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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
We decided to invite our family to make a small piece each by way of a thank you for their part in supporting us through this project, my daughter, Ruby, painted a fragment for the window, a design of bees taken from a medieval manuscript.
We have had a busy week in the studio getting the glass finished, besides having the visits from Maenclochog Primary School, and filming an item for Welsh language TV programme, Wedi Saith (the item is 14 minutes into the clip here). About 30 local people came to our open studio hour on Sunday afternoon, it was an opportunity for people in the village to see what has been going on in here for the last six months. Then the kilns were in full use over weekend in a bid to meet our deadline and have the glass ready to be leaded by Tuesday.
Rachel put the final piece of glass was put into the design late on Monday, it was an emotional moment, to have actually finished the painting part of the work. We are exhausted but very pleased with the way it has gone and looking forward to installing it in 3 weeks time!
The panels were dismantled and taken to Swansea yesterday to the Architectural Glass Centre, where they are in the capable hands of Alun, Owen and Stacey who are going to do the leading in the next three weeks.
I have left the strangely empty studio and headed off to London to see the Grayson Perry, Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman show at the British Museum. On Friday Rachel and I have booked to attend a study day on Royal Manuscripts at the British Museum – Wow, do these girls really know how to celebrate!!!
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.
It is all 12 hour days in the studio right now to get all the glass painted and fired so that the panels can go to Swansea for leading next week. But deadlines can be a positive thing, and I am sure I would spend another 6 months tweaking details and that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.
The amount of detail in these panels astounds even me! How any crafts person is supposed to find time for social media is beyond me – medieval craftsmen had it easy, or, you might say that York Minster would never have been completed if they had had Facebook!! Actually, I am finding social media really useful at the moment for research and for networking with other artists and historians and enthusiasts of various types.
On Sunday 12th February we will host a viewing of the panels in my studio before they go down to Swansea to be leaded next week. People are welcome to come between 4pm and 5pm (sorry, but we have to restrict the time to one hour as we have so much to get done by Tuesday).