A Norfolk Inspiration.

At the weekend I was over in Norfolk and had the pleasure of a visit to Norwich Cathedral. It’s a fantastic building which beautifully weaves together architectural styles from the Norman period, right through to today.

There was much to appreciate in the Cathedral, but for me, the highlight was undoubtedly the stained glass and in particular the six windows in the north wall of the north transept, designed by Keith New and later complementary windows by John Hayward.

The central image of the Virgin and Child, by John Hayward

Now for a long time I’ve had a passion for stained glass, I wonder if it even dates from primary school, when we had a project to design our own, using black sugar paper and coloured tissue paper. For some reason the combination of dark leading with translucent colours and the effect of light streaming through stained glass windows, gives me an enormous thrill. I can almost sense a type of energy being created by the action of the light through the glass.

But there’s something else that has occurred to me more recently about stained glass, and that is, that I want to use the compositional methods and strong colours in my needlepoint.

This urge was given a veritable kick up the backside on Saturday, when I first encountered the John Hayward and Keith New windows. Frankly I think I could still be standing there, looking up at them, if I hadn’t been with friends (and gagging for a coffee). There is (for me at least) a mesmerizing quality to these works. The John Hayward triptych is fairly straightforward to understand, but the Keith New set had us all pondering the symbols and meaning – and that alone is significant, because neither of my friends is particularly ‘artistic’, they were simply responding to the glass as it is probably meant to be, as a mystery and a call to the spirit.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been trying to find out more about these artists. John Hayward died in 2007, but appears to have had an extensive career, with his works being incorporated into churches across the country (and abroad). Keith New was one of the artists responsible for the stained glass at Coventry Cathedral, which having only seen once, I can remember was incredible – even somewhat overpowering.

There is a fabulous section on Flickr dedicated to the works of John Hayward, click here to go there. For more information about the stained glass in Norwich Cathedral, click here to go to the best site I’ve found – loads more information.

The whole experience has really got me thinking about how to translate the composition style to the canvas. As soon as I can, I’m going to sit down with my paints and do some planning.

Photo credit: The Norwich Cathedral Website.

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