Thursday, 27 January 2011

Garden Design Ideas - Stained Glass

I recently visited stained glass artist Amanda Winfield of Abinger Stained Glass at her studio and asked her some questions. Here’s what she had to say.

LE: How many years have you been creating stained glass art?

AW: I have been working with glass for about 25 years. My art foundation year was at Medway College of Art & Design. I enjoyed all the disciplines I had studied so I searched for a course that would allow me to do a little bit of everything. I found a new mural design course at the Chelsea School of Art, London that combined everything I liked and was right up my street. Each term we did a different project, working on a large scale and to a brief. During the course I worked with stained glass and really loved it.

When I graduated I worked with a scenic artist called Tom McPhillips, who designs sets for the theatre, bands on tour, and TV, it was really varied and interesting. Tom taught me you could earn a living doing something you loved. He also taught me that you had to be professional, and deliver on time. I left when Tom moved his business to the USA.

I decided to see if I could get a job at Goddard & Gibbs in London- the largest stained glass studio in the country at that time. I walked in, had a chat with the works manager and started the following Monday. I thought I would be there for about six months and ended up staying 15 years!

When I started at Goddard and Gibbs on the bench, I was leading and soldering stained glass panels, learning the craft from people with 30 or 40 years experience. It was an exceptional training ground. My first job was leading and soldering the individual parts that comprised huge pieces like decorative glass domes for mosques in the Middle East. Over the next couple of years I worked my way round the all the different skills within the company. Eventually I became the stained glass works manager. I was managing big projects, which was interesting, but this position took me away from the hands-on creative process, which I love, so I decided to leave Goddard and Gibbs and set up my own business.

LE: Tell me about your clients.

AW: At Goddard & Gibbs I worked on very large-scale projects, from Westminster Abbey to Brunei. Now I carry out mostly domestic work, bespoke stained glass and decorative fused glass.

I also restore stained glass and have recently completed the restoration of 63 stained glass panels for a National Trust property in Kent called Knole House.

LE: Where are your customers based?

AW: My customers are generally local within Surrey, Sussex and South London, but this year I’ve sent panels to Cheshire, Scotland, Anglesey and Switzerland.

LE: Could you describe the process for commissioning a piece of glass art?

AW: When someone approaches me one of the first things I ask about is budget. People often have an unrealistic idea of how much it costs to make a bespoke piece. It’s important to establish whether the client realizes this before commissioning.

Then we have a chat about colour and form, their likes and dislikes. Often my customers don’t know what they want but can quickly tell me what they don’t like! I get them to have a good look at the Web site *insert link* and tell me if they see anything that they like. I then think about their requirements for a while before putting pen to paper for a design.

Thinking time is essential. On a large project I’ll probably spend at least a week getting ideas before I actually start the work. I prepare a watercolour design and send this to the client with the quote. If necessary, I make changes to this design until the client is happy. At this point I will I ask for a 50% deposit and then I make their glass.

LE: Tell me about your training courses.

AW: I run six or seven 1-day workshops every month and they get booked up well in advance. The fused glass course is £140 and the leaded stained glass course is £130.
I take three people at a time; this is a number I’ve found works well. Restricting the number to three means that everyone gets enough attention without me breathing down their neck.

It’s a very enjoyable day. Everyone is here for the same reason, and even if they’re complete strangers by 10:30am they’re all chatting away like old buddies over a cup of tea and biscuits.

The stained glass course covers the whole process of creating a piece of stained glass art - glass cutting, glass fusing, leading and soldering using the traditional gas soldering iron. At the end of the day everyone has a finished piece of glass art of his or her own design.

I had a brilliant marketing boost for the courses when I was featured on the television as part of Kirstie’s Homemade Home. In the first programme I helped Kirstie to make a small panel for her house in Devon and in the second series I helped to make a leaded front door panel.

LE: What do you think glass art brings to the garden?

AW: Stained glass art can add interest to any garden regardless of size or style. In small courtyard garden you can use glass to add depth and interest, you could employ mirrors - reflective surfaces work wonders in the small garden. Decorative glass pieces help give a garden year-round colour and interest and glass sculptures make great focal points.

I like working with the natural shapes of the landscape. The views out of my workshop are amazing. I walk my dog up on the downs and it fills me with inspiration. The sculptures I made in the summer of 2010 take their form from the rolling Surrey Hills. The fused glass is contained in a stainless steel channel that reflects the surrounding planting. The glass panels incorporate natural forms and the gaps between the panels give the illusion that the landscape is part of the sculpture.

