The Robert Plant Guardian Bird of Relics

And so to the final one of the six birds! It’s Robert Plant, our wonderful living rock legend!

I thought it would be nice to have someone who is still alive as inspiration for a guardian bird. I chose Mr. Plant because of his connections with Glastonbury and the Abbey itself. In 2014 for the first time after many years of worshipping him as front man of Led Zeppelin I got to see him play live at Glastonbury Abbey with his new band the ‘Sensational Space Shifters’. I went with my partner and our two youngest (teenagers) . It was a fantastic concert, I love the mix of old and new songs, blending world music musicians and sounds  into the old Led Zepp rock songs such as ‘Whole Lotta Love’

But his most iconic song that seemed to fit the ‘religious theme’ was of course the much played and over played Stairway to Heaven. Coming from a family of rock music lovers, I found my younger teenage years progressed into punk (or was that regressed?) and then back to rock. (I won’t tell you about my crush on David Essex when I was 10, luckily Sting came along at just the right time to save me from embarrassment with my friends! Shh! Did I really just tell you that?)

The Four Symbols or Led Zeppelin 1V as it’s more commonly known (the album with the song Stairway to Heaven) was played frequently in my house and various tracks were played in the pub where I would spend my evenings after college. But the first time I really sat down and listened to the whole album was when I was 18.  It was a night after the pub with a friend of a friend who offered to put me up on his sofa to save me from a very long walk home in the dark. I had a tendency to listen to music but not the words in those days, so as we listened he handed me a bit of paper which had the words to the song written down. That piece of paper was a magical script , it was as if each word was made of gold and silver, I had treasure in my pocket and  I could also sing along!

The Robert Plant Guardian bird (cement structure, stained glass, hand gilded metal leaf glass, shell rounds, glass beads, hand painted eyes, wire)

The feather on the heart of the bird is Robert Plant’s symbol on the Four Symbols album. Each member of the band had a symbol, the feather was designed by Mr. Plant being based on the feather of Ma’at, the Egyptian goddess of justice and fairness that came from the mythical lost Continent of Mu.

 

Stairway to Heaven song relic snow globe

I made the stairway with marble cubes and gilded them in gold and metal leaf.

Here’s the bird in the exhibition…

I think I just made you a Saint, oh Mr. Robert Plant!

😉

 Traces Revealed continues until January 28th 2018.

 

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Saint Dunstan Guardian Bird of Relics

The penultimate guardian bird of relics made for  the Traces Revealed exhibition at Glastonbury Abbey.

Born in Baltonsborough near Glastonbury, Saint Dunstan was guided by the Irish monks in the 10th Century A.D at Glastonbury Abbey. Later he became abbot of the Abbey. When he was canonised after his death, his patronage included metalsmiths, goldsmiths, silversmiths, musicians and locksmiths. He was very talented in the arts including illumination and writing. It’s possible he might have built the glass kiln that was discovered in archaeological digs at the abbey.

But my favourite story has to be about his struggle with evil. After being accused of witchcraft and thrown into a cesspit he travelled to Winchester where he contracted leprosy. After he recovered he returned to Glastonbury abbey and built himself a small cell. It was here that the devil tried to tempt him so with his blacksmith tongs he took off the devils nose and kept it in a cage!

I have a strange little story too. I had made the devils nose and it was sitting behind me in a cage whilst I was making the Saint Dunstan guardian bird …

I could hear a rustling noise and a sort of scratching sound. I thought it was probably a mouse until I had a real shock when I turned around. The devils nose was shaking and it appeared to be moving, like it was crawling slowly out of the cage! I noticed the door of the cage was open so I was very brave at this point and I quickly grabbed the cage and shut the little door. Later when I had calmed down I opened the little door, grabbed the nose, shouted at it and then smeared it with silicone and stuck it to the inside of the cage in the hope it would stay still! If you look at the last post you can see the finished bird with the nose in the cage. In the exhibition the door is open so you can see the nose …but I hope the staff remember to close the little door at night!

Saint Dunstan Guardian bird of relics (cement structure, stained glass, hand gilded copper leaf glass, van gogh glass, shell rounds, hand painted eyes)

Here we go … hope you are ready for this … a quick glimpse of non such more repulsive as the devils nose!!

Yuck! Want a closer look?

the devils nose (copper gilded and distressed fimo clay, wire nose hairs, glass boils!)

 

You can see this one plus the guardian birds of relics of 2 other saints, King Arthur and Queen Guinevere birds and a living rock legend guardian bird, plus other pieces of work at Glastonbury Abbey’s exhibition Traces Revealed which continues until January 28th 2018.

🙂

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St.Brigid Guardian Bird of Relics

It is said that the Irish Saint Brigid (of Kildare) visited Beckery chapel just outside Glastonbury in the 5th Century AD. Although the chapel is no longer there I went to find the hill (Brides mound) where it once was. I wish I had been in on the recent excavations where they re-found seven skeletons for carbon dating. (Excavations during the 1960’s uncovered a cemetery of at least 50 skeletons believed to be monks who used the chapel) It might have been easier to find if I had gone with the archaeologists!

