The Positive Symbolism of the Peacock – A Wedding Commission

The peacock bowl

Few months ago, I had the great pleasure of designing and realising a very special wedding gift: a Peacock Bowl. I started by creating about 11 different designs (see some examples below); after few hard decisions, the customer set on one design.

A design for the peacock plate
A design for the peacock plate
Another design for the peacock plate
Another design for the peacock plate

Before taking this commission I was wondering about what the peacock represents in the symbolistic tradition, iconography, and across cultures; so I searched for more information about positive meanings associated with the peacock.

In my searches, I discovered that this beautiful bird is a symbol of dignity and grace. In the Chinese and Buddhist cultures, the peacock represents freedom and wisdom; in other cultures it is also thought as a symbol of eternal life.
Beyond these, the peacock is also the symbol of beauty, good luck, compassion and kindness. The peacock is also often used to represent wholeness, patience and nurturing.

Detail of the selected design for the peacock plate
Detail of the selected design for the peacock plate
Detail of the design of the feathers
Detail of the design of the feathers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In some cultures this elegant bird is seen as bringing the message that there are no limits to our dreams and anything is possible if we believe and trust the universe.

I think the peacock resembles a very powerful mix of symbolism and beauty and it offers a powerful message to the newly wedded couple.

Details of the feathers in the peacock plate
Details of the feathers in the peacock plate
Details of the feathers in the peacock plate
Details of the feathers in the peacock plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the selected design I create a kiln fused glass bowl, which was further engraved to emphasise the texture of the feathers, along with the wishes from the client that commissioned the gift.

The peacock plate
The peacock plate

“The Visitation” at The Cloisters

The stained glass window “The Visitation” at the Metropolitan Museum/Cloisters (New York City) captures a scene from the life of the Virgin Mary described in the Gospel of Luke. I saw this window in my recent travel to the US last September and it particularly fascinated me. This is the first of a number of blog posts I will dedicate to my 2016 US trip.

 

The Visitation @ Met Cloisters; full window.
The Visitation @ Met Cloisters; full window.

If you are not familiar with the story of the visitation, here is a brief version, before we get to look at the window. After the Annunciation, Mary leaves Nazareth and goes to the city of Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth. In the Christian symbolism, Mary’s visit represents her intention to bring the divine grace to Elizabeth and her unborn son. At that time, in fact, both women were pregnant; Mary carried Jesus and Elizabeth was pregnant with  John the Baptist.

I just love the climate of this stained glass window: there is something warm in it.  The window transpires compassion, calm and joy. The women are holding their hands and touching the arms, witnessing the strong friendship between Mary and Elizabeth, along with their familiarity and fondness.

The Visitation @ Met Cloisters; detail of faces and hands.
The Visitation @ Met Cloisters; detail of faces and hands.

The faces of Mary and Elizabeth are very delicately painted. Their traits are brushed up with only simple lines but they still are very beautifully executed. The chance in pressure of the brush when the paint was applied to the glass produced lines of different width, creating a sense of movement and dimension. This may give you the feeling that this window is rather “modern”, but instead it dates back to the late medieval time (1444).

The stained glass originally was installed at the Carmelite Church in Boppard-am-Rhein (Germany); now the window is conserved at The Met Cloisters in New York City. The window is also important in the stained glass history because with the use of an angular style in the drapery folds and the juxtaposition of colours, the author initiated a new glass painting style in the Middle Rhine region.

Sunrises and Sunsets in Fraser Island

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Inspired by a recent visit to Fraser Island and by some magnificent sunsets and sunrises I had the luck to see, I created a new glass and metal sculpture. The sculpture is a cube and each edge represents one of those wonderful sunrises and sunsets in Fraser. Inside the cube there is a LED light I designed. In addition to the main large cube, I have also created some smaller cubes, all in glass.

cube

The glass sculpture is currently on display and available for purchase at Sydney’s Glass Artists’ Gallery.

