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.
Welcome to the second part of the Poulfur School Window story. In the last post, I covered the design and the construction of the top four panels in the upper section. I am now moving onto the lower four panels in the upper section. Once again I have started with the largest panel which contains most of the detail of the lighthouse.
I have managed to incorporate four plain bevels into the light section here. Three of which I have had to cut, these are the only pieces of clear glass in the whole installation. They appear white here due to the paper pattern underneath the glass. This can be a little disconcerting during construction but I am sure it will look very effective.
Here is a close up of the bevel pieces. I have used Spectrum Waterglass on either side to add to the effect of shining light. English Muffle and other textured glass were also used in the window to give it some ” sparkle ” if you will.
Here is a large image of the panel with the light coming through. You can now see the effects of the different glass textures. Its also worth noting how the light changes the colors of the glass
The Three Side Panels
With this panel completed, I then move onto the three smaller side panels. Here they are after cementing and you can see the different glass textures. Once the cement has dried they will receive a thorough cleaning before installation. With these eight panels finished this completes the top section of the window.
The Lower Window Section
Moving on to the bottom section of the window, I took a different approach by making the side panels first. Here are panels 9 and 10 in situ in the frame before the cementing process.
The central panel was quite important in the appearance of the window. This involved some tricky cuts so by doing it last I was able to line everything up.
Here is the central panel with the right-hand side panel. The gap between the two panels is 150mm which represents the frame, you can now see how everything lines up.
The left-hand side panel is shown here with the central panel. These four panels complete the third section of the window.
The Final Four Panels
Once again I have started with the outside panels. The right-hand side has one panel and the two go on the left.
I have added the flowers to introduce a bit more colour into the composition. The red and white represent the school sports colours. They are also the colours of the local Fethard-on-Sea GAA club St Mogues.
The Final Panel
Here is the central panel under construction. There are a lot of curves in this panel which made it very labour intensive.
Here is the panel completely cut and ready for soldering at all the joints, followed by cementing.
We now have all sixteen panels completed. Next up will be installing the frames and hoping everything lines up, fingers crossed.
This year we have a commission to supply and fit a stained glass window in the new Poulfur School building. This is under the % for art scheme which provides arts funding to new buildings. The installation will be above the entrance doors at the front of the building. It will be visible from both the first and ground floor levels. Space comprises an upper and lower section total size approx 12 ft high by 9 ft 3ins wide.
The design stage
After discussions with the Board of Management, we agreed upon the design above. This assumed a square-shaped window but this had changed after the installation of the frame. So we then had to incorporate the design into the available space. Armed with all the measurements we drafted a working drawing. A secondary interior frame would house the glass panels.
The Working Drawing
This proved to be a lengthy process and definitely worth taking some time over. With the working drawing complete to scale the full-size patterns were then prepared. We had all the measurements to construct the secondary frame. This would then gives us the template sizes for all individual panels.
At this point, I had a rough idea of the colors and glass types I was going to use. I figured it would be best to start at the top of the installation. It would then be easier to make any adjustments as I worked down the design. I prefer to work this way as it keeps everything looking fluid and fresh.
This was also the largest panel, the top section being 6 inches taller than the bottom section. Having completed this panel I then moved on to the side panels. I now had the benefit of being able to view these placed next to the large panel.
Right-Hand Side Panel
There is only one panel on the right-hand side so I have done this first. The frame between these two panels is 6 inches wide and I have made an allowance for this.
Left-Hand Side Panels
The inner panel on the left-hand side is about 2 inches thinner than the outside panel. There is also an allowance for two 6 inch frame pieces on this side of the window.
Left and Right-Hand Side Panels
Here are the three smaller panels together, two left and the one on the right. It’s also important to note that the glass will completely change color once lit from behind.
Two Left-Hand Panels
Here are the two left-hand panels with the light behind them spaced 6 inches apart to replicate the frame. As you can see from the previous photo some of the glass now looks clear. This is because it is very pale and when all the window is complete everything will blend together. This completes the top four panels.
This Hook Lighthouse Panel is a commission from a client in the United Kingdom. We live in a small fishing village called Slade, on the Hook Peninsula Co Wexford Ireland. As a result of this, we often receive commissions for the Hook Lighthouse. It is the oldest working lighthouse in the world and well worth a visit if you are in the sunny south-east of Ireland.
Brief Hook Lighthouse History
Built in the early 13th century by William Marshall, a Knights Templar to protect ships and their cargoes. A group of monks who lived on the peninsula helped with the construction before becoming the first keepers of the light. The building itself is a fine example of Irish medieval architecture. Standing four stories high with walls four meters thick, constructed from local limestone. Three rib vaulted chambers make up the lower section, the upper section housing the beacon. Wood, coal, whale oil and paraffin oil were all used as fuel for the light. Electricity finally became the power source in 1972 with light-sensitive switches. In 1996 the lighthouse went automatic and the last lightkeepers departed for good.
The Lighthouse Today
Five years later in 2001, the lighthouse opened to the public as a tourist attraction. The old keeper’s houses forming a cafe, gift shop and visitor centre. 2011 signalled the end of the sounding of the fog horn, a very sad day as I remember. Today the Hook Lighthouse is a major visitor attraction. You can take a guided tour and tread the 115 steps to the tower balcony which takes about 30 minutes. From here you can see the Wexford and Waterford coastlines stretching out for miles. It’s a tour I have done a few times and well worth the time. Allow a couple of hours at least to explore the whole site, it will be time well spent!