Collaborating with: Scottish Glass Studio
Over the past 20 years, a consultant whose expertise we have called upon often and whose work has been at the centre of many of our heritage & conservation projects, is Mark Bamborough of Scottish Glass Studio.
During this time, Mark has provided an education for our practice in the areas of stained-glass conservation and historic glass types. He is a stained-glass consultant to various heritage organisations and architectural practices and an accredited (ACR) conservator with Icon (Institute of Conservation).
Mark’s philosophical and innovative approach to glass restoration and design aligns with our own process when working on heritage and conservation projects: being sensitive to what roots the past in the present. We aim to then interpret that connection within any redevelopment.
Describe what you make/do?
I am a glass painter, a stained-glass craftsperson and a professionally and academically trained conservator. I would describe myself as a conservator artist as I both conserve/restore historic stained glass and design new stained-glass windows. As a conservator/restorer, I work both within the built heritage and museum environments. As a new work artist, I have designed and made new stained-glass windows primarily for places of worship. Moreover, as one of the last people to receive a crafts apprenticeship from those trained in the early twentieth- century workshop tradition, supplemented by conservation training at the York Glaziers’ Trust in the 1980s and specialist training in glass painting from one of England best post war artists Harry Stammers, I feel a responsibility to pass on what I have learnt. Therefore, training and education has been important to me throughout my career.
Tell us how you came to this point in your creative work/career?
I came to Glasgow in 1999 to marry Sally Rush, an art historian specialising in the history of Scottish glass painting. Prior to this I worked for twenty years as a member of the York Glaziers Trust at York Minster and then as head of stained-glass conservation at Lincoln Cathedral where I worked exclusively on medieval stained glass. Therefore, the move to Scotland presented a variety of new conservation projects and creative challenges. This relocation also coincided with a fundamental change in my philosophical approach to conservation brought about by a sabbatical with the British Council in Mumbai in India. Here, I trained local artists and craftspeople rich in traditional skills to conserve British stained glass in a colonial heritage building, the Rajabai Clock Tower Mumbai University, designed and completed by George Gilbert Scott in 1878. This experience led me to see that in the long-term conservation is as much about the retention of traditional craft skills as it is about conserving the object itself. Also, by working with a culture sensitive to an objects spiritual value I realised that conservation should not just be about preserving material integrity.
Where do you go to source new ideas and inspiration for project briefs?
This is the most difficult question to answer but, on reflection, I draw inspiration from three sources. Firstly, my conservation practice which is grounded in the philosophical approaches I was introduced to as a student in architectural conservation. I still return to the notes I took during lectures given by some of the most creative thinkers. Secondly, projects such as the one in Mumbai which reminds me of the primary significance of our inherited craft traditions, and that good conservation practice should merely gild the craft lily. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I draw inspiration from the objects themselves. A particularly inspirational moment was when, during the first lockdown in 2020, I was working alone surrounded by medieval windows from the Burrell Collection and the ghosts of the medieval craftsmen who made them had a tangible presence. For me, therefore, responding to a project brief is not just about problem solving but also about discovering and revealing an object’s story and what it meant to those who made, viewed, or used it.
How important is collaboration to you and your work?
Although I can work in quite a solitary way, I value collaboration as it allows me to push the boundaries of conventional approaches to conservation. At Rosslyn Chapel, from 2010 to 2013, the return of lost painted imagery to the glazing scheme became the subject of just such a collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and the Ion Beam Centre at the University of Surrey. Using particle induced X-ray emissions technology called PIXE, an XRF technique, a two-dimensional true scale image was created which mapped the ‘finger prints’ of the remaining metallic oxides below the surface of the glass. This PIXE generated image, printed onto a secondary pane, was then used to return legibility to the original pane. Although still at an early stage of development, this lost image research has implications for the future of stained-glass conservation where the retrieval of lost imagery is desirable.
Moreover, collaborating with new-work artists and realising their vision in a material foreign to their normal working practice is an exciting opportunity for stained glass artists such as me to rethink the possibilities of the medium. In 2020, I and Scottish Glass Studios, were commissioned to make a new stained-glass window for Rosslyn Chapel designed by the Pop artist Joe Tilson, with Page/Park overseeing the project. This proved to be one of the most technically challenging projects of my professional career. Realising Joe’s vision and retaining the presence of his artist’s hand involved constant discussion and the adjustment of conventional techniques and processes.
What can’t you live without in your studio?
This is an easy question to answer: my oyster knife and hog’s hair English stippler painting brush. An ‘oyster knife’ was originally used by oystermen to open shells and was adopted as a stained-glass craft tool for smoothing the crinkling of lead calmes. I made mine while still an apprentice and have used it all my working life. My hog’s hair English stippler painting brush is particularly precious as it was used by two of York’s best glass painters, John Knowles and Harry Stammers. As the brush was a gift from Harry when I completed my training with him, it represents for me a continuity of glass painting skills within the city of York, which reaches back into the Middle Ages, and roots me within this tradition.
Which project have you worked on that you learned the most from?
Although I undertake all aspects of stained-glass conservation, I regard myself a painter first. It will come as no surprise, therefore, that the project which I feel I learnt the most from was a painting commission copying selected celebrated Renaissance painted roundels to complete a private collection of original examples in Saint Thereota’s Chapel at Fordell Castle in Fife (rebuilt in 1650). My contribution was to complete the Renaissance roundel glazing scheme across the windows in the southwest elevation, in addition to creating another layer of Catholic orthodoxy by painting Russian icons for the west window (the wife of the client was Russian). The replication of such iconic Renaissance models proved to be one of the most challenging painting commissions I have undertaken. In trialling and ‘failing’ many times, even with the assistance of contemporary glass painting manuals, the project still took me two years to complete. Two years, however, which transformed the way I now approach replicating Renaissance glass painting, one of the most complex periods with regard to glass painting techniques.
Is there a project past, present or future you wish you had worked on?
The one project I envy others working on is the fire damaged stained glass in Notre-Dame Cathedral. As probably one of the last remaining conservators (not retired) who worked on York Minster’s fire damaged south transept rose window in 1984 I feel an affinity with the Notre-Dame team.
Mark Bambrough Icon ACR, MA Advanced Architectural Conservation, University of York, FBSMGP
Scottish Glass Centre’s new website is currently under construction. Mark can be contacted directly on email@example.com