Meet the Maker - Stuart Low

Monday, November 17, 2014
We are delighted to share our next Meet the Maker interview.  Stained glass designer, Stuart Low. Stuart's work takes him to some wonderful buildings around the country and we are super happy he also part of our Made in Britain team.  We caught up with him recently to find out more about the man behind the glass...
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do?
My name is Stuart Low, I live in Bristol with my wife Ruth and my two daughters Iris and Rosa. I design and make architectural and stained glass to commission for public projects and people's homes, as well as making smaller pieces for shops and galleries. In recent years I've completed glass commissions for the Haematology and Oncology unit at the BRI, St Michael's and All Angels Church in Windmill Hill, Bristol and Salisbury Children's Hospital, amongst others. 
Apart from creating things, what else do you do? 
I like growing things, especially if they can be eaten so have been an allotment holder at Alderman Moors in Bristol for ten years, and given the chance would spend a great deal more of my time there (not in a deck chair or string vest I hasten to add). I like swimming and use my local pool on Dean Lane with all it's character and quirky charm on a weekly basis. Nature, animals and insects have always fascinated me so I would have to say that being outdoors is important to me and perhaps a good antidote to long hours in the studio. Camping, walks, pond dipping and rock pooling with my children are some of my favourite things. 

When did you know you were an artist/maker? 
I think my desire to make and create has always been there and goes right back to childhood. 

What do you love most about working in your chosen discipline? 
Stained glass can be very rewarding to work with. It's interesting to work with a craft that has a 1000 year old history where most of the processes have changed very little to this day. Having the opportunity to make large work that can affect a space or building can be exciting. I used over 25 square meters of coloured glass for Salisbury Children's Hospital and have recently transformed the west end of the Holy Ghost Church in Exmouth with three new glowing windows. Having said that, I've always found as much pleasure in the intimacy of making smaller windows for people's homes or galleries. 
Where does you inspiration come from? 
I enjoy using my phone to store things I notice. Colour combinations, shapes, textures, unusual or surprising and incidental things. My children's drawings often inspire me. 
Describe your studio or workspace? 
I have two spaces. One is a small garden workshop with two light boxes and my kiln, it backs on to the railway line and is great in the summer, but cups of tea in the sun can be a distraction. My other and most used space is at BV Studios. It's the best studio I've had. A white, light, versatile space, with lots of height for storage racks and shelves. I have a wall clad in pin boards which I tend to cover in drawings I've made and things that currently interesting me. The largest wall is used for rotating paintings I'm working on and drawings for windows I'm making. There is a large work bench for day to day tasks with pull out trays underneath for storing the cut pieces of glass for windows in progress. I've built new light boxes which are used when I'm glass cutting or laying out colours for glass painting. BV Studios are directly opposite Windmill Hill City Farm which is nice for the odd lunch break in the cafe or a walk around the allotments. 

If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman who would it be? 
There are writings by a twelfth-century German monk who called himself Theophilus. An artist and metalworker himself, he described how medieval glass makers made their glass and windows, so being a fly on the wall of the studios that glazed buildings like Chartres or Canterbury would be fascinating. 

How would you describe your creative process? 
Designs for my stained glass often begin with paper, paint and glue. Drawing, over painting, cutting and pasting in a crude way if it helps to get things going. I like to use mono printing to design my smaller glass screen prints. The process of making a window is long, buts it's the painting of the glass that really interests me the most. It allows control of the light passing through the glass. It creates texture and marks which are sometimes intentional, sometimes unexpected. The coloured pieces are waxed up on a glass easel, washed with a dark later of vitreous paint, which upon drying is worked into by degrees, removing it with fingers, sticks, and fine needles, worn brushes or scrubs, all of which gradually help to reveal the glow of colour beneath. I liken it to breathing life into the window. 
What handmade possession do you most cherish? 
My wedding ring, made by an old friend, David Bowles, he died last years, he was one of the kindest, wisest and most inspiring people I have ever met. 

What do you do when you are stuck in a creative rut? 
Talking with Ruth, who has a fantastic ability to see things differently and for the better, usually helps. Like many artists and crafts people, taking time off from making is difficult, but at times essential. A walk on one of the south coast beaches always helps my mind and soul. 

Where would you like to be in ten years? 
Having a studio space, designing, painting and making are the things that engage and drive me the most, so I would hope to continue along similar lines. I'm enjoying working with shops and galleries like Made in Britain more and more these days, so continuing to build these relationships would make me very happy.

Thank you Stuart, the work you create is mind blowing!  You can also discover Stuart's glass creations, and perhaps even meet the man himself, in our Made in Britain shop.

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