To discover stained glass is not simply to learn the traditional technique, but to explore your inspirations and portray them properly with some training in design.
Colour. Lead lines. Paint work. These are just a few of the design elements that need to be considered when putting together a stained glass panel, and many underestimate the importance of thoughtful design.
Graham Dowding, who has been the conservator of stained glass for Gloucester Cathedral since 1983, believes that a glassmaker should be absorbed in their work from the moment of conception, dealing with all aspects of design, making and fixing.
He said, “If we define "stained glass" as an "art", then the skills and philosophy which apply to the study of all art must also apply. Maybe in some eyes stained glass is seen as a "craft" with decorative potential, but that is to demean it.
“Therefore , in order to achieve accomplished work in stained glass, it is essential to train and develop in all matters of design - this would include:-
Conceptualising and creative thinking.
Consideration of location, space, setting, light and any other "architectural" factors.
Drawing skills for presentation and development of final designs.
Colour theory as it relates to glass.
Glass-painting skills, which can add expressiveness and tonal qualities to a window or panel.”
Graham takes a lot of inspiration from the late Edward Payne, from whom he took the post at Gloucester Cathedral. This experience gave him some of his most valued experiences with stained glass, and he has since worked as a freelance architectural designer, restoring period properties and collaborating with artists and sculptors on individual commissions.
Prior to this, he studied Architecture at Bath University, which has been invaluable in informing his glass design decisions. He believes that it is vital that artists in stained glass take account of the architectural setting and how this will enhance their work.
He added: “Glass is an architectural form, and it is under-used in modern buildings, perhaps because public perceptions of it are "frozen" in past "figurative" or "iconic" designs - mainly religious in context. The medium is capable of endless variety and forms of expression.”
Creative Glass Guild will welcome Graham on Sunday 9th June, when he will teach a Designing a Stained Glass Window course, which we recommend to anyone who has taken a stained glass course and would like to enhance their design techniques.