In a little tin shed studio located in leafy Donvale an artistic journey has begun between Coptic artist Ashraf Gerges and three Beijing University of Technology (BJUT) students with a ”˜sharp’ focus on glass! Chinese students Yoyo Liu, Sunny Zang and Jerry Bai, all from the BJUT Art and Design College, are visiting Melbourne for three weeks to learn the art and craft of stained glass design from Ashraf, a lecturer at St Athanasius College (SAC) Coptic Orthodox theological college. Ashraf is an expert in the delicate stained glass medium, having worked for many years on the stained glasswork design for churches in Australia and overseas. Stained glass has been a stunning feature of Coptic (Egyptian) Orthodox churches for centuries and new churches built in China are now embracing the soft hues and ambience of stained glass windows to add a distinct beauty and elegance to a sacred space of prayer and community. The students visiting SAC are employed at Beijing Bi Lan Xuan, a company specialising in mosaic and stained glass works. As a commissioned project they are tasked with creating seven new stained glass representations for St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Fu Zhou, a city in the south east of China. The students nominated Ashraf to design seven stained glass windows for St Joseph’s Church, noting the quality of stained glass products which he manufactured at their Beijing glassworks. Ashraf was invited to draw window designs for the new Chinese church. They will feature St Joseph with infant Jesus; the authors of the Gospels St Mathew, St Mark, St Luke and St John; and two cross motifs. While in Australia, the students have learnt advanced techniques in all stages of stained glass development. These include drawing an image outline; colour selection; glass cutting; glass painting; heat application in a kiln; assembly with a lead cam and adding putty to streamline the final artefact. Ashraf said the visiting students had a natural creative talent, and an innate ability to work with the medium of glass, and particularly the niche area of stained glass. “These students have something extra in addition to a natural creativity,” Ashraf said. “They have a passion for art, the patience required to stay focused and the capacity for hard work which is required to achieve great results.” SAC began operating in 2001 and is a college of the University of Divinity in Melbourne. For Enquiries/ Photo Opportunities: Maggie Trainor Director of Marketing and Communications St Athanasius College (SAC) – Donvale Campus T: 8872 8457      E: mtrainor@sac.edu.au
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