Meet the stained glass artist at New Brewery Arts

In the third of New Brewery Arts's meet the maker series, SoGlos speaks to stained glass artist, Daniella Wilson-Dunne, about what drew her to this ancient art form and how she goes about making contemporary stained glass pieces in her Cirencester studio.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
Daniella Wilson-Dunne is a stained glass artist based at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester who specialises in restoring antique pieces and creating contemporary new designs.

Having found her craft entirely by accident while working as an apprentice, Daniella Wilson-Dunne has been creating beautiful stained glass for the last 35 years, from restoring precious antiques to creating contemporary new designs, all in her studio at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester.

SoGlos caught up with her to get an insight into her creative process and why stained glass isn't just for churches. 

Tell us a bit about your craft.

I am an artist working with light and colour to produce traditionally hand-crafted stained glass windows, lampshades and decorative panels.

How did you get started?

I have always been creative, making from an early age — drawing, painting and sewing.

My grandmother was an extraordinarily talented craftswoman, laying her hand to everything from upholstery and lacemaking to gold and silversmithing, to name a few things, and she encouraged me hugely to ‘try everything’.

What attracted you to stained glass as an art form?

Stained glass was a complete accident for me. I was working as a junior in a graphic design office and hating every moment, when my father saw an apprenticeship in stained glass being offered in a local paper.

I imagined it to be produced in a dark room by wizened old men, so was delighted to find myself in a bright and airy barn surrounded by jewel like colours. It felt like the perfect fit for me, combining my loves of art and crafting.

Many people may associate stained glass with medieval churches, especially in Gloucestershire! Is contemporary stained glass very different? 

The basic principles and techniques of making stained glass have not really changed much over the centuries. The idea to tell a story, capture a moment or create atmosphere are still at the heart, however, designs have changed hugely.

Contemporary style has many facets and could be constructed as blocks and swirls of bright colour; monochromatic designs; or pictures made up of lots of colourless, differently textured glass, with subjects from fantastical figures and creatures to pet portraits.

One of your specialisms is restoring antique stained-glass panels, how do you do this?

The restoration of a window is a slow process, started with making a rubbing of the piece to be repaired. This rubbing then becomes your pattern to work to.

The old lead is stripped out and the glass thoroughly cleaned, any broken pieces can then be recut using glass that matches as closely as possible to the original. Sometimes the broken pieces may have faces or details that have been painted on them. I would recut the glass for these areas and carefully repaint the new pieces to match. Sometimes this could take several layers of paint, firing in my kiln between the layers, making them permanent.

The window can then be re-leaded using the rubbing as a guide. The leads are soldered together at the joins, putty is pushed between the lead and glass to waterproof and strengthen it and then with a clean up and final polish, it can be reinstalled to last another 100 to 150 years.

Where do you draw your inspiration from when creating a new piece from scratch?

I work predominantly to commission, therefore I am often guided by my clients as to what they would like in their window or door.

However, when I am just making to suit myself, I particularly like creating pieces with British wildlife as the focus, or figurative panels of saints or characters from stories and myths.

Do you have a favourite piece you’ve worked on recently?

My favourite pieces recently were a huge kite shaped abstract panel for a private house in Stratford-upon-Avon; and a window made up of six panels featuring the ancient wisteria in the reception area of The Old Bell in Malmesbury.

Most of my new work is in private buildings, so not really visible to the general public unless it’s a front door panel.

When can people see you at work at New Brewery Arts?

Most weeks Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, although I also teach a stained glass course at New Brewery Arts on Wednesdays during term time.

Call (01285) 644430 for appointments.

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