meaning and direction into the art, on its journey to become an artwork in glass. It has an influence on the choices I make about how my work is made. Sometimes throwing up epiphanies not considered at the birth of the scale design.

Depending on the commission, the practical processes will always be a ‘horses for courses’ set of choices, as you can read in my first blog ‘If turner had a spray gun’ – this can mean any combination art working for a contemporary artist.

The full size cartoon for The Illumination Window for Durham Cathedral was revealed to the project team recently – as I moved forward with the glass in my hands.

 

Baptism Vessel for Christ Church Kensington

In December I spent a joyful session enamelling on steel. Among the pieces I created was a baptism vessel to grace a new font designed by architect Charles Sheppard.

We look forward to seeing the ‘jewel-like’ hand enamelled vessel in place.

The hand enamelled vessel for Christ Church Kensington.

Detail of the hand enamelled vessel for Christ Church Kensington.

 

 

Birdham, St James Update

The facade commission for St james at Birdham has been taking shape, and so is the structure of the building itself. The two will come together next year.

The progressive glass work will span two floors.

The working drawings or cartoons for my installations can often be as invigorating as the glasswork it generates. Although in the early stages of the commission samples conveyed the meaning of tiny scale designs.

It’s going to be an exciting and unusual installation.

The new extension takes shape at St James Birdham, Sussex. The old and the new fabric together.

The new extension takes shape at St James Birdham, Sussex. The old and the new fabric together.

A Vibrant Installation – Otford Methodist Church, Kent

A major contemporary scheme has been installed in two phases at Otford Methodist Church in Kent. This has involved designing glasswork for both the interior and exterior of the newbuild architecture.

Firstly, an elevated and suspended glass cross was given centre stage upon a generous curved dais. The cross forms a focal point to worship within the very modern arena. This textured glasswork is spacial and subtle – further brought to life by coloured light.

In September we installed the large south elevation window. This is a blaze of vivid and rhythmic colour in contrast to the cross. The design is intuitive and free thinking. It is a vibrant expression of faith that faces out into the community, and also brings the focus of worship into the church.

I’ve been working on this wonderful scheme for some while and it has been fantastic to see it come together this year.

Images coming shortly on our website.

Mel Howse during the installation of the south window for Otford OMC.

Mel Howse during the installation of the south window for Otford Methodist Church.

Durham Cathedral Update – Taking Templates

Work is ongoing for my commission for Durham Cathedral. I was there last month with John Mahoney, taking templates for the new stained glass window I am making.

Being close up to the North Quire Aisle window gave me an even fuller sense of the size and shape of this window; its position within the building, and sight lines. This is very helpful as I continue to build on the artwork.

The view from the scaffolding made me appreciate the sheer scale of this incredible building, and the detail of the stonework was a reminder that despite scale this awesome piece of architecture is handmade.

Mel Howse taking templates for the new stained glass window at Durham Cathedral.

Mel Howse high up on the scaffolding outside Durham Cathedral during taking templates for the new stained glass window.

Art Glass Facade for Birdham.

This Summer has been packed with making artwork, getting new projects moving forward and installing designs now made real.

Some of these commissions have been in the planning for a number of years, and so I am elated that construction works at St James Church in Birdham, Sussex have started on site, with a brave and beautiful new extension designed by architect Richard Meynell. I am commissioned to create 24m2 of art glass work for the entirety of the new East elevation. The architectural art has been designed to compliment the architect’s design, and the vision for the glass design was created as an integral part of this scheme’s development since 2012. So there is great excitement that the project is underway and, as ever, my approach is unconventional and will bathe the interior of the building in light.