After conservation at York Glaziers Trust was complete, plans to display the newly acquired artworks in the Museum’s gallery gathered apace. Due to the unusual three-dimensional nature of these artworks, all of them required specially-constructed display frames.
Neil Wilton, of IWF Ltd, who have made bespoke frames and lighting systems for stained glass at a number of venues including the Victoria & Albert Museum and York Minster, designed and manufactured these frames. Having visited the artworks in York Glaziers Trust conservation studio, discussed the structure and support required to hold them in place, and taken accurate measurements, the bespoke frames were made and finished with a powder-coated black matt paint. Neil delivered the frames to the Stained Glass Museum on a hot summer day, and explained how the fixings held the panels securely, and how they should be installed.
Above: Neil Wilton delivering the frames to the Museum and explaining how they should be installed.
Approval from Ely Cathedral Fabric Advisory Committee (FAC) was needed to install the frames, as the installation involved some drilling into the concrete screed floor. This was noisy but speedy work. The frames were firmly bolted to the floor by employees from Messenger Construction Ltd, who, it turned out, had also helped install the Museum’s display cases when the Museum relocated to the south triforium in 1999. To ensure maximum stability and prevent any movement, the freestanding frames were then fixed to the display cabinets at either side with cables at the top.
The frame for St Anthony, which was being installed at a height of more than 2.5m above the display cabinets, required a scaffold tower to put in place.
Above: The installation of the frames
In just 2 hours one Saturday morning all the frames were in place and ready to hold the artworks. Once we had taken some photographs and admired them, they were safely cordoned off to prevent damage to either the frames or visitors!
Installing the artworks
In December 2015 Glaziers from M C Lead Glaziers, who were on-site installing recently conserved windows in the south transept of Ely Cathedral, kindly agreed to install both Fragment and St Anthony. The weighty Fragment, which uses much sheet lead, required two strong people to carry and fit it. We erected the scaffold tower again to install St Anthony and the team of three glaziers expertly handled and fitted the panel into its frames.
The big reveal came when we switched the lights on – and, for the first time in over forty years, we could see the depth and range of blue tones in the panel. Given the panel is plated in several areas, and heavily painted, it required a strong LED light and we were delighted with the results.
Above: 1. Detail of St Anthony showing plating on reverse of the panel 2. St Anthony llluminated
The frames for Priest and St Sebastian were both originally designed so that they could be seen from the back as well as the front. Once the panels had been installed it was clear that there was not enough natural light to really appreciate them as stained glass artworks. So we decided to go ahead and install LED lights behind them, which meant the reverse of the artworks was no longer entirely visible, but that the artworks could be properly appreciated from the front as intended.
Above: Priest and St Sebastian installed without LED lighting
After some careful design adaptations LED panels were incorporated into the frames and the back-lighting has enabled a much greater appreciation of Clarke’s artworks. St Sebastian was the most tricky of all to install as it required three people – one to carefully hold the panel in place, while the other two carefully fitted the glass display case around it (without leaving any fingerprints!)
In their new frames, the panels provide a refreshing and stimulating addition to the gallery. Since the display was completed in January 2016, the artworks and their frames have attracted much attention from visitors. and we are sure that they will continue to do so!