I have been privileged, on occasions, to produce pieces for schools. Working with children is always rewarding and combining a commission for stained glass with involving the pupils in the design process is a great way to give them an understanding of the processes and a connection with the finished piece and its architectural location.
One case in point is Larkrise School in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. Larkrise is a purpose built special school for children with Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD). We were invited to create a two-light stained glass window for the entrance to the school, both as a memorial to a pupil who had sadly passed away and to bring coloured light and a focal point to the entrance of the school. The theme was ‘rainbows’, which the pupil had loved and ‘the elements’ – earth, air, fire and water. For the term following our initial meeting the pupils were set the task to make illustrations based on the elements and these were then passed onto me for use in the finished design. Their paintings, drawings and collages make up a large part of the finished piece but they are hidden amongst the changing colours of the rainbow so that the pupils have to look carefully at the window to find their own work.
Another example of pupil collaboration is a set of fused and painted glass leaves for a wishing tree for the foyer of Castle School in Thornbury, Gloucestershire. The approach to this was a bit different, as I conducted an afternoon workshop at the school, with an explanation of the processes and then gave the students templates to design their own leaf with their aspirations, giving advice and suggestions where required or asked for. I then went away and created the leaves to their designs, drilled a hole in each and attached ties for attaching to the tree. Again, having had a large input into the finished work, the students have an important attachment to the artwork.