This May Bush garden sculpture is a commission piece. Made for presentation to a retiring teacher in a local school who kept the tradition alive during his tenure.
A little about the piece
The upper section consists of a large piece of live edge ash timber, sourced from a local sawmill in New Ross. This acts as a frame for the five leaded stained glass panels and sits on a polished concrete base. It stands 1.6 metres high (5′ 3″) and 500 mm (20″) wide, with the base measuring 300 mm x 495 mm (12″ x 19″). The base has a 15 mm hole in each corner enabling the structure to be fixed into the ground. These garden sculptures are unique one-off pieces and are available to order, prices range between €400 to €1200.
The May Bush Custom
The custom of decorating a bush for May Day in Ireland goes right back to Pagan times. One of the many rituals celebrating fertility, rebirth and the start of summer taking place on ” Beltane“. This was the Celtic festival of fire held on 1st May between the Spring equinox and Summer solstice.
It is still widespread in County Wexford where it even has its own Facebook page. On May Day morning the children would get a small Hawthorn bush in blossom. Upon this, they would tie ribbons, tinsel and coloured paper. Old Christmas decorations and even painted eggshells from Easter.
They would then parade the festooned bush around the village, collecting pennies on the way. In the end, they would burn the bush and spend their pennies.
In this Round Clematis Tutorial 1, I will cover the next four steps. They mainly cover the background on the left-hand side of the panel.
Round Clematis Tutorial Step 3
You can never be quite sure how a color scheme is going to turn out. So I have started this panel by cutting two flowers, some background and leaves. This is the color scheme in my mind at this point so laying it out will help future glass choices. I have settled on a Youghiogheny ” Laburnham ” glass for the flower centres. This may yet change as the panel develops. I find it’s best to keep ideas fluid in the early stages.
Continuing to build up the picture I have now added more of the background glass. This is a Youghiogheny stipple glass, code NO 57 ” Neodymium Pink with Peach Gold and Bubblegum. The background glass has a rather nice natural effect which I am trying to work into the panel. This means cutting the pieces very carefully using a band-saw.
Now with more background, flowers and leaves are added. Flower glass is Youghiogheny code N367 ” Neodymium Pink, Dark Purple and Blue”. Leaves are also Youghiogheny code 1431 ” Lime and Emerald Green “. You can now see the natural effect starting to appear in the background. I have used this to create some interest and balance the flowers on the opposite side.
I have taken the background glass down the left-hand side of the panel. I am now thinking of introducing some pink fracture and streamer glass on the right-hand side. This is to create more interest and texture behind the lower flowers. I would also like to introduce some water effect along the bottom of the panel. For this, I will use a ripple effect glass.
This Large Lantern was a commission piece for a girl’s second-level school in Co Waterford Ireland. The school was a new building replacing a much older construction and did not have a chapel. The board had designated a room within the school to use as a place for prayer and contemplation. This is where the lantern would provide a focal point and create a pastoral atmosphere.
The Design Elements
A lantern this large wasn’t something I had made before but I would always tackle anything that comes along. That to me is the whole point of doing commission work. It takes you out of your comfort zone and stretches your skillset. The first idea I had was for a cross design which I would place on opposite sides. As for the other two sides, one was to house an opening for a candle, so I created a simple frame top and bottom. Leaving the final panel in which I placed the oak leaf. This was one of the school’s symbols and worked well with the other elements so completed the design.
I made cardboard templates of the four sides and top and bottom sections and drew out my designs. Using 1/4 inch lead came I put together the two cross-sections and the oak leaf section. I then cut out the top and bottom pieces and attached 1/4 inch “U” came to the sides of all the sections. All the lead came was then cleaned with “0000” steel wool before soldering. The red and amber are WaterGlass, the blue glass on the top is Rough Rolled and the oak leaf is a piece of Kokomo. A small brass finial finishes off the top.
Irises at Slade Upper section showing the flower detail
About the Panel
I loved making this panel right from the initial idea through to applying the final patina. It started off as a bold sketch, I wanted to get movement into the flowers and leaves. At the same time, I had to leave room for the background glass to shine through. This is what I find with stained glass design, the composition is so important to the finished piece. I like doing pieces with lots of flowers in them but too many can be as bad as too few. It’s also important to leave space for the background glass to achieve a balanced look.
The size of this panel is 34.5 inches x 23 inches (880mm x 590mm)
which at the time was the largest copper foil panel I had attempted. Framed with 12mm zinc came which adds strength all around the perimeter it is quite robust.
A Little Piece of History
There are no known drawings for Van Gogh’s original “Irises painting as he considered it more of a study than a masterpiece. It was the first work he produced during his stay at the Saint Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Remy, France. He painted four studies of Irises in all out of a total of 130 artworks. The other famous picture in this collection is “Starry Night”. Both pictures were exhibited in the Salon des Independants in September of that year. Unfortunately the final year before Van Gogh’s death.
This is the full-size Irises at Slade panel. The inspiration for this piece came from Vincent Van Gogh’s series of Iris paintings. These were produced at the Saint Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in France. The “Glowing Irises” sold by Sotheby’s in New York for $53.9 million in 1987. Which was, at the time the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction. Alan Bond an Australian businessman was the purchaser. It later transpired that unfortunately, he didn’t have enough money to pay for it. Two years later it was re-sold to the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles where it remains to this day.
Irises at Slade Background Story
No such drama around my panel I’m happy to say. In fact, I still own it and am hoping to find a place for it one day. I had seen a few stained-glass copies of Van Gogh’s painting on various websites and online platforms. I didn’t want to do a straight copy, it was more the color and composition that I thought would work well.
So I set about drawing and believe me this took some time. The thing with stained glass design is you have to think of every line and shape. This involves moving various elements until all the pieces work in harmony. If you get it wrong, and I have done in the past the medium is so unforgiving. The light shines through your work and highlights every imperfection. On a panel this size 34.5 x 23 inches I wanted everything perfectly aligned. I had done previous studies of Irises and they always work well so for me this was the big one.
This is my Two Cockatoos panel in Uroboros Art Glass, size is 36 inches x 26 inches. It is a copy of a mosaic panel entitled ” Two Sulpher Crested Cockatoos ” by Tiffany Studios New York. A similar panel commissioned by Helen Gould and titled “Mosaic of Cockatoos” was the original. Both of these panels are by the artist ” Joseph Briggs” who joined Tiffany in 1893. He worked his way up through the company to head first the mosaics department and finally the studios. His story is a fascinating read in itself and he was a major part of the company which closed its doors in 1932.
Two Sulpher Crested Cockatoos
The panel above is in the Haworth Gallery Accrington in the United Kingdom. They hold the largest collection of original Tiffany Glass outside the USA. When the studios closed down in 1932 Joseph Briggs had the sad task of winding up the company and its contents. So he arranged a large shipment of treasures to his native Lancashire. This collection remained in storage until the 1970s after which it found it’s way to the Haworth Gallery. It remains there to this day on permanent display where it is accessible to the viewing public.
Mr Joseph Briggs
This post would not be complete without a nod to this man. Mr Joseph Briggs left Lancashire for America in 1891 at the age of 17. He spent the first couple of years touring with a” Wild West Show” before joining Tiffany Studios. Here he rose through the ranks to become head of the Mosaic Department. Hats off to you sir for producing such beautiful art.