Notes on Eloquence From Intractability by Martin Harrison

Eloquence From Intractability
Martin Harrison on Brian Clarke

Clarke’s paintings generate his abstract language and life drawing is a vital discipline in his art. Painting reflects light whereas glass transmit light and its constant changes in the quality of light, its kinetic modulation which attracts Clarke to stained glass. He does not use opaque paint for this reason, using only the glass and lead.

The paradox of glass art is that it is inextricably linked to architecture therefore ignored in the art world who view architecture as commodity capitalism. Clarke combines both roles as painter and glass artist, without compromise. There is as symbiotic relationship with both disciplines running in parallel. Before the renaissance art wasn’t anything other than ‘applied’ art yet critics have a problem with the ‘craft’ element of stained glass. Maybe the ecclesiastical links deter serious appraisal.

Clarke leant about the Pre-raphaelites during his time at Burnley School of Art. They also designed stained glass, which was fabricated by William Morris’ firm, and this did not seem to be detrimental to their painting. Ruskin’s dictum of “truth to materials” where involvement in all the craft process would lead to better design. Clarke’s craft training will enable him to instruct fabricators, unlike the Pre-Raphaelites who did not involve themselves with the craft process at all. From 1978, with the increase in the scale of his work and the time consuming nature of craft, Clarke now has his windows made outside his studio.

In 1974, Clarke was awarded a Winston Churchill Trust Travelling Fellowship which allowed him to travel to Germany. Britain was a creative vacuum and particularly slow to embrace modernism in the 1930s, and like architecture, the leading exponents of stained glass were not British. Ironically, “Das Englische Haus” by Hermann Muthesius in 1904 was a major influence to modernist architects, who eventually migrated to the Werkbund. During this time grew a flourishing stained glass school inspired by Jan Thorn Pikker who in 1921 rejected symbolist and expressionist styles of his earlier work to embrace geometric abstraction. This was important to Clarke who found there was no modern British glass movement for him to align himself and found that Europe offered a framework for his own ideas. In Germany, Clarke was able to locate stained glass from notable pioneers such as Josef Albers and members of the Dutch De Stijl group. These artists used a gridded format for their paintings and this gridded matrix is the basis for his compositions. Also during this first trip to Germany, Clarke made contact with artist Johannes Schreiter, who although worked in glass was first and foremost an artist.

Johannes Schreiter

Johannes Schreiter

Clarke began to realise that he was working within the traditions of Constructivism. His essay “Towards a New Constructivism” in 1979 he echoed the belief that the distinct disciplines of architecture, painting and craft should be dissolved. He was also affected by the dialogical tension between the static and dynamic, order and chaos. This duality remains at the core of his art. The architectural context provides the starting point for the designs. The static, ordered, structural defines the architectural space. The chaotic, dynamic elements act as contrasting counter-points, subtly eroding it.

The inclusion of grids and a more abstract approach meant that by 1977-78 Clarke and the Church of England parted company, when he refused to bow down to their impositions. He was now able to work on large-scale secular commissions and the repetition of patterns and grids in his work has drawn comparisons to minimalist music, inducing rhythmic meditative states.

final norte sequence_w-people(Stack)_0

Norte Shopping, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 1996. Brian Clarke

Clarke embarked on the first of a group of projects for roof spaces at Buxton Thermal Baths in 1987. These require an alternative approach as there is an absence of contrast between window and wall. He provides the ‘frame’ and therefore he becomes the architect himself. Usually stained glass reduces the transmission of light and also encloses the interior space, creating a curtain. At Haus Der Energie, Kassel in Germany, he opens up the interior space. The outside is drawn into the composition, subverting the two-dimensional aspect of the window by introducing exterior imagery and perspectives. At night, lit from within, the views of the window from the outside are equally compelling. The ‘disorder’ of organic shapes within the rigid geometry presents a spiritual polarity, a dualistic tension. Organic elements ‘Amorphs’ have preoccupied Clarke’s work and have become increasingly dominant, subvert the formality of the grid but he has integrated these diverse elements and his responses to a space are governed by aesthetic and functional need of the building.

