Emerging from 13th Century!

A few weeks back, Rachel Phillips and I installed our five stained glass windows in Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey. The castle was built in the late 1200’s by Edward 1st, and our work celebrates the design and the masons who built it, while referencing manuscripts pertaining to the use, ownership and state of the castle through the centuries.

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We have been living and breathing this work for the past 8 months, and are delighted to see it in situ, casting light and colour back into the building.

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I have also been making some glass squares for Strata Florida Abbey in Mid Wales. These pieces have been incorporated into a metal gate and were commissioned by sculptor, Rubin Eynon. They are based on encaustic tiles found at the abbey and also contain fragments of manuscripts written by the Welsh poet, Gwilym ap Dafydd and other scribes who wrote at the abbey.

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In other news, I have had a piece accepted for the British Glass Biennale, which takes place in Stourbridge in August. This piece is about global interconnectivity on social media and will be an installations of ‘iPhones’, which I am making from mirror, each of which feature the silhouette portrait of one of my Friends on Facebook. Anyone who is my Friend on Facebook can take part and I want to feature as many people as possible. All you have to do is send me a photo of yourself in profile, head and shoulders, taken against a light background, and I will do the rest!

Now I am taking a well deserved break in preparation for all my new projects!

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Beaumaris Castle

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.

Cysgod y Coed – glass commission installed

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Rachel Phillips and I have just installed our glass commission in the Family Housing Association sheltered housing and health care development in Crymych, Pembrokeshire.

The inspiration for the work came from a desire to bring the landscape of Pembrokeshire in to the building and to introduce artwork by local people to personalize the space. We decided on a theme based on tree and plant shapes, and designed the piece to change with the light throughout the day and provide interest and stimulation for staff, visitors and residents.

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I ran a workshop with pupils at Ysgol y Frenni, Crymych. The children made drawings from the environment around the school and made leaf and fern print from material gathered locally. Rachel and I then made their own drawings and studies and directly incorporated the children’s fern prints into the design, which was sandblasted on two layers and incorporated into eight double glazed units.

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We are really pleased to have had the opportunity to a creative contribution to such a fantastic new facility in our community. crymych2

Island Days….

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I am just back from the celebration of Skokholm Island’s reinstatement as a Bird Observatory. Skokholm was Britain’s first Bird Observatory, established by Ronald Lockley in 1933, and has just celebrated its reinstatement as an active bird ringing station. Rachel Phillips and I have made a window for the island toilet (the only place we could persuade the ornithologists that maybe privacy was more important than bird-watching!). The window is inspired by the history of the island from its days as a medieval rabbit warren through to the early naturalist years of Ronald Lockley to the present day, and celebrates the unique flora and fauna found there.

Time on the island researching the window last year has opened up many ideas in my work and has inspired me to compile a proposal for future work on the island. Once again, working with Rachel was a fabulous experience.

This video documents the making process. Thanks to Ceri Owen Jones for kind permission to use his music on the video.

Birds and Poetry

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Her House is Air, cast, blown and engraved glass, peregrine falcon feather and pen nib.

Photo by Toril Brancher

I am delighted to announce that I have just won the inaugural £10,000 Adrian Henri Poetry in Art Prize at Much Wenlock Poetry Festival for my piece, Her House Is Air.

I will be spending my prize money buying a new kiln and other studio equipment and giving myself some time this autumn to develop new work in my studio.

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I am just back from Skokholm Island off the Pembrokeshire Coast where I have spent a week developing ideas for new work. I went with Rachel Phillips, Rachel and I are designing a stained glass window for the island and spent the week sketching, absorbing the place and delving through old bird books and scientific data in the library, which the wardens kindly allowed us to use as our studio.

Skokholm is the neighbouring island to Skomer and is an island I have visited over the past 20 years, it has recently been purchased by the Wildlife Trust south and West Wales and will soon be re-established as a bird observatory for the monitoring and recording of bird life. It is exciting to see it with its newly restored accommodation (there is now electricity and even occassional wifi!), most of the considerable renovation work has been carried out on a shoestring with volunteer labour. The new wardens, Richard and Giselle, will soon be taking up residence in the lighthouse. If you are interested in birds, take a look at their blog.

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The lighthouse on Skokholm.

There is so much that inspires me about the Pembrokeshire Islands, they have everything that grabs my imagination, including birds, research, archaeology, history, dramatic weather, isolation…ImageI have come back to my mainland studio with masses of ideas and inspiration for new work.

ImageA sample piece for Skokholm Island.

I have been busy preparing for my trip to the US in May. I will be giving a paper about our Conwy Castle windows and running a glass workshop for the American Glass Guild Conference in Florida, then going to the National Glass Museum at Corning and on to New York.

ImageA sample piece for my US workshop.

Towards Spring…

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We have been treated to some superb snow this month.

The past few months has been a busy time for teaching. I have done a number of glass projects in local primary schools. I love this work, it is so inspiring to work with children and get them enthused about glass!

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One particularly inspiring project was to make 2 bowls with kids at Ysgol y Frenni on the theme of “patterns in the environment” (or “patrymau  yr ymgylchedd” as the entire project was undertaken through the medium of Welsh!).

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I designed this as a patchwork of glass so that each child could work on their own design and then we could put them together to make a group piece. The bowls will be entered in the Urdd Eisteddfod in May.

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In another project we made fused glass jewellery on the same theme.

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The kids were so enthusiastic, they said it was their favourite day at school  EVER!!

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Rachel and I have just run a “Landscape into Glass” 4 day course at my studio here in Pembrokeshire. We were teaching our students mark-making and layering techniques and ways of working with firing paint, silver stain and frits in combination with pieces of Bullseye glass. We are planning another course for later in the year.

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Sue Thorne mark making with firing paint
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Cathryn Shilling decorating her “embryos” with silver stain

We had a couple of field trips to absorb the landscape and to visit local artists studios, like that of ceramicist, Adam Buick and glass artist, Steve Robinson. The course was very successful and we are planning another for next year.

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At Adam Buick’s studio, St. Davids
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Frances Arkle at Steve Robinson’s studio, St. Davids
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Visiting Carreg Coetan, a Neolithic burial chamber in Newport.

Apart from that I have been developing some new work in the studio looking at taking painting into glass. Sarah Harman and I have been working on our quarry project, having meetings with the National Park and technical specialists to help us hone down our ideas and firm up our budget so that we can apply for funding to make and present the work in 2014.

I have just heard that I have been successful in my funding bid to Wales Arts International for support to attend the American Glass Guild Conference in Florida in May where I have been asked to give a paper and run a workshop. I am planning a trip that includes visiting glass artist friends, Jane Bruce and Michael Rogers and spending time at Corning Museum of Glass and in New York. It will be a very inspiring trip, my first time in America, and a total contrast to life in rural West Wales!

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Newport Bridge, Pembrokeshire

Installation….

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”.