This article was first published in the Contemporary Glass Society magazine, Glass Network. Amber Hiscott is an architectural stained glass artist who makes large public commissions all over the world.

Here she writes about the importance of the environment – or context – when designing and making an architectural stained glass window.

‘Razor Shells’, Amber Hiscott. 2008 Callaghan Square, Cardiff. Photo David Pearl.

C O N T E X T

conditions, circumstances, situation, state of affairs, background, environment, text, frame of reference, contextual relationship, subject, theme, topic

By Amber Hiscott

Working to commission is all about context. My work is a blend of careful consideration and theatrical improvisation. I use whatever is given as a springboard, i.e. the architectural context, the situation, the nature and function of the building or public space, the people who use it and the ghosts that haunt it.

I shall take the ghosts first. It’s important to take the time to hangout with them, to go to the site, to do the research with a palpable curiosity. Just being there repays the effort in both tangible and intangible ways. Local libraries, archives and old people are great repositories of knowledge about the history of the architecture and its community. Drawing, photographing, talking to people and listening to them, is a way of continuing my education. The Internet is useful but it can never replace the personal line of inquiry.

‘Colourfall’, Amber Hiscott. 2004 Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Centre, Cardiff. Photo: David Pearl

If the commission is for a museum of Egyptian artefacts, then I will go to Egypt; if it’s a country house which is still a building site, then I will camp in the garden over the bank holiday. Anything for a quiet communion with the spirit of place.

In the end, I throw the research over my shoulder, like salt for luck and just do the artwork. Usually this means painting very freely and intuitively with watercolours, but whatever is the appropriate medium seems to come to hand….

In the end the work may be entirely abstract, so why bother with the prelims, why not cut straight to the chase? Because it is a way of anchoring the attention and keeping the response fresh and surprising, for the artist as well as the viewer.

‘Taking a Line for a Walk Around Wales’, Amber Hiscott. 2004 Wales Millennium. Photo: David Pearl

All this is obviously a lot easier if you are already chosen, or at least short-listed and know you are guaranteed a reasonable fee.

The careful consideration and analysis of the site is the supporting structure behind this fluttering imagination. If the architecture is not yet built, the floor plans and elevations have to be pored over. If it is an external site, the accessibility and safety issues loom large. For an architectural glass artist, understanding the natural and artificial light relationships is crucial to working intelligently with the space.

There is one more layer of course, my own identity. No matter how much I eschew the notion of developing a style, hate to repeat myself and come at each commission anew – and this is a Schaffrathian statement – there is always the incontrovertible fact, that after several decades of working, I have become identical with the mark that I make.

Amber Hiscott is an architectural glass artist and painter working in Wales. She has completed numerous public art commissions in the UK. You can see more of her work at: www.amberhiscott.com.

See more stained glass artwork here.

The Contemporary Glass Society is the UK’s foremost organisation for supporting established glass artists, for supporting up-and-coming makers and for promoting contemporary glass in the wider art world. You can find out what it can do for you here.

Milly FrancesStained Glass ImagesContemporary Stained GlassThis article was first published in the Contemporary Glass Society magazine, Glass Network. Amber Hiscott is an architectural stained glass artist who makes large public commissions all over the world. Here she writes about the importance of the environment - or context - when designing and making an architectural stained...Create beautiful things. I'll show you how.
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