Me and my partner spent several hours trying to find the hill, it didn’t seem to be where google maps said it was. We had to resort to books in the library and finally after a good walk along the river we found it!

The hill was quite unremarkable and there was no evidence of recent excavations, they did a good job of covering it all up again.

But it has a good view of one of the old tannery buildings and the Tor in the distance!

 

Offerings on the mound.

Saint Brigid is venerated in Glastonbury as the original Celtic goddess who holds the eternal flame as midwife and earth mother. In the town there is the Saint Brigid healing centre and just under the Tor there is a shrine at the White Spring .

On the walls of St. Patrick’s Chapel at the Abbey, murals painted by Fleur Kelly depict the saints in a style appropriate to early 16th Century. This is Saint Brigid depicted with a cow. She is patron saint of many things including milk maids!

Saint Brigid by Fleur Kelly

To return to the story, when Saint Brigid left Beckery Chapel legend has it that she left some of her belongings behind; a bell, some jewellery and her bag. (I don’t know why she would leave her bag behind, perhaps she in a hurry or maybe she never returned to Kildare and died at Beckery)

I chose to make her bag for the Guardian bird’s relic. I used cement and mesh and gilded it in silver leaf, then stained it with tea and rust to make it look old. I hung plastic cows on the bottom as a nod to her patronage whilst referring to the modern plastic collectible world our kids live in. The cows were black and white Friesians but I painted them badly in white with red horns, the colours associated with her cow.

Saint Brigid’s bag with kitsch overtones

Saint Brigid Guardian bird (stained glass, hand-gilded glass, hand painted eyes, metal buttons, shell rounds)

The heart bears the Saint Brigid cross which was a Celtic symbol associated with Brigid. It was originally made of straw, symbolised the sun and was hung above people’s doors to warn off evil.

This is the fourth Guardian bird in the series, please refer to the last posts to read about the others!

You can see this one plus the guardian birds of relics of 2 other saints, King Arthur and Queen Guinevere birds and a living rock legend guardian bird, plus other pieces of work at Glastonbury Abbey’s exhibition Traces Revealed which continues until January 28th 2018.

🙂

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St. Joseph of Arimathea Guardian Bird of Relics

Legend has it that Saint Joseph of Arimathea came to Glastonbury to spread the Christian faith with the two cruets full of Christ’s blood and sweat. When he arrived he walked up Wearyall (now Wirral) hill and on reaching the top he stopped and exclaimed something like “Since we be weary all here we will rest” (hence the name Wearyall hill). There he thrust his staff into the ground and it took root forming a hawthorn tree. The tree flowered twice a year, once in Spring and once at Christmas. It then suffered hundreds of years of people cutting off branches and carving names into the trunk but it still flowered every year. Later in the 17th century during the Civil war it was considered a superstitious relic and burnt by the Roundheads. However many cuttings were taken and another tree was planted in 1951.

The 1951 tree still stands but was vandalised in 2010, and as you see in true Glastonbury form, spiritual ideas live on by the continual ritual of tying prayer ribbons to it. Whether they are to worship Joseph, or the tree as a relic, or to find peace and a spiritual awakening remains to be seen.  People have different reasons. The ritual is associated with Celtic, Shaman and Tibetan Buddhist deities. In Glastonbury people explore and practice all of these religions, there many ways to find enlightenment!  I find it interesting how pre-Christian religions and paganism unite with Christianity so often, each borrowing stories from each other for their own beliefs.

Here’s another Glastonbury thorn at the Abbey in front of Saint Patrick’s chapel.

St. Joseph of Arimathea  is often symbolised with the two cruets of Christ’s blood and sweat that he collected when he hung from the cross. It is possible Joseph brought the cruets with him to Glastonbury as well as the holy grail, if the cruets weren’t themselves the original grail that is! (More about the holy grail later 😉 )

The Guardian Bird of Saint Joseph of Arimathea

Saint Joseph of Arimathea Guardian Bird of Relics (cement structure, stained glass, hand gilded metal leaf glass, glass cabochons, millefiori, shell rounds, hand painted eyes, wire, liquid leaf)

The heart bears a hawthorn leaf to represent Saint Joseph of Arimathea.

cruets (espresso cups, acrylic gems, resin, plastic, paint) Comparing the veneration of the sacred cruets with the glorification of the coffee culture.

This is the third guardian bird in my series of six. You can read about the King Arthur bird and the Queen Guinevere bird here

You can see this one plus the guardian birds of relics of 2 other saints, King Arthur and Queen Guinevere birds and a living legend rock star bird, and other pieces of work at Glastonbury Abbey’s exhibition Traces Revealed which continues until January 28th 2018.

🙂

 

 

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King Arthur and Queen Guinevere Guardian Birds of relics

And so the magic begins! …The Guardian birds have risen from their hidden hollows beneath the Tor . The precious relics tightly carried in their claws, to a place of safety in the Abbey, where pilgrims and folk from the kingdom of Somerset and beyond can gaze upon them in wonder.

