In between my building, decorating and maintenance activities, I began to work on the Mourne Grange windows. My Father came over from Ireland and stayed for a while. We went and bought stained glass together from a place in Gloucester. Stained glass was going through a trendy popular faze, and there were lots of companies within easy reach selling it. The biggest was S.G.S glass near Thornbury, they had what amounted to a small aeroplane filled with stock. The glut years did not last, later I had to travel right into Bristol for supplies.
The windows were a tremendously exciting project which confirmed my task as an artist. Shortly before, I had made a significant breakthrough in my work and succeeded in combining two apparently opposing techniques; lamination and traditional leaded glass. Lamination eliminates to a large extent, the dark aspect of stained glass. The colours are placed next to each other and can move more freely, all kinds of shapes and sizes of glass can be used, the technique has a satisfying contemporary quality. When how-ever it is compared to Medieval glass, it lacks some essential qualities. The old leaded painted windows are rich with ‘soul’, the colour bursts out of the darkness of the stone lattice work and is focused and concentrated by the lead in a way that contemporary glass cannot really match. How to do both? How to achieve the lightness and freshness of modern laminated glass and the richness, texture and soul of the old masters?
Like so much else, bought with pain in Paradise, it was here that the answer came. One resident, Catherine, spent her time in my winter workshop tracing illustrations of old glass, these tracings were then coloured in. A few were made into small stained-glass panels. These combined painted fired glass with a mosaic technique. Great things come from small beginnings! I made one panel in this way, based on one of my few Paradise pictures called, ‘The Opening of the Heart’. One technical problem arose, some of the fired glass cracked after it had been glued, it was incompatible with the expansion and contraction rates of the unfired glass. The answer of course was, three layers, a fired painted backing plate, and intermediate layer of thin clear glass which had the coloured pieces glued onto it.
Having worked out the process, it was possible to make these windows with an entirely new technique. I had done the colour sketches; the next stage was to make the three life-size black and white cartoons. I wanted the painting to have the free ‘smudgy’ quality of my wax drawings. I used wax crayon and built up the image in layers, scraping away and applying the wax boldly. The next stage was to take a linear impression of the cartoon, to select directional qualities which would inform both the coloured glass mosaic and the lead lines. I took a tracing (using tracing paper) picking out the leading lines and then transferred my hasty impression back onto paper. These scribblings were converted into a clear matrix of lines defining each piece of coloured glass and the lead structure.
The fully worked out design is then retraced, creating both a cut-line and templates. The templates for the larger painted backing plates are cut out first, the glass for both layers cut, numbered and stored. Then the business of the colour can begin. I wished to do this process very spontaneously, only using the colour sketches as references. One of the challenges of stained-glass is that it goes through phases of vitality and dullness. Each creative step is balanced by a rather exacting and repetitive one. The trick is to end up with something that’s vital rather than boring. Bit like life really.
I tackled this problem as a painter, made myself a special long glass shelf in the Temple up against the windows and played with the colour fairly freely. I forgot to say– all this work took place in the Temple, I constructed temporary light boxes and a large cutting table. It was exciting working out of saturated primary colours, red, blue and yellow, harmonising with complementaries and inserting tiny random traces, breaking up the predictable, adding more nuances.
The next step was to paint the backing plates. They were temporarily stuck onto sheets of 4mm glass with good old plasticine and had lead lines painted on them. Laid on a table they could then be traced from the cartoons. This first tracing was like the skeleton, a structure of lines upon which the half tones and washes could be hung. I then took the glass to Rod Friend’s and had it fired. Re-stuck onto the glass and placed above the light box, I could do the subtle bit, the stippling, badgering and scratching. Back to Roddy’s for another firing and then the laborious task of temporarily leading up. This had to be done so that the glued bits of coloured glass fitted inside each lead frame perfectly. Once glued the whole thing was taken apart again, each triple plate section sealed and then leaded up.
I had divided the side windows into three sections and the central one into four. They could be slotted into each other by closing the top edge lead of each section and slotting the opened lower edge of the next one into it. I built a big display case on the far wall of the Temple and opened it to the public. No– it wasn’t really the public, it was friends and acquaintances. Loads of people came, it was a real celebration. There was one incident that took my work onto an entirely different level. A friend arrived with her sister, they sat gazing at the windows for a long time. Suddenly the sister said, ‘I never really had any connection to Anthroposophy, now I can begin to see there’s something in it’. Of course, this was flattering– but there was also something else– a sense of responsibility! My God, I could actually make something that could affect someone profoundly, I better get my act together.
The Red Window
The left-hand window is primarily red and dedicated to the Holy Spirit. The top section represents an angelic whirl spinning anti-clockwise. In the foreground are figures receiving the Spirit, they are all of us but more particularly the disciples and Mary. The figures of Mary and John are enclosed in an arc of lead, showing their special relationship as Mother and Son after the crucifixion.
Behind the Red Window stands not only the Holy Spirit, but also the power of Lucifer. Lucifer, whose redemption began with the event of Pentacost, the out pouring of the Holy Spirit, and who one day, through human effort will become fully united with the Christ Stream.
The Blue Window
The right-hand window is primarily blue and is dedicated to the Father God. It is divided into three sections. The top whirl spinning clockwise shows the bounty of creation. At the bottom is the figure of Ahriman with a yellow eye. The Father-Ground of the Earth has its shadow side. Ahriman lifts a hooked claw like arm, light streams down upon him from above.
The central panel shows the six-pointed star of the Old Testament containing within itself the city of the New Jerusalem. The material world can be refined and filled with light, even Ahriman can be redeemed in the end.
The Yellow Window
The central yellow window is dedicated to the Son. It is divided into three parts. The top represents the Cosmic streaming Sun Spirit. The orientation of the whirl is up and down. The bottom section shows the Mystery of Golgotha, shown as three crosses on a hill. In between the contraction of the Crucifixion and the Cosmic Sun Spirit, the being of Michael is indicated. The Arch Angel holds the balance between the Red and the Blue and stands on the threshold of life and death.