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I was really chuffed earlier this year to welcome photographer Julian Calder to the factory. It was one of those very hot days we had over the summer – and it was lovely to take a break from making to celebrate my art with him. The colourful portraits he took that day were taken within the environment in which I create my glasswork.

“A Celebration of British Craftsmanship” is a book that Julian has been working on with writer Karen Bennett. It shows some of the most exciting craftsmen of The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust, telling their stories in striking images and words. The pages give a glimpse into their creative lives.

The foreword is by QEST’s Patron HRH The Prince of Wales.

http://www.impress-publishing.com/qest.html

I became a QEST scholar in 2008, and was awarded their first Award for Excellence in 2013, The Fattorini Award, for my progressive work.

The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust was set up in 1990 to sustain Britain’s cultural Heritage by supporting excellence in British craftsmanship.

The illustrious and weighty coffee table book was launched on October 29th at Saddlers Hall in the City of London. A lengthy snapshot of the publication was shown in The Daily Mail on 13th October alongside an interview with Lord Snowden, the Trust’s Vice Patron.

QEST Scholars at Saddlers Hall on 29th October 2018, celebrating the launch of the book "A Celebration of British Craftsmanship".

QEST Scholars at Saddlers Hall on 29th October 2018, celebrating the launch of the book “A Celebration of British Craftsmanship”.

Dedicated QEST scholars work very hard throughout their careers to progress their own skills, their businesses, and their mediums. It is wonderful that Julian and Karen have created such a well-documented moment in time within the development of some important British designers and craftspeople.

It is hoped that the book will provide much needed encouragement and funding to yet more QEST scholars going into the future.

You can buy the book here:

http://www.qest.org.uk/shop

 

Unveiling Dr John Radcliffe in Oxford

On Tuesday 25th September a splendid bronze sculpture of the eminent Dr John Radcliffe was unveiled. The larger-than-life size sculpture was created by artist Martin Jennings, to mark the tercentenary of Radcliffe’s death. It was commissioned by The Ashmolean Museum with finance from the Radcliffe Trustees.

Located prominently outside the Radcliffe Observatory at Oxford’s Green Templeton College, it is fitting that the figure of this physician and philanthropist looks out from the observatory across to a more modern architectural landscape.  John Radcliffe (1653-1714) was the most successfull physician of his day.

The confident stance of Martin Jennings’ sculpture will surely inspire those studying today to reach for the highest of goals.

Dr John Radcliffe by Martin Jennings.

Dr John Radcliffe by Martin Jennings.

The staircase of The Radcliffe Camera.

The staircase of The Radcliffe Observatory which leads to The Tower of The Winds at the top of this beautifully proportioned building.

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It was great to recieve Church and Building Heritage magazine this month.

In September’s edition Michael Winterbottom publishes an interview with me about my work over the last decade.

You can see the article here:

MEL HOWSE Church and Heritage Building Magazine 2018

https://www.churchbuilding.co.uk/

Michael looks at some case studies of recent projects including: Public art for Friese Greene House in Portland Road Hove, art for the interior of St Cuthbert’s in Portsmouth, and a glazed facade for Otford Methodist Church.

It has been a very progressive decade for me; bringing diverse and challenging projects that have pushed the boundaries of designing and creating in the vitreous medium.

 

Public art at Friese Greene House Hove.

Public art at Friese Greene House Hove.

Mel Howse at work on the glass for Friese Greene House

Mel Howse at work on the glass for Friese Greene House.

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

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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.