When U.K. artist Charles Uzzell Edwards aka Pure Evil saw the work of stained glass craftsperson Annahita Hessami who runs the Cut Glass Studio in London, he wondered what it would be like to recreate one of his artworks in stained glass.
The pair got together and collaborated on reworking a stencil portrait Edwards had created of a double exposure of Audrey Hepburn and Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi. The resulting installation, Double Exposure Stained Glass in London Underground Light Box, can be found at Edwards’ Pure Evil Gallery in London where it will remain on show for three months.
Edwards says he has always been a lover of stained glass and when traveling is transfixed “like a moth” by the light coming through church windows. After seeing an image of one of Hessami’s stained glass pieces he thought it would be “awesome to try out” recreating one of his works in the medium.
The artist chose a double exposure of a stencil portrait he had painted of Zhang Ziyi and Audrey Hepburn. He says: “I could not imagine how it would work out in glass, but once I met with Annahita I was confident she could see the potential of the image. She seems to have a contemporary edge while also having a real knowledge of the traditional aspects of stained glass.”
Edwards supplied Hessami with a to-scale version of the artwork, which she used to redesign the image to work in glass, creating a cutline (a working drawing of the window). Once both were happy with the cutline and glass choices, Hessami cut, leaded, soldered and cemented the panel.
Speaking of the collaboration process with Hessami, Edwards says he “just let her loose on it” but adds how the pair had discussed the dynamics of it being a creative collaboration between two artists, “pooling their creativity to take things to the next level”. Edwards was fascinated to watch the components assemble slowly and the decisions Hessami made about the materials and methods.
For Hessami, aside from the challenges of interpreting Edwards’ design, there were also difficulties to overcome with the materials. Because the glass is mouth blown (handmade) there were imperfections, striations, bubbles and variations in colour density from the centre to the edge, which made the glass hard to cut and place. Additionally, as the original image has no black outlines Hessami had to use the thinnest lead possible (5mm), which, added to the challenge of varying thicknesses of glass, left no space for inaccuracy.
Edwards salvaged an old London Underground poster display box and refitted it to house the finished piece. There were a few terrifying moments as the fragile glass was installed.
Hessami, who, aged 16, studied fashion design, women’s wear pattern cutting at the London College of Fashion and went on to the London College of Printing to study surface design, embarked on an apprenticeship in stained glass after graduating in 2007. She says she “fell in love” with stained glass and has gone on to found her own business, Cut Glass Studio. “I am constantly exploring and pushing the boundaries of my craft,” she says, “I can only hope the business continues to grow bringing more interest to the craft and rekindling people’s forgotten passion for true arts and crafts.”
Both are delighted with the result of their collaboration – Hessami is “ecstatic” and Edwards adds: ”It’s beautiful. Total respect and thanks to Annahita for the awesome work. It has really set the bar high for the rest of the work I’m going to do in the next year.”