Design 1: Reflection and Invention MADE101

We have received the first brief of the MA which focusses on experimentation.

“During this module, the main focus of your practice-based work will be experimentation. By questioning your own assumptions about craft and glass practice in particular, and placing conceptual development at the centre of your practice, you will challenge preconceptions about materials, their role in design and their status as bearers of meaning. You will begin to map the markets that might be appropriate for your work and to imagine your project at different levels of scale, as you examine what artisanal production means with the advent of the 4th industrial revolution. You will undertake inductions into equipment and processes in the 3D Design Crafts workshops in order to be able to use a range of technical procedures. You will be encouraged to try out research methods that allow you to think about what you do in new ways, risking failure so that you can understand better the potential of your project. Finally, you will be required to document and evaluate this experimentation, providing a clear record of how it has helped you to develop your thinking about your project.”

I made a few notes on this brief:

“Craft in this century is a recent invention”
Social awareness
Respect for tradition
Craft is a contemporary pursuit
Re-invented artisanal production


Respond to these issues. Explore and refine glass research project.

Experimentation
Question my assumptions about craft and glass
Conceptual development
Challenge preconceptions about materials, their role in design and their status as bearers of meaning
Map markets
Imagine project at different levels of scale
Examine what artisanal production means with the advent of the 4th industrial revolution
Try new research methods
Document/evaluate

Record thoughts and responses
Refine research project
Establish clear aims
Regularly evaluate progress

Demonstrate a systematic, organised enquiry into materials and processes.
Provide evidence of risk of failure and familiarise with ideas, approaches to my discipline in an intellectual context.

Body of Work

Experimental successes and failures to be included in evaluation:
Material tests
Samples
models/maquettes
Technical journal
Contextual research
Sketchbooks
Prototypes

Evaluation 2,000 Words

Analysis of body of work include successes and failures and next steps.
Record of reading to identify theoretical context of the work.
Intellectual property considerations relating to the work.
Update research proposal to include aims for this experimental module.

Illustrated Journal (Blog)

Must be regularly updated
Record thought process
Contextual research
Response to talks and readings
Change of direction
Problems and solutions
Combine images, evidence and commentary
Ideally a blog or digital journal

Evidence of networking

Short contextual report explaining:
Trajectory of work
Cite relevant artists and research networks
Document efforts to contact
Talks/conferences

To do list

Set up blog
Keep maintain a technical journal
Research reading contextual research

MA Project Proposal

This is my project proposal for MA Glass at Plymouth College of Art. This is the basis of my research and will in due course be updated as I form research questions.

MA Project Proposal

I would like to focus on architectural glass and site-specific installations. During the 2nd year of my degree I had the opportunity to work on proposals for public arts briefs. These projects were inspired by the work of Bernhard Hubert and Alexander Beleschenko. Unfortunately I did not get to develop this fully during the course and I feel that this is unfinished business.

inspirationdevelopment

final design

Presentation boards for Unity Hall public arts commission, 2013

 

I am particularly interested in socially engaged practices and my BA dissertation discussed the community engagement of football ultras and their motives. I have attended seminars and spoken to architectural glass artist Kirsty Brooks about this and I feel that I need to focus on what my work can offer the community. I have been running taster sessions in stained glass but I feel there is a lot more I can offer.

SAM_2346

 

Architecture has been a common theme with the cast-glass work that I have been doing. I am drawn to abstraction and geometry that is found in modernist architecture as well as an interest in typography, photography and printing processes.

5703474-9c0c42c3c2e24cea670792b771dfdba3

I need to research more on community-led public art. Talks by visiting artist during my degree were a source of inspiration, particularly Keith Harrison and Michael Petry. I plan to investigate digital and traditional techniques including:
· 3D printing for texture and geometric patterns
· Graphics and surface design
· Photography
· Lamination and decals
· Printing on glass
· Painting and leaded glass

The final body of work would probably consist of project proposals, models and samples for presentations.”