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Restoration of Leadlight in Paddington

This leadlight really needed urgent attention. As you see from the two pictures below, the lead had cracked and bowed, and some of the glass pieces have gone out of the lead came. The leadlight was installed on a door in a cute worker cottage in Paddington; being on a door, the leadlight was subject to frequent movement.

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After removing the leadlight, I completely rebuilt the panel, using new lead and replacing the broken glass. The panel was then reinstalled in place with the help of John from JayBee Woodworks, who restored the timber trims. You can see the great result in the photo below.

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Coasters for Zena’s 12th birthday

Ready for shipping!

Zena, the beloved pharaoh hound of my dearest friend Maureen Cahill, owner of the Glass Artists’ Gallery in Glebe (Australia’s foremost contemporary glass gallery), has turned twelve. To celebrate Maureen commissioned me to design and create some celebratory glass coasters for Zena to give to her personal friends.

The coasters to celebrate Zena's 12th birthday.
The coasters to celebrate Zena’s 12th birthday.

I created two designs – one with Zena’s profile and the other picturing Zena in her famous sphinx pose (see Zena’s picture below, taken few years ago). The glass coasters have been created with coloured glass powders and fused in the kiln. Afterwards, the coasters have been engraved to highlight Zena’s profile and Zena’s name has been sandblasted on the glass.

Zena in her famous regal pose; image by Jill Carter-Hansen.
Zena in her famous regal pose; image by Jill Carter-Hansen.

And below, my studio assistant Darra gives his seal of approval on the consignment.

Darra gives his seal of approval.
Darra gives his seal of approval.

Queensland Resource Council Awards

I was pleased to be contacted by the Queensland Resources Council to created a series of gifts for their Resources Awards for Women awards, ahead of the QRC/WIMARQ International Women’s Day Breakfast event. The commission of 6 bowls was based on my kiln-formed open plates series (plates from this series were also commissioned by the Queensland Government in 2014 for gifting some G20 representatives, see my previous blog post). The new plates for this award had to capture the colours of Queensland’s soil and geological resources, as well as violet, the colours symbols of the suffragettes movement.

One of the plates created for the Queensland Resources Council.
One of the plates created for the Queensland Resources Council.

The breakfast was held on May 8, 2016 when the trophies were presented to all the winners (congratulations from Glass Artistry). In the photo gallery below you can see few more images of some of the plates and the winners.

Leadlight restoration at Our Lady of Victories is now finished!

We have now finished the restoration of the leadlight windows at Our Lady of Victories in Bowen Hills, Queensland. The heritage-listed church was hit by the violent thunderstorm that devastated many Brisbane suburbs in November 2014. The image below show some of the damages done to the church’s window as we photographed in our original survey.

Broken windows at Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD)
Broken windows at Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD)
Damaged leadlight panel, Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Damaged leadlight panel, Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Damaged semicircle leadlight, Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Damaged semicircle leadlight (fanlight), Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The restoration involved repairing more than 80 windows. Of these, most were removed from their original timber casements for reconstruction, while attempting to salvage as much original glass as possible, and match the new glass with the original one. Those with minor damage and no structural concern to the lead were repaired on-site.

The matching was not easy: the windows were originally crafted by the RS Exton Studios, a painters and decorators trade who used to have their warehouse in Brisbane CBD and closed their stained glass business in 1958. The windows of the church date back probably to 1924. The original glass is not produced anymore, and the production processes and colours have since then changed. We managed to recoup some old glass through some stock we had acquired from older stained glass businesses and some demolition yards. However, for a large quantity of glass, we had to commission a custom manufacturing to some glass companies in the US to be able to match the original glass as close as possible. David from Hartley and Williams was of great help in coordinating the sourcing of this glass.

Rebuilding one of the main leadlight panels
Rebuilding one of the main leadlight panels
On the way to remove leadlights from the tower.
On the way to remove leadlights from the tower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main damages were concentrated on the south side of the church; however a number of windows throughout the floors of the church’s tower were also damaged; their restoration involved the use of a crane to remove the windows, replace them with temporary perspex (transparent acrylic sheets), and after few weeks replace the restored windows in place.

