Monday, 21 November 2011

Working with 'raw' archives

I have recently spent some time looking through the papers of Sax Shaw, whose family kindly allowed me access. Shaw became Artistic Director of Dovecot n the early 1950s, having designed two tapestries The Lion and the Oak (1948) and Fighting Cocks (1950). Though Sax's involvement with the studio was relatively short-lived, he is of particular interest to me due to his dual interest in stained glass and tapestry.
Sax Shaw in his studio, tapestry loom and stained glass design in the background  © Shaw Family 
Despite their different textures, tapestry and stained glass have much in common. Both make use of concentrated colour and, unlike painting or drawing, involve a process in which the object's design is an inherent part of the object, built up piece by piece. The difference, of course, is that the glass which makes up a coloured window often has decoration applied to it as well. I am also interested in the unique atmospheric effects which tapestry and stained glass have on their locations. A tapestry, dependent on its size, can alter the acoustics of the room it inhabits. Stained glass goes even further than this - with sunlight or artificial light shining through, we the viewer can experience the fall of light on our bodies.
Window designed by Sax Shaw, Abbey Church, Kilwinning
 Having spent 4 days at the home of Shaw's widow, I now have the task of working out what to do next. The privileged time I spent with the uncatalogued 'archive' has resulted in pages and pages of notes, and hundreds of record photographs. What to do with it all?! So I have began the slow process of sorting, reading and extracting, and I'll be sure to blog when I've come up with some ideas.

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