I have had two lettering commissions in quick succession in the last few weeks.
One for a lovely family in Teignmouth who were restoring the original name of their house into a small transom light above their front door. They were really happy with the piece and it gives their town house some of its period character back.
I have just finished a panel for a house in Honiton; also a transom light above the front door. This is a colourful panel which will, once again restore character to the front porch of a home. Small panels with lots of lettering mean that the clarity of the lettering has to take priority in the design, but as these different panels show they can still be very different to each other.
This long, horizontal window is going into an internal window in a family house (currently being renovated) in the South Hams between the kitchen and living space.
The window is in quite light colours as the window gets little natural light and is full of subtle details, so there is plenty of interest for the viewer from every angle.
The design brief was to make a window celebrating the Burgh Island area of Devon; from it’s sea birds to the wind swept trees and countryside of the area. There are also grasses, flowers, seashells an d shoals of fish acid etched and painted onto the panel.
I will add photos of the panel in it’s new home w hen the renovation is complete.
I had a 3o minutes with children from each class over the course of the day (from 4-11 years) and we had great fun painting the ‘stay on green behaviour’ animals. I have no idea what makes a squirrel responsible, or indeed an owl honest, but they do brighten up the side of the new early years building at the school!
Thanks to the children and school for their warm welcome and hard work on the day.
I have been working away on this cabinet of curiosity for Exeter Library, as part of Art Week Exeter. Exeter Library has a a fantastic collection of early and rare books and they have a new scheme to get people to adopt a book from the collection to pay for the restoration of these ancient books.
There are three other artists with a cabinet at in the library and there are lots of events going on across the city as part of ArtWeekExeter and the work will be on display until in the library 21st May.
The rare book collection is available for everyone to go and see, an afternoon in the collection is very inspiring and I have responded to three fascinating books from the collection.
A New Herball by William Turner of Bath, 1551.
The first book describing the medicinal qualities of plants printed in English. The drawings and text within are simple and beautiful. Some of the pages are stained from heavy use and the pestle and mortar represent the practical nature of the book.
The Life of the Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck
The illustrations are incredibly skilled and delicate with early 20th Century styling. The simple bee woodcut print at the start of the book inspired me and was the basis for my pieces.
The Ivy Its History, Uses and Characteristics by Shirley Hibberd
The illustrations in this book are wonderful and so is the writing. I am reflecting the chapter on the uses of ivy, chief of which seems to be holding up the masonry of our ancient buildings!
It’s hard to know where to start explaining this artwork, my first new piece in a while, so please bear with me. Lets start in the present and work back from there!
Trump banned refugees from the USA on World Holocaust Day. Something in me shifted slightly, a little shudder, a quiet alarm. Because my family have been the people denied entry, the unwanted, the stateless, hopeless victims of circumstance and prejudice.
I grew up with white privilege; I looked and sounded like everyone else on our suburban Norfolk housing estate. But that’s not quite so, the fact is my Paternal Grandmother is a holocaust survivor, a German Jew and immigrant with English as her third language. Her whole family was dispersed or murdered and driven to despair in 1930’s Berlin. The shadow this terrible inheritance has cast on our family does not block out the sun, but its always been there in the background and it has certainly coloured my world view.
We have the letters sent from my Great Grandparents (trapped in Berlin, not allowed to work, with all their assets confiscated, soon to die themselves), to their children (my Gt Uncles) who have managed to escape on the Kinder transport. My Gt Grandparents situation is heart wrenching and pitiful , but they also give colour and light to a city and life we will never know.
Henny on the Passenger list of the St Louis
A large character in these letters is that of Tante Frieda, (Gt Grandfather Leopold’s sister, my Gt, Gt Aunt) who owned a fur coat shop in Paris and one thread of the correspondence relays the story of her passage with her family on the SS St Louis. They had escaped the Nazi’s to start a new life in Cuba; they had visa’s and Frieda had got away with her daughter Henny.
The doomed SS St Louis is a tragic tale of 900 Jewish refugees who managed to escape the persecution of the Nazi regime, just before the outbreak of war, on a lovely cruise ship no less! But they are refused entry to Cuba (they all had visas) and then the USA, sitting for weeks moored out in the harbour. Running out of food they are forced to return to Europe, the passengers are desperate and suicidal. England, France and Belgium agree to split the passengers on the ship between them; but of course, they have just fled Europe, so they know this is only a temporary rest bite from persecution. They all drew lots for which country they would disembark to. Tante Frieda drew France and her daughter Henny the UK. For whatever reason they decided to swap – Frieda going to the UK and Henny returning to France. Frieda survived the war and indeed went onto live a long life. Unfortunately France fell to the Nazi’s only weeks after Henny disembarked and she perished at Auschwitz; along with the majority of my Jewish family.
These ladies really caught my interest, I am not quite sure why these characters stand out especially to me, but of all my murdered and brutalised family, it is their story I cant help but follow. So I did what every modern woman does and googled the hell out of the whole subject. I had no idea so much effort and love had gone into retelling Jewish history – The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) is a fabulous resource, and in it huge archive I found photo albums of the passengers on this ill fated voyage.
could this be my Gt, Gt Aunt’s daughter Henny?
