I have lost my teaching job while the college where I teach art and craft to young neurodiverse adults is closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, so I have been working hard to sell some work to keep myself afloat and allow me to make new work in response to the current situation.
As a result it is currently possible to view a range of my work for sale for under £200 as part of the #artistsupportpledge which is an initiative by artist Matthew Burrows whereby artists sell pieces of work for less than £200 and for every £1000 sold the artist buys work by another artist for £200. This is a brilliant idea as it allows us to support ourselves and other artists and thanks to the pledge I have been able to continue with my studio practice and have, at the same time increased my collection of artwork by other artists!
I am feeling blessed in living in Pembrokeshire and having a garden and am enjoying having the time to develop new work and to review my gallery and to begin a major rearrangement of my studio space.
Meanwhile, at Studio Melyn (my architectural glass practice with Rachel Phillips) having recently completed a commission for a 12th Century church at Blewbury in Oxfordshire, we have been working hard on our designs for a new commission for CADW at Caernarfon Castle. The schedule for making the work has been set back by the Covid-19 restrictions, but we have been finding ways to do socially-distanced designing!
Rachel Phillips and I are busy making five stained glass windows for Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey. The windows are commissioned by Cadw and are based on the floorplan of the castle and contain references to manuscripts, heraldry and other elements which tell the story of the castle. They also contain specially commissioned text from Welsh poet, Damian Walford Davies. The windows will be installed in the castle in March 2017.
It was great to see the windows in place, free of scaffolding and looking part of the fabric of the place. We are pretty chuffed, to be honest! It has been a fabulous collaboration on every level, and, most importantly, we are still speaking!
We installed the windows yesterday. It is amazing to work with a 700 year old building, and I can safely say we have improved it! We are very pleased with ourselves and with our excellent team of installers, scaffolders and lead workers.
This morning we are going back to see the work in the space without the scaffolding. Biggest compliment so far…”it looks like it has always been there”.
The windows are pin the capable hands of Stacey Poultney and Owen Leutchford, under the watchful eye of Alun Adams, at the Architectural Glass Centre in Swansea Metropolitan University. They are all leaded now and are being cemented as I write so that they will be ready for us to install next Friday!
Whilst making these windows I have been coming to realise the power of making to move people. I have always made things, but somehow the making aspect of this project is more accessible to people than it is in my painting, where the “art” appears to get in the way. People have often asked me how long it takes me to do a painting (that old question that Whistler answered so perfectly – a lifetime!), but here, in the glass, the time, effort and skill we are spending on it is plain to see. That, combined with the beauty of the glass and the complex stories and referencing within the piece, are proving to be very popular.
This week I have made an item for the Welsh language TV programme, Wedi Saith (which will go out on S4C at 7pm on monday 13th February) and hosted visits from Maenclochog primary school and various friends and neighbours. In response to this interest, Rachel and I have decided to open the studio for an hour on Sunday (4-5pm) in an attempt to give people a chance to see the work before it goes to Swansea on Tuesday to be leaded.
Meanwhile we have plenty to do getting the final firings in the kiln, doing the calligraphy and balancing out the colour and tone of the whole piece.
Painting is progressing well on the windows. We are working flat-out to meet our deadline for installation on March 8th. I am really enjoying experimenting with etching and sandblasting as well as painting pieces, the fragmentary nature of the piece gives lots of scope to be spontaneous within a structure.
All these pieces will be cut up and included as fragments. Meanwhile, the painting is fabulous to do, so different to my usual approach to using colour, thinking all the time about the light! I am learning a lot about traditional techniques from Rachel. Hardly any time to blog!!
The gallery has been converted back into a stained glass workshop and the wonderful Carwyn has constructed fantastic easel light boxes to enable us to work on all three panels together. We have been ailing with seasonal bugs but have been enjoying painting up some glass and preparing pieces for sand blasting. It is great to have the templates and cut lines up in the studio and to actually begin to assess light and colour.
I went to a fantastic gig at Cuffern Manor this week, Julie Murphy and Ceri Owen Jones performed new pieces from their upcoming album, ably supported by Fiddlebox. Julie’s songs are tender and poignant and their collaboration embodies the best of traditional and contemporary work, poetry and music, and, amazingly, Ceri played a piece from the medieval ap Huw manuscript – one of the manuscript sources I have been consulting for my windows project…synchronicity at its best!…dreaming of a harp in the chapel..!
Setting out some glass on the cartoons we can get an idea of the size of the work and the scale we need to work to. We want the windows to have an instant impact but also to reward concentrated looking. It is great to have it all mapped out and to have some defined boundaries to work within.
Rachel went up to Conwy last weekend with the valiant Carwyn, her husband and a carpenter, and Alun Adams from The Architectural Glass Company in Swansea. They made wooden templates that fit exactly into the 13th century glazing groove so that we can make our panels to fit exactly into the eroded stone openings. Now I have to leave all this and clear out our studio to hang my New Yearpainting show ready to open on 27th December.
Things are going well with our Conwy Castle commission. Rachel and I are busy finalising the cartoons before we can begin cutting the glass for our windows. This involves drawing up more details and deciding on final positions. It is great to be collaborating with another artist, I am sure that the work will be all the richer for it. We have taken over my gallery as our studio and will be installing light boxes as soon as my New Year Exhibition is over.
We are incorporating details from medieval sources, such as the horse above from stained glass from Llangwstenin Church in Gwynedd, and the portrait of Edward 1st from stained glass in York Minster. Meanwhile its going back to basics, doing painstaking colour and firing tests on my new enamels – I can’t wait to get started with the painting!