LE: How durable is the glass outside?

AW: The glass sculptures we were discussing earlier are made from fused glass 6mm thick, fastened into a stainless steel frame which fixes the structure into the ground using a long, sturdy spike. Stained glass is a little more delicate and would need to be placed in areas where balls are unlikely to be flying about!

I made a sculpture for a competition a few years ago in fused glass and I really wanted to make sure it would not break in transit. So, I made a test piece and took a hammer to it. I had to whack it repeatedly to get anything to happen at all – the hammer just kept bouncing off.

LE: If I want to find out more about stained glass where can I go?

AW: Ely Cathedral has a Stained Glass Museum, and it’s a great place for looking at examples of traditional stained glass. Also there is a great department t the V&A in London.

LE: Do you have a recognizable style?

AW: I don’t ever want to be pigeonholed. I design in a whole variety of styles. This reflects my customer’s different tastes. Fused glass is very popular at the moment. I often use a combination of styles in my stained glass panels including some of my fused pieces.
I’m always trying new things, creating, getting excited. When I get inspired I want to come in here put some bits of glass together, stick something in the kiln and see what happens and by doing that you constantly improving and adding to your palette. I don’t want to sit still and say ‘right this is what I do’. I haven’t been bored for quite a few years now!

I wanted to stick with my roots, which is why I called my business Abinger Stained Glass. I think people are sometimes surprised when they see my Web site - it’s not what they’re expecting. You say the words ‘stained glass’ and people usually think of church windows, but I like to think I’m doing contemporary and unusual things with a traditional medieval medium.

You can see some examples of Amanda's work by visiting her Web site.

If you'd like help designing your garden, and maybe even including some decorative glass art please visit my Web site for all contact details.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Garden Design Ideas - Long, Narrow Garden, Woking, Surrey

Here's the first update on the build of this long, narrow garden in Woking, Surrey. Despite the foul weather the guys at Tranckle Landscapes are making progress, albeit slower than we had hoped. Week one was mostly clearing and setting out.

The narrow side access meant using a mini digger which was used to remove some scrubby Hazels, a large overgrown Laurel, and a Holly which was not particularly attractive and definitely in the way. The left-hand boundary fence was also cleared of some Ivy infested old stumps to make way for our lovely new native hedge.

The curved shapes that comprise the borders, lawns and steps in the new garden have their springing points outside the garden boundaries. So, in order to mark the garden out accurately, Greg set up a string line from the house up the centre of the garden and used offsets to plot the curves.

The curved shapes of the borders were marked out onto the garden using Sprayline - a nifty aerosol of usually yellow paint that sprays upside down.

Even though the relentless rain has made the site horribly muddy, we're still making progress. Well, when I say 'we', I think you all know that I mean Greg, Matt and Jamie - I'm safely tucked away in the warm and dry most of the time.

The footings for the utility/compost area screening were dug. I think of this screen as an oversized, vertical Venetian blind. It's going to be made of railway sleepers on their ends and placed at an angle around the curve with a slight gap in between each one.

The sub-base for the patio was excavated.

I've used railway sleepers to create retaining walls throughout the garden. The main reason for this was to keep the costs down, but it also meets the client's requirement to keep the scheme as natural as possible without too much hard landscaping. This explains the huge pile of new Pine railway sleepers that arrived on site earlier this week.

Jamie & Matt are in the process of sawing up the railway sleepers into the various lengths needed to create step risers and retaining walls.

Here's a link to the first post about this long, narrow garden.

If you need help designing your garden, please visit my Web site for all contact details.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Garden Design Ideas - Long, Narrow Garden, Woking, Surrey

The build for this long, narrow garden in Woking, Surrey has just started and it demonstrates some of the methods you can use to deal with a long, narrow sites.

This is an unusually large plot for a suburban garden and the clients were not using the whole garden. They wanted a plan that would enable them to use more of the garden and make it more interesting. The brief was to keep the scheme soft and as natural as possible with quite a lot of lawn. They also wanted space to grow plenty of plants. They were open to ideas and wanted a scheme that was a little different.

These first four shots show the route up the garden:-

And this is the route back down the garden:-

Here is the plan I designed for the new garden:-

I have used sweeping curves to give the garden movement, draw the eye away from the boundaries, and reduce the tunnel effect of the long, narrow site. I have introduced some height near the house by using some chunky, free-standing wooden arches. There is a self-binding gravel pathway under the arches and through the planting on either side. There is plenty of planting as the client is a keen gardener and has the time and inclination to be outside looking after the plants.

