I am pleased to announce that I have been commissioned by Durham Cathedral to design and make a new window for Durham Cathedral. Spiritually the Cathedral is one of Britain’s most important buildings, and this UNESCO World Heritage site is architecturally considered to be one of our most important buildings, with 700,000 visitors a year.
The new window is in design as we speak. It is in memorial to Sara Pilkington who was a student at the University at Durham. As such it will be contemporary, youthful and full of energy: being worked by my hand from design through to the glass.
The north-facing window is the last clear window in the series of stained glass windows that encapsulates the high altar and the Shrine of St Cuthbert, and is 21ft tall x 12ft wide (6.6m x 3.6m).
I am very excited about this project, and as a contemporary glass artist I am delighted to have the opportunity to put modern work into such a noteworthy building. I am also humbled, as the new window will reside alongside the Shrine of St Cuthbert where the saint is buried.
Installation is planned for 2018.
Please read the press release from Durham Cathedral.
Durham Cathedral Window media release
Mel Howse outside Durham Cathedral
Beautiful and ancient: The High Altar Durham Cathedral
From design through all the processes of creating the art in glass. Mel Howse working on one of the panels for The Betchworth Screen, installed in the spring of 2016.
We are delighted that Friese Greene House was presented with two awards this week from the Sussex Heritage Trust.
At the 2016 Awards ceremony on Thursday 7th July, Conran and Partners received the Large Scale Residential Award for their architectural design which enhances the character of Portland Road in Hove.
Our glass installation, ‘Successions of Light’ received the Building Crafts Award.
To date this mixed-use development scheme by Affinity Sutton Homes, has gained three awards. This is wonderful recognition for those involved in the project, and for the local residents who live there and use the building.
Thank you Sussex Heritage Trust.
Portland Road for Mel Howse. Copyright Sam Laughlin 2016
Portland Road for Mel Howse. Copyright Sam Laughlin 2016
Earlier this June I saw the prize giving ceremony for the 2016 Stevens Competition run by The Worshipful Company of Glaziers. The competition has been running for over thirty years and is an important marker for those studying stained glass, and in early practice.
It was a privilege to re-visit the competition as a judge alongside Helen Whittaker, Alex R and Martin Donlin. It was also a poignant experience as I myself won the competition in 1991 whilst a student at Swansea Architectural Glass Department.
The quality of the work submitted was high and very varied in style. The event was expanded into a seminar that gave entrants the opportunity to see shortlisted designs, and to hear the thoughts of the judges. It was a positive, round discussion that it is hoped it will inspire good design, thoughtful presentation, and quality craft skills.
In 1991, during my own submission to The Stevens Competition, I recall working on a one-to-one scale cartoon for a brief that encompassed a memorial to Sir Lawrence Olivier. The resulting design was a progression of the photographed cartoon reduced to 1:10 scale. It was a useful experience that enabled me to look closely at the relationship between all parts of the creative process. Bearing in mind that at that time we did not work on the computer, photography proved a useful tool.
You can see more about the 2016 Steven Competition here:
The last seven years have been a unique creative opportunity for me as a designer and maker.
I have had the opportunity to develop my work, and interpretation of my designs alongside Peter Collins and the team at Hourglass Uk.
Adding to years of working alone in my own British glass studio, then treading the boards of commercial studios abroad, I have progressed by also drawing on industrial glass processes here in Britain. This symbiosis is made possible at the invitation of Peter Collins, inspired to suggest that I work along side them at the Hourglass factory.
The projects I have been working on have been able to take a fresh, positive approach to working in glass, which has sometimes eluded the ‘architectural art glass’ industry. In three decades it has felt that we have not progressed very far.
Contemporary glass needs industry to help it move forward, alongside the ideas of artists and designers.
Hourglass have just launched their website:
The Creative Dimension has well and truly launched this year with five summer workshops for teenagers 14-18yrs, with an eye on learning hands-on creative skills. Taught by professional artists and craftsman, the courses will offer the chance to experience the mediums of gilding, marquetry, mural painting, stone working and woodwork.
At art college my vision of a creative career was shaped by the positive experience of learning skills from artists who were out there, earning a living in the real world. This is a wonderful opportunity.
Be inspired. Go here to see what The Creative Dimension is doing:
We were elated to hear this month that the scheme we worked on in Hove,
Friese Greene House, has been awarded Development Of The Year at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s South East Awards.
