Ruxton, Hilary

Hilary Ruxton, Initial design for "The Gulf Stream" - 2019 Stevens Competition Commission winner
Photo: Hilary Ruxton
Hilary Ruxton, detail from "The Gulf Stream" during fabrication - 2019 Stevens Competition Commission winner
Photo: Stella Fitzgerald

Stevens Competition Commission Winner 2019

Hilary Ruxton (b.1958) brought a lifetime of creative experiences to bear when embarking on her first course in Stained Glass with Tonbridge Adult Education in 2014, starting a journey that would result in her winning the Stevens Competition Commission in 2019.

Hilary was born in Brighton and spent much of her early life exploring a range of creative and sporting activities before training as a teacher in Primary School Education, where a memorable highlight was completing a course with the Royal Opera House – Teaching Primary School Children How to Write an Opera, which culminating in a whole school opera production.

Having lived and worked overseas for many years her path into stained glass was set when she returned to England from Queensland with a Stained Glass Lampshade, which was damaged on the journey. Keen to undertake her own repairs she embarked on a Beginners Stained Glass Course with Tonbridge Adult Education. She was immediately drawn to the exciting, diverse craftmanship and extensive creative thought required to work with this ancient art and craft. After three years of learning traditional leadworking techniques, Hilary progressed into fused glass making and purchased a small kiln for her garage, enhancing her learning with courses at Creative Glass Guild, Bristol and The Glass Hub, Wiltshire.  In her 5th year of working with glass, she entered the 2019 Stevens Competition.

The competition brief was to design a panel for the Reception Area of the new Proton Beam Therapy Cancer Unit at University College Hospital, London, which was due to open in 2021.

In the competition sample panel, she chose to represent a number of glass processes – just because it was a good opportunity to stretch herself  – never dreaming it would go any further than a competition entry!

As an evolving glass craft maker, she was still exploring which glass process she could focus on and develop – so this first commercial commission was a very ambitious project to bring to fruition, in particular the challenges of how much glass changes its behaviour when you scale up to I.5m square and go heavier, with steel frame, light box, safety glass and artwork totalling 130kg!

The design and installation took three years from concept to completion in mid-2021, including working through Covid lockdown. A number of people deserve special mention who offered support, encouragement, mentoring, loan of equipment and kilns during the process: Michael Holman – 2019 Stevens Competition Organiser, Emma Rawson, Jenny Brown & Roger Stiles  – Adult Education Tonbridge, Martin Donlin – Architectural Glass Artist, Max Jacquard – Glass Sculptor,  Neil Wilton, the engineer at the Stained Glass Display Company in Northumberland, to assemble the glass into the light box and frame.

Hilary is currently working on a Stained Glass Commission for the Church of St Peter & St Paul, Tonbridge, Kent.

Hilary Ruxton’s artist statement for “The Gulf Stream” can be found here.


The Worshipful Company of Glaziers and the Stevens Competition

The Worshipful Company of Glaziers first appears in written records in 1364-65 during the reign of Edward III, when the emphasis was on the protection of the personal economic welfare of Glaziers. However, in recent times the focus has shifted to the preservation of the heritage of stained glass and to the support of education in architectural glass art, design and conservation.

In 1932 the Company launched an annual competition for young artists, which from 1972 operated under the banner of the Stevens Competition. The competition provided an opportunity for aspiring architectural glass artists, designers, and craftsmen to compete in a format which simulated the process typically undertaken in order to obtain a commercial commission.