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Stained Glass Ceiling 2003-4

Artist: Brian Addison

This project – to make a glazed ceiling for the main entrance to the building - follows on from the impetus of the earlier stained glass projects, and is intended to work together with the ceramics and carved wood projects also to be located in the entrance area. The aim was to create a welcoming and uplifting environment at the entry of the building, demonstrative of the creative ability of people using The Grange – in particular the elders who will have participated in making these accomplished pieces of work.


Theme

The theme for the ceiling was initiated during the summer of 2002 shortly after the completion of work for the bar doors, with a couple of discussion and design sessions involving all those who had previously worked on the stained glass, and any others interested in contributing.


The discussion raised a number of possible ideasand dispensed with some others. There had been an idea of using the ceiling to give a map-like reference to the area – history and industry – with the Tyne as a pictorial theme traversing the design. Through discussion it was felt that the notions of local history and industry had been dealt with sufficiently in the previous projects and that in this case the consensus was for something more decorative and more colourful. The idea of the Tyne as a river of life, or as representing the ongoing passage of time and of age and renewal, remained interesting, but the idea of focussing in any way on old age was not – people felt that they did not want an image which suggested that life began and ended in a final way but rather that it was a constant process of renewal and moving forward (particularly in the sense that there was so much more to learn and do!).


The “Seasons”

The idea of representing the four seasons as an eternal cycle quite quickly became the dominant idea, with a river-like expanse of stars in the heavens both as a feature to traverse the design and also to suggest the passage of time on a grander scale. At the outset there was also the idea of showing a climate of mutual friendliness and caring through the imagery of linked hands, but as the image for the design developed over time it became difficult to see how this could be incorporated in a compositional sense and so was finally discarded.


The Project

The preliminary discussions also involved a simple collage design activity to begin visualising the ideas at full size. This was useful for helping to simplify the overall conception into a succinct idea and also to give a sense of the actual scale of the work. The initial simple design was then drawn up by me as an accurate full size plan allowing for the ongoing integration of further imagery and detail as the work began and further discussion helped to clarify the detail required.


I drew up the cloud or river-like feature across the centre of the design sufficiently to allow work to begin straight away, and take some of the pressure off people to determine the exact and complete form of the work at the outset. (In previous projects having a general idea for the project at the beginning and developing the particulars through discussion and creative thinking during the course of making it seems to have worked well, and to be less intimidating and perhaps less tedious than having to have a completely resolved design idea from the beginning which then just has to be carried out.) Additional and particular details of imagery were added through a process of drawing, photocopy and collage to the original design as each part was required.

The project benefited from having fairly reliable and consistent group of people, some of whom had sufficient ability and previous experience to work with a degree of independence; this meant that unlike the first project, several panels could be worked on simultaneously and I was free to either oversee generally or work one-to-one/two with people who could not work independently or who might need more assistance than could be expected of one of the other participants. Having several panels underway also meant that individuals could spend more time on an aspect of the process they preferred rather than having to do everything.


Generally, it was possible to work in pairs or individually with not too much difficulty, although there were some occasions when ‘ownership’ caused tensions which needed to be managed carefully, particularly where a participant had been away and returned to find their work continued or completed by another. (Previously this had arisen less because usually only one or two panels had been worked on at a time). As the project developed, it became easier to manage these difficulties as people got to know each other, and as I was able to manage the flow of work to some extent to avoid issues arising.


Conclusion

The project, as with the others, has been a large and challenging undertaking; the design has not been simplified to make it easy, but rather has been as simple or as complicated as it needed to be; as a result, although at times it has been difficult, people have felt a real sense of achievement and that they have made a worthwhile and significant work of art of long lasting benefit to their community.  Although my knowledge and practical skills have enabled the work to be made, the members of the group know that it is their work and that although it was at times difficult the result is worth it and something to be proud of.

Brian Addison

See more
Stained Glass Ceiling photographs here