Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Patchwork stained glass / stained glass patchwork

"Patchwork" stained glass window in the
Abbaye de Fontfroide near Narbonne

I never liked writing postcards, but now that almost no one sends them they are missed (especially the ones with a Biro cross indicating one's guest house - yes, that's the one, five streets back from the beach almost hidden by the gasometer). My friend Susan not only still sends real postcards from her holidays, but often emails pictures as well. Two literally smashing ones arrived last week while she was in France. The subject line was "Patchwork in stained glass" and the email contained the information that they were "a collection of windows made from random scraps of stained glass salvaged from churches destroyed in the First World War. Charming." Which indeed they are. 

Anyone lost a knee?

I particularly like this one in which, as she points out, there is a spare knee in the bottom left-hand corner. It is surprising little encounters and juxtapositions that I treasure in patchwork quilts too, although misplayed knees do not usually feature. Which is a shame. 

As well as the patchwork connection, these windows fit very neatly into my current preoccupation with "Fractures", my love of collage and also my interest last year in a stained glass image of a saint that I wanted to reproduce in textiles, which meant the whole design had to be done in a similar style.

"Stained glass window" quilt, 2014

But in fact my curiosity about these broken and reassembled windows had already been piqued by an encounter at a craft fair last winter with the glass artist Sheenagh McKinlay, who makes beautiful examples with a contemporary twist, incorporating, for instance, glass lantern slides. She showed me photographs of such windows in churches and cathedrals, and since then I have looked for them, but in vain.

Stained glass "patchwork" by Sheenagh McKinlay

Stained glass is, of course, also a well established applique technique. I did the obligatory samples for City and Guilds many years ago - each piece pinned and then tacked in place before the bias strips were pinned and tacked and hand sewn into place - gratefully believing that I would never have to use the technique again. 

My "stained glass" applique samples for City and Guilds, mid-1990s

I was mightily relieved, therefore, almost 20 years on, that lightweight bonding materials (I use Mistyfuse for all my bonding these days) and fusible bias binding in narrow widths had made the whole caboodle a whole lot less fiddly. Which is not to say that I will be doing it again any time soon. 

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