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

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Paul Si­mon PHO­TOS: Sarah Lucy Brown

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

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