Mixing Traditional and Modern
Making a stained glass window in 2011 is a wonderful mixture of the ancient and the modern. When you see the painting on glass little has changed since the craftsmen worked on our Medieval Cathedrals. Oil or water is mixed with powdered pigment and then painted onto untreated glass. Paint is built up in layers to give shape, texture and a three-dimensional quality to the image. This will then be fired in a kiln to fuse the paint to the glass. Like the original glass painters, there needs to be a great deal of technical skill to create a realistic image on a translucent material. Every brush stroke will be seen as you can rub out and start again but you cannot cover up the mistakes with another colour.
This traditional technique will be mixed with very contemporary techniques, in a window that the studio are working on at present. This is the technique of Kiln formed glass or heating small pieces of glass so much that they melt and flow allowing for a feeling of colours moving together on glass. This technique can also create raised areas on the surface of the glass giving depth and texture to otherwise flat colours of glass.
Together this mixture of the traditional and the modern reflects the place where the window will finally hang. Designed for a new wing of St Bart’s Hospital in London it will be part of a hospital that is at the forefront of modern medicine. However the history of Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital is as old as the tradition of painting on glass and stems from the same root of the role of the Medieval church in contemporary society. Mind you let’s hope that the many who will see it in the future will just be inspired to look and enjoy the window and that it gives them confidence in the treatment they will receive in the 21st century St Bart’s.