It was a pleasure to produce art that faces into the community as part of Affinity Sutton’s forward thinking scheme, alongside Conran and Partners thoughtfully designed building.
You can read more at the link below.
Portland Road Hove UK
The Centre International du Vitrail in Chartres France will open its doors to the ‘International Panorama of Contemporary Glass-Art’ on 23rd April 2016.
On show there will be 300 art glass contributions from around the world. The exhibition is in collaboration with Glasmalerei Peters of Paderborn, Germany.
I contributed my design to this prestigious collection in 1998, and the studio at Paderborn produced the glasswork.
I look forward to the display of this piece ‘Ohne Titel’.
“Ohne Titel” stained glass panel designed and made for the exhibition “In Search of the Light of the World”
If you are a stained glass or decorative glass enthusiast don’t miss the opportunity to see this important collection together in one place.
The exhibition will be on display until the Spring of 2017.
So often glass art is forming an important link between old and new; modern and ancient architecture, old and new ideas, contemporary and traditional decoration. My latest project is a link between all of these.
The suspended artwork for St Michael’s Church, set within the idyllic surrey village of Betchworth, will complete the newly re-ordered vestry.
Large glazing panels will grace a void between a bespoke oak folding screen, and the majestic roof beams overhead.
St Michael’s Church Betchworth
The art which is in progress at present focuses on the theme of St Michael. It will reside in the musical hub of the church, adjacent to a beautiful new organ case. The glass art will be complete with its own choir of trumpets, in an etched, polished, semi-abstract, and monochromatic design.
A surge in the use of the word ‘craft’ has caused creatives to look hard at the core ‘hands-on’ aspects of their trades. The term has overtones of looking backwards, espousing heritage techniques as hallowed foundations to our craft. But not necessarily!
Crossing technical boundaries has long been important to me because the locations of my commissions range from the most modern of buildings to the most ancient of structures.
Blending is the key, blending ideas old and new. Not thinking it’s a matter of Traditional -v- Contemporary. Embellishing the qualities of the traditional with the opportunities of the contemporary keeps a designer/maker able to change as architecture has changed.
Good contemporary artists – of any era – use all available resources to create their work. In the tradition of the designer I focus on the vision of the installed design, but in the mould of tomorrow’s maker I will use any and all opportunities available for creating my designs. Taking full opportunity and full advantage of all creative approaches – traditional and contemporary.
For example, in my enamelled façade for J Sainsbury’s I used buckets of silver nitrate stain and applied it with a spray gun. Silver nitrate is a material traditionally used in stained glass, and it used by the thimble-full. Rather I took the irreplaceable qualities of silver nitrate, and applied those qualities using a modern toolset. Today I ran my enamel samples through a toughening plant, rather than the usual sample kiln, because the pieces I am working on will be fired at large scale and the toughener gives rise to a need for a different approach.
Keeping our traditional ‘craft’ techniques going is important, as it’s a solid foundation for the future. But I argue that it is even more important to keep them relevant to our time, to ensure the survival of our arts as the world changes around us.
My work throughout the last decade has centred on scaling-up the art I create in my chosen medium of glass and allied materials. I have always treasured the benefits of being a designer and maker, and it has been a challenge to remain hands-on when the physical size of commissions increase.
Since 2009 I’ve been entirely UK-based, in a specialist glass engineering environment that has allowed me to explore the wider possibilities for art and glass, and art in architecture. I use as my daily tools the very equipment used to meet modern-day building regulations. I use them on the large-scale and when intermixed with creative applied techniques, they give rise to thrilling new combinations.
Designing, making and installing art is a lengthy and complex business. Maintaining artistic inspiration and purpose is harder still when a work is scaled-up. Staying hands-on throughout the project, from its concept to its delivery, maintaining the artist’s eye and seeing that every step feeds into your vision for the piece, provides the best opportunity to sustain the work’s integrity and quality.
Despite the challenges, my experience is that if you change your environment and your tools, it will open your mind to new perspectives, and new ways of designing and creating. Whilst it takes courage to step away from well-trodden paths, it’s worth the investment if you’ve the stamina.
My work right now is the result of personal study and extensive practical research at the coalface of the decorative glass industry, from which I’ve created new techniques and new processes that will pay dividends in future works. I’m afraid I crave invention like other people crave chocolate!