There is a level change of around 1 metre from the top to the bottom of the garden, rising away from the house. To address this, I have designed some curved turf steps with risers constructed from railway sleepers cut and set on end around the curves. Some of the borders will be raised and their retaining walls will also be made from railway sleepers cut and set on end. The reason for using railway sleepers is to keep the garden within a reasonable budget and also avoid using brick or blocks to construct the risers which would not have fitted with the clients’ requirements for a natural looking garden.

There is a secondary seating area half way up the garden, sited in an area which catches the evening sun. The idea is to give the clients a reason for going up the garden and enable them to use more of the garden. The seating area will be screened with a curved hornbeam hedge. I like using hornbeam for screening – it is fast growing, drought tolerant, loved by birds and easy to keep clipped into a tight shape. The purpose of the hedge is to form a green wall at the rear of the seating area and I want it to be cut into a formal shape so that it helps to emphasise the curves of the garden.

The border by the left-hand boundary fence at the rear of the garden will be planted with a mixed native hedgerow. I intend to include Acer Campestre, Euynymus Europaeus, Rosa Canina, Prunus spinosa, Cratageus monogyna, Rosa Rugosa, and Viburnum Opulus.

At the bottom of the garden is a utility area for recycling, composting, and general storage. This area is bounded by railway sleepers set on end at a height of 1.8m with a gap in between each sleeper. This screen will look like a chunky Venetian blind on it’s side. There is also an archway through to this area.

One way of giving interest to a long, narrow garden is to split the space into distinct areas. I had to give the impression of different rooms without erecting hard barriers. I created the illusion of rooms within the garden by dividing the space into three distinct areas and giving each one a different feeling. The area adjoining the house is for dining and sitting and has a more formal feeling with a paved terrace. The simple arches will lead people around this area into a slightly less formal area with the smaller seating area as it's focal point. The third area will be given a more relaxed feeling with loose, native planting and some new trees making a pleasant walk to the storage area with it's unusual screen.

If you’d like some more garden design ideas for long narrow gardens have a look at this link.

If you’d like help designing your garden please visit my Web site for all contact details.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Garden Design Ideas - Solution for a Small Shallow Garden

This garden in Bracknell, Berkshire is typical of those found on many of the newer estates all over the UK. It is a small plot and the addition of a conservatory has further reduced the size of the garden. It is wide and shallow and overlooked on all sides.

The clients asked for a garden that made the most of the space and took account of boggy areas caused by a nearby stream. They wanted a more secluded area to sit and eat, plus other areas that could be used to make the most of the sunny spots in the garden. The garden has to be especially easy to maintain due to lack of time and the main gardener having recently sustained a back injury.

The new design had to address the slope which runs across the width of the garden. There are existing retaining walls which are to be replaced and a shed which will be removed and replaced with less intrusive storage spaces. The clients have a dog which will use the garden, but also needs to be kept out of the garden when necessary.

The scheme I have designed is drawn on the diagonal to give the garden the appearance of more depth and space. I have rounded the corners of the seating area and water feature area which re-focuses the eye inside the garden rather than allowing it to register only the neighbouring properties. This also gives the garden a greater sense of enclosure and privacy.

I have created a new main seating area in the least overlooked corner of the garden and covered this with a pergola for extra privacy. As this new terrace is in a part of the garden which loses the sun at mid-day it also answers the clients’ requirement for a shaded seating area.

There is also a terrace outside the conservatory doors with a built in barbeque area which will have peripheral cupboards topped with stone to make worktops. A much smaller terrace on the other side of the conservatory is perfect for breakfast on a sunny morning.

All the borders are raised to a height of 450mm which means they can be used as seats. Raised borders also make planting easier to maintain and the plants start off nearly half a metre higher than if planted at ground level and will therefore start providing screening and interest much more quickly.

There is a wall mounted water feature which will comprise a simple steel blade from which water will cascade into a ground level reservoir. This type of water feature is easy to maintain as it requires only periodic topping up of the reservoir. It is also a good idea to remove and clean the filter from the pump occasionally – a very simple task requiring a screwdriver and some soapy water.

Immediately outside the utility room and back door of the property there will be a bike storage shed screened from the main garden by a trellis panel. This area is closed off from the garden with a gate so that the dog can be confined when necessary. Further tool storage will be built into the side of the house in the side passageway from the drive into the back garden.

I'll post updates when construction starts later this year. In the meantime if you would like some garden design ideas for your garden please visit my Web site and feel free to give me a call or drop me an email.