I have already come to a bit of a dead-end with regards to the notion of socially engaged practices. I predict that this section of my proposal will change. Community engagement, like most site-specific artistic interventions, are not predetermined but are considered during the proposal stage of a commission. I have been researching artists who engage in architectural glass commissions and this aspect of the commission process does not seem to be apparent, particularly with private commissions.

Social Enterprise Gold Mark

For the past couple of months I have been working on a commission to create 10 glass award plaques for Social Enterprise Gold Mark. They wanted A4 panels with removable brass engraving plates and use their logo as the main feature of the plaques. I created a presentation using Google Sketchup and I decided to use ground glass (frit) for the main logo.

SE Gold Mark SE Gold Mark2

The main logo would be a separate piece of fusing glass which would be laminated onto a base of float glass. The removable brass plate would be held in place using strips of brass “U” section, glued on its side top and bottom, so that the brass plate can slide out for engraving. The small logo in the bottom-left would be printed onto self-adheasive clear vinyl.

The main logo was made using circular fusing glass and the logo was heavily sand-blasted into the glass. I needed to create a recess for the fusing glue/gel so that the frit would fit accurately within the sand-blasted logo.

IMG_0167

These were then put in the kiln to fuse.

IMG_0203

There seemed to be a problem with the kiln. The pieces that were in the middle of the kiln came out okay but most of the pieces did not fire properly and needed to be fired again.

IMG_0206 IMG_0207

The bases of each plaque was cut and the edges ground and polished and the brass “rails” for the engraving plate were glued with epoxy resin. A mask covered the base so that we could sand-blast where the main logo would be laminated with Araldite 20/20.

IMG_0208

After the lamination had set, the mask was removed and the plaques cleaned up with the vinyl logos cut out and stuck into position.

IMG_0209

I managed to source some cardboard boxes for each plaque.

IMG_0210

Here is one of the finished pieces and despite the technical issues I am pleased with the result.

 SAM_2441SAM_2440SAM_2430

The client was happy as well and even gave me another one-off commission!

Make Festive Stained Glass Lanterns

SAM_2424

10th December 10-4:30 at Ocean Studios, Plymouth

A one-day stained glass taster session making a festive Christmas lantern. This session is ideal for people who have had some glass cutting and copper foil soldering experience. However they are fairly simple to make so beginners are also welcome. The cost is £65 which covers the cost of all materials and equipment, as well as teas, coffees and biscuits, and you will have a lantern to take home with you!

If you are interested and wish to book places, or just to make enquiries, then email me at adele@adeleretterglass.co.uk

Glass Etching Short-Course

SAM_2401

Dates :  Saturday 17th December 1pm-3.30pm
Additional dates available on request
Duration : 2.5hrs
Cost : £25 per participant
Venue : Ocean Studios, The Factory Cooperage, Royal William Yard, Plymouth PL1 3QQ.
Level : Beginner

Adele and Jenny invite you to join us for a fun workshop learning to etch glass. Apply your very own permanent designs to glassware. Whether it’s a seasonally decorated candle holder, a personalised wine glass, or a repurposed bottle transformed into a beautiful vessel for your homemade sloe gin!

We will begin the session by introducing a range of simple techniques to create and apply your very own stencil design, then demonstrate the use of glass etching cream. This chemical method of etching creates a permanent opaque white surface, ideal for decorating functional items as they may be washed and heated to the original manufacturers specifications. Once you know the basics this is a technique that can be easily applied at home. Etching cream is a particularly great way to transform every-day items… why not go green and transform old wine bottles and jam jars into special presents for loved ones this Christmas.

Hands-on experience is at the heart of our ethos, so we will then dedicate two hours to developing and applying your own etched designs. Jenny and Adele will be on hand to guide you through the process. We will provide glass drinking tumblers (1 per participant, additional tumblers may be purchased on the day); alternatively please bring along your own glassware to decorate:

  • Depending on your design and the speed at which you work it should be possible to decorate 3 or 4 pieces during the two hours. Should you wish to decorate more then please contact us to arrange another session at a post-induction reduced rate subject to availability.
  • If you wish to etch food and drink jars and bottles then it is best to bring these along empty and re-fill them at home. Please thoroughly remove sticky label residue before the course to make the most of your time with us.
  • Straight sided vessels are much simpler and often more effective than highly ornate shaped vessels.