On-site reparations at Our Ladies of Victories.
On-site reparations at Our Ladies of Victories.
When we remove the panels, we place temporary perspex to keep the weather out and the sunlight in.
When we remove the panels, we place temporary perspex to keep the weather out and the sunlight in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An example of a poor reparation, carried out in the past, using silicone and cardboard to fill the gap left from a broken glass
An example of a poor reparation, carried out in the past, using silicone and cardboard to fill the gap left from a broken glass.

Through the restoration process it became evident that the windows had undergone several reparations in the past, not all carried up to the highest standard. Some glass was replaced with glass that was of completely different tonalities when compared with the original glass, compromising the original history of the windows. Other glass was installed using glues or silicones: this practice is not just an eyesore, but it also puts under serious risks the integrity of the lead that gives the structure to the windows.

 

Previous repairs have not put much attention in maintaining the original characteristics of the windows: here you can see a clear colour miss-match for one of the diamond shaped glass from a panel in the church's tower.
Previous repairs have not put much attention in maintaining the original characteristics of the windows: here you can see a clear colour miss-match for one of the diamond shaped glass from a panel in the church’s tower.
Another patchwork of colours due to previous poor quality repairs. It is always difficult to match colours that are not produced anymore, but the differences in colours of the glass used for previous reparations is way too big.
Another patchwork of colours due to previous poor quality repairs. It is always difficult to match colours that are not produced anymore, but the differences in colours of the glass used for previous reparations is way too big.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Damaged semicircle leadlight, Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Damaged semicircle from Our Ladies of Victories in Bowen Hills (QLD).
One of the restored large semicircle leadlight (fanlight).
One of the restored large semicircle leadlight (fanlight).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The damaged windows are now all restored to their original appearance. The larger windows are composed from two strips of four top-hinged hoppers, mostly filled with green diamond mullioned glass. The green colour of the windows is to commemorate the armed forces of World War I. Above these panels is placed a semi circular window glazed with a leadlight panel depicting a rising sun, which, continuing with the commemoration of the WWI armed forces, recalls the symbol of the First Australian Imperial Force AIF.

Some of the restored leadlight windows at Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Some of the restored leadlight windows at Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Our Lady of Victories, in Bowen Hills (QLD).
Our Lady of Victories, in Bowen Hills (QLD).
The church's cross, which was also damaged in the 2014 hail storm, is now back on the top of the tower.
The church’s cross, which was also damaged in the 2014 hail storm, is now back on the top of the tower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeronga’s Heritage Queenslander Restoration

I have recently completed the restoration of 6 leadlight panels from a heritage Queenslander home in Yeronga, Brisbane, built in 1924. The panels have a lovely floral motif and intense purple and aquamarine colours. While the panels were not damaged in the 2014 Brisbane hailstorm that heavily damaged a lot of heritage stained glass windows in the area, they did suffer the harsh Queensland sun and the lead was crumbling down.

One of the leadlight panel before restoration. The lead is crumbling.
One of the leadlight panel before restoration. The lead is crumbling.
Detail of one leadlight panel showing bowing in correspondence of the flower motif.
Detail of one leadlight panel showing bowing in correspondence of the flower motif.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly, the same motif was present in other leadlight windows around the house’s veranda: these windows were in immaculate conditions because soon after building, the veranda was enclosed to add more indoor space to the house.

Restored leadlight panels and timber frame casements installed in place at the heritage-listed Yeronga residence.
Restored leadlight panels and timber frame casements installed in place at the heritage-listed Yeronga residence.
The restored windows shining through the night.
The restored windows shining through the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the leadlight panel during the rebuilding phase.
One of the leadlight panel during the rebuilding phase.

 

 

 

The restoration of these windows  was carried out in 6 weeks and all the panels were rebuilt from scratch maintaining the same width and type of lead cames. Few glass pieces were broken but fortunately we were able to match the original glass with some heritage glass we had in stock in Glass Artistry’s studio, thus maintaining the original design: at Glass Artistry, we always strive to matching the glass that needs replacement as close as possible.

