ARTIST IN FOCUS: SASHA WARD

We loved the idea of commissioning art for our Cotswold interior design projects. Britain has a rich history of engaging artists to produce work for public buildings and private houses. Think of period properties and you think of all the gifted artisans who worked on those properties. Their creativity gave those buildings soul.

We’ve been following Sasha’s career for a while, on Twitter and Instagram. We were so excited to ask Sasha to design and produce some stained glass panels. They were to fill some internal windows for a recent Cotswold interior design project. Stained glass is not just a piece of two dimensional art, the way light reflects through it means that it’s constantly changing with the movement of the sun. We didn’t ahve sunlight but we added backlighting to the piece to create the idea that the windows were on an external wall and that you were looking into a garden space. Last week we visited Sasha’s studio in Wiltshire to find out more about her design process, inspiration and journey as an artist.

WHO IS SASHA WARD?

Sasha Ward is an incredible stained glass artist who specialises in painting, sandblasting and firing glass panels. Working from her studio ,she has completed over 80 commissions for old and new buildings all over the British Isles. From Milbank House Library for the House of Lords to Dorset County Hospital, Sasha’s work has featured in private and public buildings up and down the country, including our Cotswold interior design projects. Sasha looks at the natural world around her and creates a modern response to it. She is continuing and yet developing the arts and crafts tradition.

“You can find the sort of art that interests me all around us, in the buildings and streets that we inhabit. My career has been influenced by the study of decorative arts from medieval to modern times, but with a desire to do things in my own way, using new techniques, patterns and imagery. In Kelmscott Manor and the work of William Morris & Co. I found the perfect expression of many of my interests and, while in residence, developed three new designs inspired by the Manor, its inhabitants and the surrounding landscape.”
― Sasha Ward
Cotswold Interior Design

Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU HAD YOUR STUDIO?

Since 1999, so coming on 20 years. Before then, when I didn’t have such a big kiln, they were all made in a factory. Once I had my kiln there were so many things I could make myself.

Q: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE WORK THAT YOU DO?

A lot of stained glass work is painted. People often ask me what’s the difference between stained glass and painted glass, and I would say what I do is a modern version of stained glass. Some glass might be pre-coloured, then I use stains and traditional glass paints applied through stencils and fired in the kiln, and for other pieces, I may use transparent enamels and several layers of firing. Throughout the ages, people have done that. With some of Matisse’s windows, the colour of the glass wasn’t right, so he would use a yellow stain.

Q: HOW DID YOU BECOME AN ARTIST?

I started saying when I was a teenager that I want to do stained glass, I thought it was unusual. I had postcards of cathedrals, I liked architecture and I used to make patchwork. So when I went to art school I chose a school that taught stained glass. I spent a lot of time in the stained glass room and read all the books there were about stained glass. I did my Foundation in 1977, during the punk era in London, and I was at the Royal College from 1983 to 1985 and did my Fine Art degree at Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham. On my Fine Art degree, you could choose whichever materials you wanted, so I used a lot of glass and did a lot of sewing.

Q: WHAT ART INFLUENCES YOU?

I’ve been influenced by the study of decorative arts from medieval to modern times. I particularly admire the work of Henry Haig, a classic British stained glass artist. You can see a whole wall of his work at Clifton Cathedral in Bristol.

Q: WHAT’S YOUR RECURRING SUBJECT MATTER?

Sometimes I think, why am I doing flowers again? Why do people want flowers all the time? When people ask for something you can very easily think you know best, but actually what I want to do is make beautiful decorative things, often things from the natural world.

Q: HOW WOULD YOU LIKE PEOPLE TO VIEW YOUR WORK?

I’ve had people say to me that I’m not making enough of a statement and that I’m not grabbing people’s attention enough. But I found that’s just not what I want to do. When I went to Sweden there was some beautiful coloured glass in churches that were very much a part of the architecture. Rather than stark against the buildings, they sit back and compliment the surroundings. That’s one of the things I’d like my work to do.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR NEXT CHALLENGE?

I want to do a church window. Because it’s what I look at all the time and I feel a lot of them are ugly. The School of Stained Glass that was very popular when I was studying was from Germany in the 70s and it was all very angular and simple, featuring lots of lead lines which makes it feel very rigid. When I visit churches, these 70s and 80s windows look so ugly to me. And then you look at early 20th Century and the windows were very gentle, often floral and curvy. Often the patterned ones are really nice. They sit back rather than shout at you, and I’d like to do something like that.

Q: WHAT ABOUT A TECHICAL CHALLENGE?

A couple of months ago somebody contacted me, whose father was a stained glass artist and he made dalle de verre. It’s a style from the 50s-60s where they started making windows using these slabs of glass which they broke up and then set in concrete and resin. You can see the work in Prinknash Abbey and Buckfast Abbey. So I’m going to learn a new technique and try to do something similar. It’s already very similar to the cobble pieces that I design.

Q: WHAT DID THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING AN ARTIST IN RESIDENCE AT KELMSCOTT MEAN TO YOU?

I think I got the job because I was so enthusiastic. When I saw it, I thought, “that’s for me”. Being there felt like stepping back in time. They also wanted you to talk to the visitors, which I was more than happy to do. Having people who were interested to talk to me was great. I had my most impressive commissions up on the wall behind me, and this way they’d see that I didn’t to Pre-raphaelite or Morrisey styles. Instead, they could see that modern artists still do the same thing, we look at the world and use things to make your our own pictures.

WANT TO EXPLORE OUR COTSWOLD INTERIOR DESIGN PROJECTS?

If you are ready to start your Cotswold interior design journey then why not get in touch for an informal chat.

We offer an Interior Design Service that can take care of every aspect of your interiors project. If you’re considering a new build or home renovation and think we could help, we would love to hear from you!

Call us on 01386 258007 or email us at info@helenbainbridge.co.uk to discuss your project.