First-class glass sees Mel get royal honour

Mel Howse receives the QEST Award for Excellence sponsored by Thomas Fattorini from Sir Christopher Frayling, June 2013
Mel Howse receives the QEST Award for Excellence sponsored by Thomas Fattorini from Sir Christopher Frayling, June 2013

THE FUTURE is bright for talented Sidlesham artist Mel Howse – who has recently been honoured for her amazing glasswork by craft specialists.

An artist whose stained glass works include the St Cuthman and St Wilfrid window in St Mary’s Church in Chidham, Mel is a Queen Elizabeth Scholar who started her career with roots in stained glass and has branched out into contemporary design and sculpture. She works to commission and has many installed pieces of work throughout Sussex.

Mel Howse' umbrella stand

Mel Howse' umbrella stand

“It’s an evolving toolkit of ideas,” she said of what influences her art. “Inspiration comes from the process of making your own work.”

A versatile designer of more than 20 years’ experience, Mel, 44, won a scholarship from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) in 2008. QEST is the charitable arm of the Royal Warrant Holders’ Association and the Queen’s Scholars are the ‘cream of the craft crop’.

Mel used her scholarship to ‘go the extra mile’, applying her creative skills to new materials, and was able to transfer her experience of working in glass to the dark art of enamelling on metals.

“I was thrilled when I opened the letter and learnt I had won the QEST Award for Excellence, which is the first one of its kind,” says Mel of the award she received last month, honouring her efforts.

The carved and polished glass doors at St Nicholas in Arundel - created by Mel Howse

The carved and polished glass doors at St Nicholas in Arundel - created by Mel Howse

The award has been created to recognise a Queen Elizabeth Scholar who has made a significant impact and contribution to British craft, and Mel’s award is for the craft medium of glass.

The medal was made by goldsmith and Royal Warrant Holder Thomas Fattorini, who also sponsored the award – and whose family business also made the FA cup.

“I have a lot of experience in expanding on a traditional craft and developing it in a contemporary way. It keeps the work exciting and fresh,” said Mel when asked about why she was chosen to receive the award. “It’s design ingenuity and often technical innovation that enables me to push the boundaries of working in glass, steel and enamel. My award is a great encouragement to me as an artist, craftsperson, and owner of a small business.”

Sir Christopher Frayling presented the award and medal at the Royal Warrant Holders’ Annual Luncheon, held in London on June 4.

“I received my award alongside a bumper crop of talented new craftspeople receiving their scholarships and it was a very special event.”

Mel’s contemporary practice will help to inspire others and to ensure talented craftspeople remain engaged with glass as an evolving craft that is relevant today.

And to cap off her achievement, Mel was invited by QEST to exhibit her latest piece of art at Buckingham Palace as part of the Coronation Festival display during the celebrations which took place at Buckingham Palace between July 11-14.

Speaking before the show, she said: “I am looking forward to representing QEST and receiving feedback on my work. If the warm weather continues we will be taking sun parasols!”

Mel displayed her most recent piece, an imposing and exotic umbrella stand which follows her signature quirky design style: “The recent designs in steel and fired enamel are very unique. They are inspired by household objects that have become art in themselves.

“The pieces cross the boundaries between beauty and functionality.”

The umbrella stand is part of a diverse and growing collection of gorgeous and unusual pieces including The Art Bath, The Epiphany Cocktail Cabinet and The Watching Bowls, which are one metre wide. A large number of Mel’s designs are created for installation into buildings and many are public art commissions.

Leading on from her more architectural glass projects, Mel is creating bespoke works of art that are architectural, sculptural or functional.

As well as the Chidham church window, which was created in heavily-etched stained glass and depicts St Cuthman taking his mother St Wilfrid to Steyning along the coast – in a wheelbarrow,

Mel’s artworks across the county include the carved and polished glass doors at St Nicholas in Arundel. The abstract imagery in the ‘spiritual doors’ in an elevated position at the west entrance of the church conveys the rising and descending Holy Spirit.

And inside the magnificent landmark of Lancing College Chapel resides the Bishop Trevor Huddleston Memorial Window, also designed and made by Mel.

Huddleston was a pupil at Lancing College from 1927 to 1931 and became one of its most distinguished alumni. The window’s design tackled the gritty subject of apartheid in South Africa and in 2007 the windows were dedicated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a stone laid in the floor in front of the window to mark the event.