SAM_2372

The process will involve the use of sharp craft knives and the application of acid; appropriate training and personal protective equipment will be provided. Over 14’s only, under 18’s to be accompanied by a participating adult.

Old clothes are most suitable, or an apron or similar protective garment. Comfortable closed-toed shoes are recommended. If you wear reading glasses, please bring them. The studio can be a little chilly at this time of year so bring a jumper.

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. Please let us know at time of booking if you have any dietary or accessibility requirements so that we can ensure that we are able to cater to your needs.

 

 

 

How to book?
Please email Adele or Jenny at the addresses below with your contact details and preferred course date. We will then confirm availability and send you bank details to transfer the payment. Payments are non-refundable, however if you give us at least 3 days notice before the start of the course then we will transfer you to a later date. Please bring cash on the day if you would like to purchase additional tumblers.

We can’t wait to see what you create!

Jenny Ayrton and Adele Retter
contact@jennyayrton.co.uk                         adele@adeleretterglass.co.uk
07834 857 938 (Jenny)                                      07966 067 199 (Adele)

 SAM_2395

Getting Here

Ocean Studios, The Factory Cooperage,
Royal William Yard, Plymouth PL1 3QQ.

The short-course will be held in the Print Workshop which is located in the corner of the courtyard of Ocean Studios, between the gallery/shop and Nikki Taylor’s studio.

There is the 34/34a/34b bus service from the centre of Plymouth to Royal William Yard.

There is a free car park at Devil’s Point which is about 5 minutes walk from Royal William Yard but this can get full. There are parking spaces in the courtyard but if none are available then there is alternative parking at Royal William Yard. The charges are: £2 up to 2 hours, £5 between 2-5 hours and £10 between 5-24 hours. The parking system operating in Royal William Yard is now Pay and Display.

Glass Courses at Ocean Studios – Copper Foil Taster Sessions

SAM_2328

I will be running 2 taster sessions in cooper foil stained glass at Ocean Studios on consecutive Saturdays; the 8th and the 15th October, from 10am – 4:30pm.
The copper foil technique was developed by Louis Comfort Tiffany for assembling small pieces of stained glass and is ideal for making simple sun catchers as well as more complicated 3D pieces. By the end of the day you will have made a simple panel to take home with you. The session covers glass cutting, applying copper foil, soldering and staining/polishing.

NOTE: We will be using lead solder so this course is not suitable if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/copy-of-glass-courses-at-ocean-studios-copperfoil-stained-glass-tickets-27749504515

SAM_2310

Copperfoil Taster session Photos

The first taster session in copper foiled stain glass was a success. Here are some photos of the class and their lovely pieces of work.

There are still some spaces left for this Saturday’s session (20th August). Here is the link to sign up.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/glass-courses-at-ocean-studios-copperfoil-stained-glass-tickets-26753972853

Glass Courses at Ocean Studios

SAM_2328

I will be running 3 taster sessions in cooper foil stained glass at Ocean Studios on consecutive Saturdays; the 6th, 13th and 20th August, from 10am – 4:30pm.
The copper foil technique was developed by Louis Comfort Tiffany for assembling small pieces of stained glass and is ideal for making simple sun catchers as well as more complicated 3D pieces. By the end of the day you will have made a simple panel to take home with you. The session covers glass cutting, applying copper foil, soldering and staining/polishing.

NOTE: We will be using lead solder so this course is not suitable if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Link to Eventbrite page

SAM_2310

 

Easter Market and Open Studios

IMAG1770   IMAG1383   SAM_1700

On Easter Sunday I will be discussing some of the potential glass courses and workshops that I plan to run at Ocean Studios. I will be doing demonstrations and getting members of the public to have a go as well. I will be running these demos in the Print Workshop, so feel free to pop in and have a look and a chat. There is also an Easter Sunday Market in the courtyard of Ocean Studios from 10am to 5pm.

http://www.bornhecticevents.co.uk/event/easter-sunday-market-for-march-royal-william-yard-plymouth/