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The Cruising Village 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Unique Stained Glass Yachts

by Mark Jardine 15 Oct 12:00 BST
Jo Munford provides a bespoke service designing and making stained glass windows, art, sculptures and yacht models © Seaview Studio

One of the exciting new companies which arrived last year and as a result of the pandemic is Seaview Studio, with Jo Munford providing a bespoke service designing and making stained glass windows, art, sculptures and yacht models.

With Jo's background in the marine industry one of the avenues of her work is inspired by the sea and she is producing some stunning yacht models on driftwood bases. Mark Jardine of caught up with Jo to find out a bit more about this.

Did you always have an interest in working with stained glass?

No, not intentionally, however I studied textile design at university and my style was quite graphic in discipline: a style I used for ease with a weaving software I was using at the time. When I look back now, this has parallels with the simple outline 'cartoons' you draw for stained glass. I even used to look at stained glass for inspiration and loved the Tiffany peacock window.

Why stained glass then?

Well, a few years ago I was having a tough time at work which was affecting my health and I realised I didn't have a creative output any more. My previous roles in the marine industry had always been in design offices and shipyards. I knew I had to change something to feed my creative soul again. It was a chance meeting with a family friend and fellow stained glass artist who inspired me. She invited me to her studio to see what it as all about and I was instantly hooked. I want straight off to Bristol to do a course.

What's it like creating stained glass sculptures and where do you work?

It has its risks here and there as you are using glass, solder, lead and some horrible chemicals - so you ideally want a dedicated and ventilated space. I was originally using the dining room table but eventually converted the blockwork shed into the studio, which I completed in October 2019.

So you had your studio for your hobby, but was it all ready for when you needed to turn it into a business during the pandemic?

Yes I guess it was more or less, but as you know there is far more to setting up a business than the product you deliver. I was on furlough for most of 2020 but as I'm the kind of person that can't sit still for longer than 5 minutes I used most of it to get through a huge list of DIY jobs before turning my attention to my stained glass.

It was at that point - and the loss of my job at the end of the year - that I threw everything at it. I have always wanted to work for myself but never knew what I wanted to do.

Obviously the area of your work that caught my eye are the yachts; are you a sailor yourself?

I wouldn't classify myself as a competent sailor, although I have sailed in the past. I have my Day Skipper and have done a couple of deliveries and a tiny bit of racing on a J/109 but I'm certainly no stranger to yachts. I was bought up in the marine industry due to my father, now retired, being one of the 'fathers of superyacht interior design' with his company John Munford Design.

I must have been around 12 years old when Dad took me on board Endeavour after her resurrection and his work on her back in the late 80's. I was in awe even then. I have to say I am drawn to the coast and the sea and particularly love the beauty of the classic sailing yachts.

Creating sculptures of yachts for sailors could be a tricky business, as we all want the sails to be set correctly. How do you strike the balance between the artistic form and accuracy?

I am quite an exacting person which probably comes from years in the superyacht industry, so I'm quite fastidious about the details and quality of my work. I like to use sail plans, create my works to scale and yes, when I can, set the sails as accurately as possible.

However, an artistic eye has to be applied when working with glass, solder and wood. You can't always show total accuracy but can create the illusion of accuracy. I need to be a bit of an engineer also to make sure my work is structurally sound and this again can limit the sail angles. With lots of sailing friends around and of course my father, I sometimes check things with them.

We loved the YJA MS Amlin International Sailor of the Decade trophy. How did you come up with this?

I was delighted to be asked to make the trophy as the vision for this was a much more artistic and sculptural piece which really feeds my creative side. I carried out a fair bit of R&D to perfect the shape and consider how it all held together. You can't beat an Amazon box and some tape in your sophisticated R&D process! The final trophy is a fusion of glass, sea glass, and driftwood with the suggestion of a spinnaker and the sea in its colours and form.

What other boats have you created in glass in the past year?

I've made a fair few now from the classic Pilot Cutter with aged sails, ratlines and detailed rigging to modern yachts. I have also been commissioned to make the RS Aero, 400 and Feva which look great with bright colours and sail painting details. I'm starting to get requests for motor yachts and have made three Princess V52s and have a few other boats in the pipeline.

Why did you start making the yacht models and what do you think makes them so appealing?

It all started with the J Classes that I made as a gift for Dad. That got me hooked on the idea, then I was asked to make a larger version of the 'whimsical' gift yacht I make and I knew it couldn't scale up as it was. At the same time Dad had shown me one of his reference books which had the most beautiful graphic plates of classic yacht sail plans in it and my mind was going wild with ideas of how I could recreate these in glass. After a quick and enthusiastic conversation with my client, she was on board and the Bristol Pilot Cutter was commissioned. It all took off from there.

I think they are appealing as they are unique. You don't see glass boats very often and not in the way I depict them. I can add more or less details and customise them with sail numbers and little tweaks to make them really personal. As a sculpture they make great talking points as well as being a thing of beauty. When placed in front of a light source the magic really happens. I love the way the sunlight or a directional light will cast shadows and coloured reflections of the sails on the surfaces around them.

It can be difficult to think of unique gifts or keepsakes, so the models provide something different for boat owners and enthusiasts.

What yacht models do you particularly like making?

I enjoy making all types. Each commission presents a new set of ideas and challenges and I love working with my clients to create something that fits them. However I guess I love the sailing yachts and I would love to receive a commission for a fleet of yachts; I think several all together would look amazing. Perhaps a fleet of classics with terracotta sails or even some Falmouth working boats with their coloured topsails.

There are so many boats out there I would be spoilt for choice. For now I love the surprise of each enquiry I get.

Do you only work to commission and how can people find your work?

I do make a few standard gift items and attend a few local artisan markets where I sell them, such as my whimsical yachts and beach huts, coastal scenes, jewellery and Christmas decorations to name a few. This year I will be launching my sailboat Christmas decoration especially for the Fayre at the Royal Southern.

I will be at The Royal Southern Yacht Club, Christmas Fayre 6th Nov. Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum & Gardens for 'Artful Christmas' 27th & 28th November and finally my local Hamble and Netley Makers Market on 5th Dec.

I am currently exhibiting five large scale garden sculptures at Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum and Gardens for their sculpture event 'Art in the Garden' 25th Sep - 9th Jan 2022.

Jo works from her Netley studio in Hampshire, UK and can be contacted for commissions on 07930 144774 or

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