Stained glass | 15-08-2023

Phoenix glass sculpture rises from the landscape

Emma Butler-Cole Aiken’s monumental stained glass sculpture is aptly named ‘Phoenix’, as it is a reworking and resurrection of one she created during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

The new work evolved from the piece named ‘Sails’, which was a simple, triangular structure she was able to make herself from components ordered online. Sails was shown at the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2022 on the Glass Garden stand organised by fellow Contemporary Glass Society member, Gabrielle Argent.

However, Emma was disappointed by how it looked at that event. Despite its three-metre height, the vibrant colours looked dull as the stand was located in a shadowy area.

Later, she had the notion that the whole thing would work much better upside down – and preferably curvy!

A maquette made of paper and wire produced a surprising, bird-like form. It was a Phoenix rising from the ashes of disappointment.

Emma applied for, and received, a Creative Scotland Individual Award, which enabled her to employ expert assistance. James Maybury understood the vision and created an elegant, curved structure into which the original, stained glass sections were fitted.

James met the challenge of creating something sufficiently strong to hold the weight of the glass, but which could also be broken down into smaller components for economical shipping.

Interestingly, when Emma originally made Sails, she arranged it on the glass easel to see both sides of it in relation to the other as she was working. This meant that, when set up, one half of the sculpture would have the glass paint on the inside and the other on the outside. Usually, stained glass is painted on the inside surface to protect paint from the weather. Despite this, when making Sails, it was more important for her to work this way to see what she was doing.

Detail of ‘Phoenix’ showing the beauty of the stained glass.

Now, as Phoenix, all the paint is on an inside surface – as if it was always meant to be that way.

Phoenix is currently on show in Belgium at The Enchanted Garden sculpture exhibition, until 15 October 2023.

Image: The new ‘Phoenix’ sculpture by Emma Butler-Cole Aiken.

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