Design of the Month · June 2010

  • The Mairie

    "The Mairie"

    The most local level of government in France is the commune. In rural France even the smallest village has its own mayor, village council and village hall: the Mairie. From here the local administration is run: permits for building work, complaints about dogs, rural planning, warnings about avian flu and for hunters the dates of opening and closure of la chasse. Michel, the mayor and retired gym teacher, is available to the 106 inhabitants of the commune two mornings a week in the one-room Mairie aided by the part-time secretary. At 11am, they are brought two tiny cups of strong coffee and a home made biscuit by Lucie, who has the restaurant opposite, as the Mairie is without running water.

    It was to thank this little community for welcoming us to the area twenty years ago that I offered to make a present of four small stained glass panels for the transom or fanlight above the door of the Mairie.

    I asked the mayor and council for ideas for the design (not Michel but his predecessor René) they had few ideas but did suggest using the star shaped motif in a row of glazed tiles on the front wall of the Mairie. On Glass Eye 2000, I played around with various ideas based around the French flag, and local agriculture maize, sunflowers, vines, etc. In the end I decided that they could be anywhere in the countryside in the south west of France. I wanted a more direct reference to my commune. So then I began to consider the local architecture. A silhouette of the long low chateau and church could bridge the awkward gap of 20cm between the left and right pairs of panels. The Pyrenees are easily visible from the village, not in the summer when the heat haze hides them but on cold clear winter days, and according to local folklore, when the weather is changing. They made an excellent background to the buildings.

    The municipal council were divided over my first design. The commune, made up of two hamlets, each with their own church, was in the past two separate communes. My choosing the church and chateau from one upset the representatives of the other who: "always get left out." So, in the interests of communal harmony, I drew instead the other church with its two tall cypress trees. I learned later that this pleased another faction within the council who were fighting to protect these trees from being cut down when the church roof was repaired. Having them embodied in the panel made them more secure, they thought, in real life. Rene offered his engineering skills to calculate the radius of the arch which made it easy to draw an accurate pattern alas falling off the chair in the process damaging ligaments in his shoulder. Designing was more eventful than I had expected.

    As usual I was able to post my revisions as email attachments using the Export Design option in Glass Eye 2000, which simplified my consultations with the mayor and council. The construction in lead came was routine and none of the cuts required grinding … the only tricky ones being the sky sections. If one of these went wrong quite a big piece of glass would be wasted. Now complete and in place, before the New Year celebrations, the installation was inaugurated in the customary manner with white wine and gateaux.

    ~ David Barrat

    About the artist

    David Barrat

    David has been working with stained glass for about ten years and using Glass Eye 2000 for more than five. He was head of a large psychology department in a London college until he retired at age 56 which has left him more time to work on his hobby. He has done some commissioned work (see the September 2008 Design of the Month) in southwest France where he has a second home, and he has run courses for local people in the region. He is about to start work with a group of these trainees in a neighboring village who want to replace some plain glass panels in their local church with stained glass.

    This pattern may be used to make one or more artworks for sale or personal enjoyment. This pattern may be printed for personal use only and may not be sold or given away in printed or electronic form.

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