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News > School > Window Honouring Mrs Penney Unveiled

Window Honouring Mrs Penney Unveiled

Family, colleagues and alumnae attended the unveiling, held at the school on St Catherine's Day
20 Dec 2022
Written by Shalaka Karlekar

A stained-glass window celebrating the life of Mrs Penelope Penney, Headmistress 1991-2005, was unveiled at the school on St Catherine's Day, Friday 25 November. 

Mrs Penney's family and a large number of former staff, many of them from Mrs Penney's time at the school, attended the unveiling ceremony. They were joined by members of the Old Girls' Club, who partly funded the making of the window. 

Mrs Penney’s son, James, and daughter, Mrs Margaret Ruiseal, said a few words about their mother's life and work at Habs and formally unveiled the window and commemorative plaque. The designer of the window, Ms Guoda Kvietinskaitė, was on hand to explain the design process and how the window was made, as well as the meaning behind the design. 

The school decided in 2019 to commission a piece of stained glass to commemorate Mrs Penney, an inspirational Head who believed passionately in the idea of strong, confident women, instilling her values of intelligence, integrity, individuality, innovation and initiative in all who attended the school. Mrs Penney was herself a strong and confident woman; she was a spiritual person, with a strong Christian faith, who had the energy and vision to move the school forward.  It is apt therefore that the window is placed outside the school's multifaith room. 

The Stevens Competition

A chance email received by Mr Tim Scott, Deputy Head, at the end of 2019 started the window's commisioning process: an alumna's friend had heard about the school's plans for a new window and knew of a competition run by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass – the Stevens Competition. The competition, which began in 1972, encourages young glass artists to design a piece in response to a set brief. The school was immensely proud when Mrs Penney was confirmed as the subject of the 2021 Stevens Competition.

The brief agreed by the Glaziers and the school was for the design of an architectural glass screen. The installation is meant to give a sense of who Mrs Penney was, while also conveying both a sense of tradition and an embrace of the future – qualities that are also valued by the school. 

The Glaziers received more than twenty entries from all over the world, and the designs were brought to Habs for comment and the selection of a winner. Staff and students were invited to consider the entries, and the winner was a unanimous choice.

'Stepping into the World'

Ms Guoda Kvietinskaitė’s ‘Stepping into the World’ was the winning choice of the Stevens Competition. Guoda was born in Lithuania and completed an Art Studies Professional Diploma before undertaking a Glass Design Diploma in Turkey. Since 2017 Guoda has worked in the Piotr Frac studio in east London on her own stained glass works, private commissions and restorations.

At the centre of this glass screen is the sun, symbolising the growth and optimism which, she explained in her artist's statement, defines our education at school.

This central light source is overlaid with several flying birds, representing pupils at Habs Girls stepping into their adult lives.

"Throughout history birds have been revered as spirit guides with the power to bring messages, teach, guide and protect people," according to Guoda. "They are also associated with flight, freedom and adventure, which are all symbolized by their feathers.

"The glass screen is structured around the circle – a prevailing design symbol dating back millennia and often thought to represent the power of the female," she continued. "Referencing ‘Mother Earth’ and also the sun, the circle is often associated with infinity, being complete and being whole. It also reminds viewers of feminine energy and the many influential teachers at the school, including and especially the former Head, Penelope Penney, who held a strong, inspirational Christian faith and motivation for excellence."

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