A touch of glass
At the Stained Glass Studio in Ipswich Danielle Hopkinson and Ian Davies create beautiful works of art for homes, schools, churches . . . in fact anywhere
Meet the artisans at the Stained Glass Studio in Ipswich
Danielle Hopkinson and Ian Davies create magic out of sunlight. As owners of the Stained Glass Studio near to Ipswich’s Stoke Bridge, they design, manufacture and install stained glass windows and fused glass sculptures of the most exquisite detail and beauty.
I must declare an interest here. Danielle and Ian produced the church window in the Hadleigh United Reformed Church in memory of my little daughter. In their precise use of patterning and colour they captured the essence of her love of dance and music – such surprising fluidity and movement in what is, essentially, a static medium. Danielle says every single piece of work they undertake is bespoke. “Each commission takes as long as is needed, there is no production line and no pattern book. One commission can be completed in two weeks while other more complex or larger scale can take months.” Danielle was planning to study fine art but instead switched to studying architectural glass at Swansea College of Art for three years. “I realised that I needed to do something with a more practical, solid basis. By chance I visited the glass department in Swansea, despite it being my home city, and was instantly hooked by the variety of processes and techniques taught.” She founded the studio in 1993 and four years later was joined by Ian, who studied classic car restoration at Colchester Institute for two years. He oversees the business’ restoration and installation work.
“We work for a variety of clients, individuals wanting to create something unique for their own home or wanting to restore their existing period stained glass. “But then we do a lot of work for churches, again both new commissions and restoration and local schools, where we have created many projects based directly from the children’s drawings. We also work with galleries, who exhibit our fused glass sculptures and stained glass panels and interior designers looking for a bespoke piece to fit in with their design project.”
The most challenging commission that they have worked on to date is the west window at St Pancras Church, Ipswich, whilst the most unusual was a pair of windows made for a house in Portugal. “We drove them all the way there and had to fit them before the sun got too hot,” Danielle recalls.
She outlines the stages involved in a delivering a commission. The first stage involves spending time getting to understand the client’s precise hopes and expectations for the commission.
“I start by producing a scale design and rework this until myself and the client are happy with the content, colour etc. The design is then drawn full size, after which we then select the most appropriate glass for the job in hand.”
The Stained Glass Studio mainly uses mouthblown glass, a traditional technique, dating back over two thousand years, that involves inflating molten glass into a bubble, or parison, which is then shaped while very hot. Danielle also prefers this type of material as it comes in a huge range of colours.
“Next we cut the glass, any paintwork is then added and fired. After that the finished pieces are leaded, cemented and polished ready for installing.” Which is where Ian’s precision skills come in to their own. Danielle and Ian are passionate advocates of glassmaking and have well-advanced plans to expand their offer to develop a creative hub that can be used by other glassmakers and indeed other traditional technique
artisans. “We hadn’t really planned our new venture until our neighbours of 21 years decided to sell the building. We are only three shops in a small block and as we occupy two already it seemed an opportunity not to be passed.
“The new building will not be connected to ours, we will use it ourselves to run our stained glass courses but we then hope to offer other courses in jewellery, painting, ceramics, printing etc as well as hiring the space out to other makers and artists to run their own classes as well as local charities, groups and individuals.”
Both Danielle and Ian hope that ‘Stoke Bridge Workshops’ will be a space where people can experience many disciplines, be inspired, be creative and learn new skills.
“We imagine the space will evolve as we begin to use it and more equipment will be added as needed,” Danielle concluded. It looks as if more magic will be conjured up from the Stained Glass Studio.
TOP LEFT: A favoutite pet imortalised in glassTOP RIGHT: Danielle and Ian at the Ipswich studioBOTTOM RIGHT:An intricate window panel dedicated to the Green ManBOTTOM LEFT:A design destined for a church settingFAR LEFT: The centrepiece for a glazed front door