Whilst looking through photos of the passengers roller skating, drinking, laughing and relaxing I left the computer unattended and my children suddenly shouted, ‘mummy, mummy there is a photo of you in the past!!!’ and there she is, an ‘unnamed’ woman from 70 years ago who looks so strikingly like me that my own children thought she WAS me and she really does look like me, really like me. I REALLY wasn’t expecting this, it freaked me out a bit. Could this be Henny? If there are 900 people on a ship and I am related to 2 of them; but as all of my family’s possessions were destroyed by the Nazi’s, we only have what my Grandmother and Gt Uncles could escape with and that does not include photos of Tante Frieda or Henny.
me trying to pull the same face
close up of ‘unknown woman’
Whether or not the unknown woman in the photo is Henny I can never know for sure. But whoever she is, she is most definitely the muse for ‘ A World Without’. The piece depicts a young, hopeful woman. Her body is made up of all the other passengers on the SS St Lois I could find photographs of and by painting each of the portraits I am honouring and bearing witness to their lives and their senseless murders – as most of the passengers ended up in the gas chambers and concentration camps within months of returning to Europe, all that hope destroyed.
The figure is a traditional leaded stained glass panel; stained glass has been used for centuries to commemorate the dead and the big events of history and this is my modest addition to this cannon. Each piece of glass has been hand painted and fired in the kiln and then made up using traditional leading techniques. This has take hours of pain staking work and research; a careful meditation and remembrance of people who were dehumanised and disregarded, I said each name as I started to draw them and gave as much love to each image as I could.
There are millions of us around the world who only have to go back a generation or two before we all find out we are refugees or immigrants and this artwork is a small act of RE humanising the other. This art work is a quiet request to look at our shared history, understand where you come from and stand up now to reject hate and offer love to those with less than us. History has the lessons for us, if we choose not to head them than we have truly learned nothing.
Huge thanks to my family, Gt Uncle Se’ev (our last remaining holocaust survivor), Cousin Hagit and my Dad for all their knowledge.
Kind thanks to USHMM for their help and resources, photographs are courtesy of their photographic archive.
The children researched their family and local history over the summer to discover information about Teignmouth’s Home Front in WWI. I then led a series of drawing workshops to create images in response to this information. The children worked really hard and the school was so helpful, making the sessions an absolute pleasure.
Now each of the drawings will be fired onto coloured glass tiles, from a distance it will look like a poppy and as you draw nearer the children’s drawings will become apparent.
It is an honour to get to make such a significant art work and I hope to maintain the thoughtful nature and enthusiasm the children brought to the project in my part of the process. Now I have the task of firing 100 glass tiles! But that will keep my studio lovely and warm through the cold winter days! The drawings shown are just the top of the pile, we focused on the role of women, women’s rights, children’s experiences and returning soldiers/men on the home front. The children have captured the emotions of loss and uncertainty well in their work and I was impressed with their thoughtful attitude.
Many thanks to Teign Heritage Centre for their generous information sharing and to the teachers and pupils at TCS School.
I will post another update at the next stage of the process.
My latest commission, a fishy window for a converted pub in the Cotswolds, this is in an internal door. The fish are acid etched into spectrum water glass, which, as the name suggests is perfect for representing water.
EDGE is an outdoor sculpture trail on Dartmoor and is set in a woodland with a stream running through. The theme this year is Renewal.
I haven’t tried to hang a stained glass window in the woods before and I really like how it looks suspended in the trees. Stained glass is usually in such solid stone and brick built openings and its quite different looking at it just suspended in the air.
The panel mixes fused glass and traditional stained glass painting and leading. Its in a very sturdyy frame, so lets hope it survives the Dartmoor Weather! Heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast this week, so fingers crossed.
I don’t usually add text to my own work, but I have written a little bit of text that goes around the edge. No idea where this new found poetic streak has come from!
The panel is called Woodland Education and the words say
This is not my normal kind of post. I have not just finished a big commission, though I have plenty of them to be getting on with. It’s also very early in the morning, so my family know there is something up today! Indeed there is. I have got up early to day to (slight panic) bulk buy essential materials of my trade! Why? Well…..
Spectrum Glass Company announced the sad news that after 40 years of art glass production they are set to close. I use a lot of Spectrum glass, that clever texture that makes the glass look like ripples on water- that is their glass. Glass with a perfect flat finish to print onto – that’s their glass. Affordable, reliable, easy to cut and constantly pushing forward the science of glass for enhanced compatibility and new effects in warm glass techniques; I have come to take their products for granted. For example I start a major public commission in September and I was planning to use their glass for its fabrication. The main reason for their demise seems to be a dramatic drop in sales since ‘the c
rash’ they say around 40%. Now Spectrum are not a small, artisan company they are one of a handful of international glass manufacturers who specialise in art glass and this is a major disruption in the force for us glass artists. Even glass artists who do not use their products will feel the effects as it is bound to have a knock on effect to the pricing of other companies glass (especially warm glass supplies), as glass becomes a rarer commodity – that’s just supply and demand.
But how can this be happening? My studio is not in decline! I am busy, too busy, I cannot keep up with demand for my work from galleries, I have a 3 month lead time with commissions. At gallery openings and Private Views people always enquire if I am busy, I can always honestly say, ‘Yes, I am so busy I struggle to keep up with it. Stained glass is a declining industry and their are fewer people with my skills with working studios every year – I get busier all the time.’
But I guess Spectrum’s closure is the reality of my slightly flippant words, this is the first time I am faced with the flip side of this supply and demand situation, as our skills become scarce so do the materials we work with and the people who make them for us. RIP Spectrum Glass, I will miss you very much.
Images of work made entirely from Spectrum – a little homage to my favourite supplier.