Her creative output relies on experimental processes to develop and nurture the originality of her design ideas, as they become real and full-scale. Site-specific compositions are matched by her experiential practice as a maker using a fusion of techniques, with her love of materials whose opacity and surface finish are expressive, versatile and visually immersive.
Mel’s work is already considered part of the UK’s heritage despite her avant-garde approach. Her public and spiritual commissions represent one of the UK’s most exciting developments in architectural stained and decorative glass this century.
Key works include progressive art environments including the awe-inspiring handmade installation “The Illumination Window” at Durham Cathedral installed in 2019, taking two years to complete using acid etching and vitreous enamels.
Dynamic collaborations such as the sizeable landmark art facade at J Sainsbury’s in Central Milton Keynes further exemplify Mel’s artistic agility, with a 500m2 façade containing huge enamelled and sprayed silver-stained canvases.
An example of public art within a monochromatic study in opacity is on view at Friese Greene House, Hove, set within a Conran and Partners designed building. The artwork uses multiple processes, all in toughened glass.
Her distinctive concept for the intimate “Art Bath” is a glass-on-metal, sinuous and flowing design using industrial vitreous enamels fired onto cast iron.
Mel’s polymathic skills, understanding of scale, and mastery of a complex medium, enable her to work on a wide canvas of pieces, from glass facades to objet d’art.
Mel Howse is associated with The Prince’s Trust with whose support she started a small business in 1996, and is an Alumni of The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) who supported a self-generated scholarship in 2008.
She received The Fattorini Award from QEST for her study of enamelling in 2013. It was QEST’s first ‘Award for Excellence’.
Sussex Heritage Trust Awards for installed architectural artworks include:
• 2019 - Etched Façade. St James Centre. Birdham.
• 2018 - Enamelled internal pods. St Peter Ad Vincula. Wisborough Green.
• 2016 - Friese Green House. Brighton. Awarded 'The Building Crafts Award' for her public art installation.
• 2014 - Stained and etched glass St Mary Magdalene, Whatlington.
• 2010 - St Nicholas Arundel. Carved toughened glass doors. Nominated by the judges.
Mel studied with open minded practitioners, whose experience was honed throughout lengthy and creative careers in the medium of architectural art glass. Graduating in 1992 she was presented with awards whilst still a student which include:
• The Howard Martin Award, awarded by the Architectural Glass Department of Swansea Institute after three years of study.
• The Stevens Competition, awarded by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers.
• The National Glass Competition. From the London Institute for her design work, presented at Norman Foster Architects.
Today Mel is also a Trustee of The Radcliffe Trust. The Radcliffe Trust is one of Britain’s oldest charities, founded in 1714 by the will of Dr John Radcliffe. The Trust continues his charitable bequest through the support of Music and Heritage & Crafts.