Living in a glasshouse: Meet stained-glass artist Alison Byrne

Aileen Lee meets stained-glass artist and owner of WildBird Studio, Alison Byrne.

Living in a glasshouse: Meet stained-glass artist Alison Byrne

Alison Byrne: Stained-glass artist and owner of WildBird Studio

What’s your background?

I began my training in stained glass at 16, working for Angelika De Barra. I worked with her until I was about 19.

She taught me so much, but it wasn’t an actual apprenticeship, so I went to Wolverhampton to study Glass Design.

There I fell in love with glass-blowing and headed off in that direction for many years doing a post-grad in Hot Glass in Bournemouth and Poole College and after that an apprenticeship with Liquid Glass in Bath.

Unfortunately, this all happened in the middle of the recession and so glass-blowing wasn’t an option anymore, and I headed off travelling to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand for a few years.

By the end of my Australian visa I had a choice to keep travelling or go home.

I had been abroad almost 10 years.

Things were starting to look a little better at home although jobs were still scarce, so I decided I’d go back and start a business in stained glass.

What’s a typical workday?

I generally don’t have allocated time-slots for different tasks, so I’ll often cycle in, make a cup of tea and look at emails.

Once that’s out of the way I begin making shop orders and building stock for shows and markets.

Whatever crops up throughout the day, I deal with it as it happens.

Tell us about a recent project you have worked on?

I just launched my own branded flower press.

I get asked by brides to press their bouquets and create a frame but unfortunately they usually contact me after the event when the flowers are already wilting.

I’m developing a service for this and step one was to get a flower press designed and made.

I’m just about to start phase two of testing the whole service which will include sending the flower press to the couple before the wedding.

The next day they can pop the flowers into the press, stick the address and prepaid postage on the box and send it back to me.

Once I have it, I can create a frame for them using their flowers.

What’s your design style?

I usually work in a geometric style and I’ve almost completely moved away from colour in my work.

I love being able to see the solder lines through a 3d piece.

It creates a really strong visual and in lamps creates great shadows.

What inspires your work?

I generally take a lot of inspiration from pop culture and try to let that influence new designs so that I’m keeping my work current.

My goal is to bring stained glass in line with modern design trends.

What’s your favourite trend?

I’m really loving the eclectic home décor trend with big plants, brass finishes, statement furniture and gallery walls.

WildBird Studio bluebell and grass flower frame
WildBird Studio bluebell and grass flower frame

What’s your most treasured possession?

It’s very geeky but I just got a glass cutting system that has completely changed the game for me.

I’m now able to cut repeating patterns very quickly, it’s made me so happy!

Who is your favourite designer?

Alexander McLachlin of Nightshade Studio is creating some incredible clear glass terrariums using stained glass techniques.

My mind is blown trying to figure out how he makes some of them.

I came across him when I began working more with clear glass and started making my own terrariums.

What would be a dream project for you?

I want to do large portraits of various women who have succeeded in male-dominated industries, women who are an inspiration.

Stained glass was traditionally used as a show of wealth, dominance, power and to inspire awe, so I want to give that power to all women.

The first piece of the project so far is Dr Jane Goodall.

Have you any design tips?

For stained-glass design, it’s got to be clean lines — if you have a straight line, make sure it’s actually straight and avoid unnecessary cut lines as it breaks up the image.

Stained-glass featuring Dr Jane Goodall
Stained-glass featuring Dr Jane Goodall

Instagram: @wildbirdstudio

Twitter: @StudioWildBird

More in this section

News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up