A new apprenticeship has been launched through a collaboration between the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) and partner organisations, after research showed a worrying decline in the traditional craft of stained glass.
This year (2023), the Heritage Craft Association put the craft of making and restoring traditional, large-scale stained-glass windows on the Endangered Craft Red List.
With a diminishing market of new commissions and an ageing demographic of practitioners, combined with increasing costs and decreasing opportunities for formal training, there are very real concerns among practitioners about the craft’s future.
Addressing this problem, Swansea College of Art at UWTSD, the British Society of Master Glass Painters, the Worshipful Company of Glaziers, and industry professionals came together to rectify the issue.
Collectively, they have developed a brand new, government-funded Stained Glass Craftsperson Apprenticeship with training provided by UWTSD and final assessment by the Institute of Conservation (ICON). Apprentices will study at UWTSD in blocks over three years, undertaking tuition in a comprehensive range of stained-glass craft techniques.
The apprenticeship was launched by Professor Elwen Evans KC, Vice-Chancellor of UWTSD at the University’s Reading Room at the Alex Design Centre on Friday, November 24. The event also featured a symposium of speakers including Martin Crampin, Reinhard Kopf from the Heritage Department, Monchengladbach, and Jasmine Allen, from the Stained-Glass Museum in Ely, Cardiff.
A panel discussion and Q&A was led by Martin Crampin, with Jasmine Allen, Felicity Grey, and Kim Collins, from the West Glamorgan Archive Service. Examples of work from the stained glass archive were on display during the day.
Essential Health & Safety and COSHH will be built into the programme, alongside a range of decorative processes including glass painting, staining, enamelling, acid etching, sandblasting, and French embossing. Apprentices will be introduced to design, heraldry, lettering, and the history of stained glass to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the craft.
Preparations are underway to welcome the first cohort of new apprentices in November 2023.
Swansea College of Art at UWTSD is recognised as one of the UK’s centres of excellence in stained glass. The department has a rich heritage in stained glass education and has an impressive archive of panels, cartoons and designs spanning 80 years, providing an invaluable teaching resource.
Apprentices will be based in UWTSD’s ALEX Building, the original home of the stained-glass department, where they’ll have access to high quality glass workshops and facilities.
Christian Ryan, Stained Glass Apprenticeship Liaison Officer at UWTSD said: “This programme is a significant development in the continuation of stained-glass training and is a wonderful opportunity to instruct the next generation of craftspeople.
“With the hard work and perseverance of all involved, and the support of the stained-glass community, we hope that soon, stained glass can be removed from the Endangered Craft Red List and that the specialist knowledge and skills continue to be passed on in future.”