The restored leadlight windows installed in the Yeronga house.
The restored leadlight windows installed in the Yeronga house.

Along with the restored panels, we provided to the owners a full report detailing the status of the windows. We also organised for the restoration of the original timber frames of the leadlight windows. Once we removed the leadlight, my collaborator John Britnell from JayBee Woodworks took all silky oak frames apart, brought them back to bare timber, reconstructed the damaged portion by inserting matching silky oak. John then stained the internal part of frames by carefully recreating the original stained and also recoated the external part of the frames.

John from JayBee Woodworks completing the installation of a leadlight panel into its timber frame casement.
John from JayBee Woodworks completing the installation of a leadlight panel into its timber frame casement.
John and I applying the last touches to the restored timber frames with the installed leadlights.
John and I applying the last touches to the restored timber frames with the installed leadlights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The owners of the restored leadlight panels sent me a very kind email of appreciation of the restoration works:

Hi Magda,
As you know, both Shirley and I are extremely happy with the service you have provided in the restoration of our windows.  You showed the utmost care, from understanding our needs at the beginning of the project, through to the planning and execution of the work.
Your skill and artistry has added a great deal of heritage value to our home, and we would not hesitate to recommend your services.
So, thank you again for your professionalism and for the obvious passion you have for your craft, you really looked after us.
All the best for the future, and our sincerest gratitude for all your efforts.
Warm regards,
Luke Harrison
 
The restored leadlight panels ready for installation.
The restored leadlight panels ready for installation.

Harry Clarke, in Glasgow

In my recent trip to Europe, I visited Glasgow, Scotland. I used to live and work in Glasgow few years ago, and it was there that I specialised in art glass design and worked in great glass projects for the Verrier Glass Studio, including the creation of leadlight windows and the restoration of heritage stained glass in Glasgow.

Harry Clarke's stained glass "The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin", at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Museum, Scotland.
Harry Clarke’s stained glass “The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin”, at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum, Scotland.
Harry Clarke's stained glass window "Ascension", at St Stephen Cathedral in Brisbane, Queensland.
Harry Clarke’s stained glass window “Ascension”, at St Stephen Cathedral in Brisbane, Queensland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was to my great joy that a beautiful stained glass window by Irish artist Harry Clarke was on display at the Kelvingrove museum. Harry Clarke (17 March 1889 – 6 January 1931) was a proficient stained glass artist and he created more than 130 windows which are characterised by rich colours (especially deep blues), fine drawings and the integration of the lead cames themselves into the design of the stained glass window (which remind the heavy lines in his black&white book illustrations). An example of Clarke’s stained glass windows is also in the St Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral in Brisbane (known as the “Ascension” or “Mayne” window, because in memory of Isaac and William Mayne). This window was commissioned to Clarke and imported from Ireland in the early part of the twentieth century (about 1923).

The window in Glasgow is titled “The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin” and, as the Brisbane’w window, it also was realised in 1923, as recorded along with Clarke’s signature in the bottom right corner of the rightmost panel (see image). The window is made up of 20 panels and was originally installed in the Convent Chapel in the Teacher Training College in Dowanhill Glasgow, Scotland, but has now been removed and is assembled into an exhibition frame in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum. The window was commissioned by Sister Mary of St Wilfrid of The Sisters of Notre Dame and Principal of the Teacher Training College.

Detail of the faces of the Virgin.
Detail of the faces of the Virgin.
Detail of two praying people.
Detail of two praying people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The window contains all the motifs that make Clarke’s work famous around the word: the deep blue colours of the Virgin’s dress, the delicate drawings of the faces of the people pictured in the window (see the details in the images above), and the inclusion of the lead as integral part of the design, for example dictating the flow of the Virgin’s dress and the drip of water in the central panel.

Detail from Harry Clarke's “The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin” at The Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, Scotland.
Detail from Harry Clarke’s “The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin” at The Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, Scotland.
Harry Clarke's signature on the window, with date.
Harry Clarke’s signature on the window, with date.