I only ask, because every time I decide to try to be more organised, life seems to get in the way. Still, here I am, just to say that the Shell is now well and truly finished (that is to say I’ve put all the stitches in, framing is another question altogether).
And, as planned, I’ve already started on the new Stained Glass piece.
It feels a bit odd to be working on proper canvas again. I definitely don’t like the way it makes my eyes see strange patterns when I’ve been working on it for a while – although I suppose it is one way to remind myself to take regular breaks.
But the fact that it is small enough to fit a 17″ frame, means I have some prospect of completing it slightly faster than the last couple of pieces.
I seem to need a relaxation piece to work on while I stew my creative juices for another bigger work.
Little droplets of inspiration have been finding their way through the morass that is my brain, but they’ll need to stay there incubating for a while yet.
While I was away in Prague, the stained glass windows in St Vitus’s Cathedral made a huge impact on me. I’ve always loved stained glass, but something about the colours and the sheer amount of glass in that building, touched me somewhere – the greens and blues were especially wonderful. Do you ever get the feeling that you are bathing in the coloured light?
Then, when I got home, the latest issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors, was waiting for me. In it, was an article about the artist Kirsty Quinn and some small pictures of her work.
Again, something about the use of colour and texture touched a spot in me.
I found myself wanting to try to do something with these inspirations. So, I’ve been having a little play.
I found some air-dry clay in the cupboard, rolled it out and then spent a happy hour embossing shapes and lines into it. Of course, it would hardly be me if a tree hadn’t planted itself in there too.
Today, with the clay being nice and hard, I’ve carried on playing, by painting it with a combination of acrylic inks and paints – most with metallic finishes – I’m a sucker for shiny things.
And I finished it off with some rub-on metallic wax. I really enjoyed doing it. Back to the stitching now.
I’m sticking pretty well to my daily creative commitment, although I seem to have spent more time with my needlepoint than with the sketchbook. Never mind, it’s all doing me good.
The thing that’s bothering/interesting/engaging me at the moment, is shading.
The piece that I’m working on is inspired by stained glass windows and what I wanted to achieve, is a feeling of the texture of glass as light moves around it. Now this I feel needs some shading.
I have bought quite a lot of Appletons crewel yarns, because you get some gorgeous subtle graduations in shade, and the thickness of the yarn works well on the variable weave of the canvas.
But actually doing the shading is teaching me some interesting lessons. I’m trying a variety of techniques – which range from jagged blocks of colour, to something almost approaching pointillism (although I just don’t think I have the patience to keep that up for long).
When I went to Canon’s Ashby earlier in the summer, I had a close look at some tapestry chairs, to see how they’d done shading in the seventeenth century – it seemed more like the graduated jagged blocks.
My biggest issue is with working at night – the time that I prefer to sew. The trouble is that although I can easily distinguish shade variations during the day, at night, under my lamp, I find it very difficult to see the real colours. It makes it quite a surprise in the morning, when I get to see it in daylight.
Ah well, on we go – it’s all a learning experience.
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.
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.