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Inside the artist’s studio There is something unexpected hiding behind the traditional Georgian front of a townhouse in Bristol, where the tranquil status quo of neighbouring Clifton residences is shattered by a resurgence of bohemian burlesque. A grand entrance hall flaunts 1920s period wallpaper, peacocks with draping plumage wind their way up four floors; decidedly faded and wonderfully shabby. Ruth Margrove and photographer Alice Hendy welcome us to the home and studio of Rosalind Grimshaw, one of Europe’s best-known glass artists.

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RWA magazine Winter 2012

Rosalind Grimshaw FMGP

Opened in 1996, the walls of Grimshaw’s studio on the ground floor of the house are lined with pigeon holes stuffed with glass in every colour, shade and thickness. Long work benches are scattered with soldering irons and other tools, and pieces of glass terrazzi waiting to be fitted into a work of art. A spiral staircase leads to a mezzanine floor, where 40 years of design work is stored. At every point the visitor is greeted with reminders of great works from the glory days of stained glass, from Chartres Cathedral to York Minster. Rosalind Grimshaw was elected as a fellow of the British Society of Master Glass Painters in 1997, after a lifetime of contribution to the Arts and Craft movement in stained glass. She studied fine art at Brighton, Ravensbourne and Hornsey before settling in Bristol, training in stained glass with Joseph Bell & Son in 1975. She has worked in the theatre and in education, in the UK and Africa. However, her main passion has always been for glass. Living and working in the same house for over 40 years, she has completed over 300 commissions for public and private collections in Bristol, across the UK and in Paris.

The Creation Window at Chester Cathedral, completed in 2001 with Patrick Costeloe, is perhaps Grimshaw’s greatest accomplishment. The design of the six-light window, charting the six days of creation from Genesis, incorporates aspects of the past, present and future, in line with the Benedictine tradition. For Grimshaw, the natural world is an ongoing and evolving creation, therefore she chose to include imagery of flowing river deltas, thunder storms and African grass planes as the cradle of human civilisation. Six panels across the lower aspect of the window add a modern twist to the story, with some contemporary wonders of science such as a foetal ultrasound, a view from the Hubble space telescope and Grimshaw’s own brain scan. All aspects of the Creation Window are uniquely captured in the vivid Technicolor of the glass, evolving by the hour as the light changes with the passing sun. When I visited Chester, a woman working in the cathedral café, on hearing that I knew the artist, demanded that I call her to express her delight at viewing the window every day. I think Ros was greatly touched by this gesture.

The studio itself leads out to a conservatory, which maximises the light through which to showcase some of Grimshaw’s extraordinary talent. An assortment of window panels glow in the low evening light, capturing the movement of dancers, or the peace of her slumbering children, now grown. Iridescent mirrored windows and mirrors crowned with glass mosaic hang in every corner. On an easel rests a painting of Jimmy Hendrix with a spray painted gold halo, above which hangs a life size puppet on stilts. Nothing is ordered or straightforward here, reflecting the artist’s mind and style of work – experimental and daring. Grimshaw’s recent commissions have been for private collections and therefore on a smaller scale. She has been experimenting with fused glass, where compatible glass is layered, before it is fired in the kiln at up to 900°c. Sometimes, she has been known to layer glass with copper which when fired turns the most exquisite turquoise. The latest window to have emerged from the studio is called Salome – Dance of the Seven Veils depicting an abstract couple dancing.

ART Magazine - Winter 2012  

Issue 10 of the Royal West of England Academy's quarterly publication. Featuring interviews and articles, artists include: Reigning Cats and...

ART Magazine - Winter 2012  

Issue 10 of the Royal West of England Academy's quarterly publication. Featuring interviews and articles, artists include: Reigning Cats and...

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