Susan McCarthy ACR
My fascination with glass came towards the end of my Fine Art Degree course at Maidstone College of Art. This inspired me to do my thesis on stained glass; the research for which led me to my first job in a studio at Goddard & Gibbs, London. After 5 years of painful commuting, I made the bold move towards self-employment. I set up AuraVisions from a building bought from the Council that happened to be at the end of my garden. Having built up the business for 10 years with my partner, we moved to our current location near Saffron Walden, where we've been for a further 21 years.
Since then, we've worked on many plain and elaborate windows and have accrued repeat work from private clients, churchwardens, architects and building contractors, along with Schools and Colleges maintenance officers.
Employing skilled craftspeople has widened our scope for more adventurous undertakings. Attending conferences and communicating with fellow professionals allows for the swapping of methods and materials. No matter how informal the discussions or how small in detail, there's always some juicy nugget to take away.
Removal, repair and releading of a 3-light stained glass window by Bishop & Clark 1877 in the South Aisle, which were severely distorted, caused by weakened lead, sunshine and wind. We edge-bonded and plated several large pieces and inserted a new fragment previously filled with putty. Due to under-barring of the main lights, we added 6 new glazing bars for maximum support without compromising the aesthetics of the imagery. Due to restrictive funds, only 2 tracery lights were repaired.
2 large highly decorative, delicately painted stained glass panels were removed for releading and repair and a copy made for an adjacent, previously plain glazed window, along with many in-situ replacements for damaged caused over many years. A new piece was designed and made to replace a previous plain glass insert where the design was unknow. We based the new piece on the many adjacent examples of floral design that had to adjoin a small remaining original fragment.
A set of 4 Flemish roundels, an heraldic shield and a Crown atop a half Tudor rose were rescued from a window in a Hitchin furniture shop by the Cultural Services Manager at North Hertfordshire Museum. We were tasked to clean, repair, relead and conserve these for display in a bespoke framing system for the museum. The heraldic shield required a kiln-formed back-plate for the missing details of failed blue enamel and clarity for the Latin motto, which previously was illegible.
3 very intricately leaded stained glass windows by Alexander Gibb required attention at Tadlow church, Herts. Two 2-light South Nave windows required resin-bonded repairs and releading. The East window had been subject to stone movement, so only required resizing and 1 panel flattening. Many inscription sections needed back-plating for paint enhancement to ensure legibility. Due to the intensity of the lead work, we added several bars to each light for maximum support.
In a sash window of a private residence in Great Bardfield, Essex, is a lovely painted plaque from 1558, probably leaded into a panel in the early 1800s. The first letter of the inscription was mostly missing. I knew it was a 'W' but not how it was formed. In consultation with a local calligrapher, we decided upon an irregular elaborate version which I painted to match the adjacent aged lettering and leaded this to the plaque. We then isothermally glazed the panel back into the sash.