Tell us a bit about yourself – have you always been a maker? What else have you done?
I’ve always been a maker. While studying sculpture at Sheffield Hallam University I decided I wanted to do a placement. After I was pressed by my tutor, I blurted out that I wanted to work in stained glass. “I don’t know where that came from!“ I said. “From you,” he replied, and that was the beginning.
I’ve always taught alongside my artistic practice, and also worked with adults with special needs and prisoners at Wandsworth Prison.
Can you tell us how you became an artist/designer/maker?
I can trace the start of my love of art and architecture back to my childhood, particularly trips to museums and art galleries in London on a Sunday afternoon. Also, every time I stayed with my grandma in the Wirral she would take me over on the ferry to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, even though she was a Methodist, as she knew I loved it. A visit to Chartres Cathedral while on a family holiday also made a great impression on me.
When I started my art training, I would spend the summers visiting my dad in Paris. This is where I fell in love with Art Nouveau, the Post Impressionists, and the Impressionists. I’m especially drawn to the work of Van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne, Rodin and Renoir as well as the architecture of Hector Guimard and Le Corbusier.
How would you describe your work, and where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m a stained glass artist who specialises in traditional glass painting, a technique I use in work that I’ve designed myself as well as when I’m restoring old glass.
My designs range from the abstract to depictions of the natural world. My glass often combines strong compositions with a Japanese aesthetic. I try to show that stained glass is an exciting and versatile medium that has historical origins but also has modern potential.
I draw inspiration from Japanese arts and crafts, Wiener Werkstätte, Arts and Crafts Movement, Scandinavian design, Robert Kushner, Maroko Machiko, Clare Young, Emile Galle and Lalique amongst others. Like many creatives, I find Pinterest invaluable for bringing together inspirational images, and you find me at https://www.pinterest.co.uk/zoeangleglass/
Where do you work? What is your workspace like?
My studio is part of the West London Art Factory in Acton. It’s made up of 22 multidisciplinary artist’s studios and includes artists, photographers, musicians, architectural model makers, textile designers, upholsters and wedding dress designers, all under one roof. It’s a great creative environment that has led to collaborations.
I share a studio with Tom Spencer of West London Stained Glass, another stained glass artist. It was Tom’s mother who originally taught me how to make stained glass.
Our studio is a real workshop with heavy benches, purpose-built glass racks, a large lightbox and my pride and joy, my glass kiln. Hanging up around the studio are tools specific to the craft – for example grozing pliers, fid and lead knives.
The best thing about the studio is that it’s bathed in tons of natural light. This is absolutely crucial when selecting sheets of coloured glass to ensure that the colour balance in a window is correct.
Please come and see the studio for yourself when we open our doors as part of Ealing BEAT on 11,12,18 & 19th September 2021 – Venue 5 map area 1.
What’s on your workbench/easel/work table at the moment?
I’m currently completing a new church window for St Johns Church in Epping. It’s a St Francis window made up of a two-light window with seven tracery windows. Benjamin Finn won the commission and I’ve been working with him and Tim Cunliffe to produce this window. I’ve learnt so much from Tim and Ben, as we all have our own techniques and style that we have developed over the years.
Do you belong to any other creative communities in addition to Chiswick Creatives? How do they contribute to your practice?
For the last 30 years I’ve been a member of the British Society of Master Glass Painters. It’s been a part of my development as a stained glass artist. I’ve been to lectures, discussion days and walking tours. Most importantly it’s a chance to catch up with friends. This is something I’ve really missed over the last 17 months.
The society also puts on exhibitions, so, when I’m designing specifically for one of those, it gives me a chance to experiment and be more spontaneous, to push my work in new directions.
This year is the society’s centenary and there’s currently an online exhibition which they are hoping to tour later on in the year. My panel theme, pictured above, is fireworks as a symbol of celebration. You can take a tour through the other 100 stained panels here – they’re well worth a look.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
The most satisfying part of what I do is the collaboration with homeowners – leading them through the commissioning process – from developing the design, choosing the glass, and making the window, through to fitting the stained glass, and ending up with a piece that has personal significance.
This is what I did with Jackie for her property by the sea. The design was of a beach and the sea plus a shoal of mackerel and a crab, plus beautiful fronds of seaweed. I came up with the idea of fitting the panel in an alcove, artificially lit from behind.
“It is really a thing of joy. We always light it up in the evenings and it has received so many comments. It’s something different, made only for us and it really draws your eye as you come into the room. We are really happy with it.” Jackie G
What is the best thing to have happened to your business to date?
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been building up a successful working relationship with Sashed Ltd, a company that produces exceptionally high-quality bespoke timber window frames and doors. Their team are knowledgeable, professional, friendly, and easy to work with. It’s also great that they are based in Park Royal, a stone’s throw from my studio.
Contact Zoe and see more of her work at www.angleglass.co.uk.
Images: © Angle Glass