I chose to use the double headed eagle as the guardians of the relics. In the abbey double headed eagles are depicted on  medieval terracotta tiles. They were a heraldic emblem, believed to be the coat of arms of Richard, the Earl of Cornwall as King of the Romans. After further research about the bird I found out that in ancient middle eastern cultures the bird was a protective and magical character, while later in the Byzantine period in Greece, Venice and Russia it became an emblem of the empire. Then it was adopted by the patriarch as a symbol of the Orthodox church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tiles with yellowing designs are quite worn but you can still see the double headed eagles.

As promised here are the Guardian birds of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s relics. The first two of six birds…

Guardian bird of King Arthur’s relics

KIng Arthur Guardian bird of relics (cement structure, gilded edges and back of wings, stained glass, hand gilded metal leaf glass, Vintage rhinestones, shell rounds, hand painted eyes, glass beads, wire)

 

The heart of the double-headed eagle bears the sword hilt, Excalibur, to represent King Arthur.

 

Guardian bird of Queen Guinevere’s relics

 

Queen Guinevere guardian bird of relics (cement structure with gilded wings edges and backs, metal beads, shell rounds, acrylic and glass gemstones, stained glass, hand gilded metal leaf glass, some pieces with gilded celtic designs, millefiori, hand painted eyes)

The heart of the double-headed eagle bears a crown to represent Queen Guinevere.

I used letraset for the words on the ribbon … haven’t used that since the early 80’s!

The relics I have made are mostly playful analogies, comparing the Catholic tradition of the veneration of relics with modern day trends and culture and of souvenir gifts.

If you want to know more about the bone and the ribbon read the last post!

You can see these plus the guardian birds of relics of 3 saints and a living legend rock star and more at Glastonbury Abbey’s exhibition Traces Revealed which continues until January 28th 2018.

🙂

 

 

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Do Swallows Eat Olives?

This commission for a private customer was a delight to make. My clients wanted a mosaic for their wall outside their house. After initial discussions by email and a site visit I made three drawings and they chose this one.

As my clients didn’t want very strong or bright colours I chose to use stained glass as I could choose colours that were not as bold as smalti but fresher than vitreous glass.

I was also able to use a fair amount of gold smalti. As the gold smalti was thicker than the stained glass I decided to make it indirect on plastic. It would need a fairly deep bed of cement adhesive to make a flat surface. The flat surface would make it easier to clean off any algae that might collect on it over the years.

Once the leaves and birds were complete I received my luscious order of gold!

There is always so much satisfaction when placing the last piece!

I used sand to stop the gaps so I could grout from the other side. Here you can also see the electrical cable flex I used as a temporary edge while I filled the mosaic with cement adhesive. (There’s always a use for broken things one day)

 

Thick bed of adhesive and levelling before pushing boards firmly on the top. (And piling on the weight to ensure a good hold)

I made a sandwich of light weight cement boards with adhesive in the middle (my partner called it a custard cream) not only for strength but also because the boards were in two halfs; the first layed horizontally and the second vertically.

However it was still very heavy!

After a few days drying it was turned over and the plastic pulled off.

The trunk was made as a separate piece.

Thought I’d learnt my lesson from the last one I made on plastic and I used a weaker pva glue than then, but it was still a devil to get clean.

Brushed out the sand and grouted.

And gazed at the gold…

I had some help with installing it on the wall.

Final touches glueing olives over the screws.

My two boys doing a few hours work for a change!!!

The Olive Tree (2.12m height x 1.20m wide) (stained glass, ceramic tile. marble, gold leaf smalti glass)

Details

 

One happy customer

🙂

One happy me

🙂

 

 

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Garden Treasure Bird Pool

Welcome to new followers and thank you for all your lovely comments about my Pool of Dreams bird bath. I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed but feel privileged to have been featured on Discover .

I have made another bird pool. This one is a lot smaller and constructed by using my other method by casting the cement mortar into a mould which in this case was a plastic melamine salad bowl from Tescos! “You can’t use that” my daughter insisted, “it’s too nice, you’ll get it covered in concrete and we could use it to eat salad out of!” So I had to sneak it into my shed while she was at college and I covered the inside quickly with wire, mesh and cement mortar.

Again I began from the centre with a beautiful ammonite.

I didn’t like the horizontal direction of the first few strips of gold metal leaf glass, so I redid it …

Old toothbrushes are great for cleaning out that stubborn grout!

Garden Treasure Bird Pool

I love using glass marbles in these pieces combined with glass nuggets and milliefiori tiles. The marbles were bought years ago on a trip with my kids to the House of Marbles in Devon. Many years ago we watched the marbles being made in the factory, which was fascinating. I think even my hyperactive boys were mesmerized and settled down for five minutes to watch. We all bought a tub of marbles each and when we got them home they were played with for a short while before being left to collect dust on shelves in the bedroom. When my kids left home and cleared their rooms they gave me their marbles and I stored several jars of them in my work-shed with the idea that I would use them one day. It wasn’t until I discovered I could cut them into two halves (not an easy cut, and not 100% accurate or successful) that I began to use them in my work. That way I had a flat base to stick them into the cement adhesive.

Garden Treasure Bird Pool and the Pool of Dreams.

Hand cast wire and concrete bowl, glass tile, vintage glass tiles from Marble Mosaic Company, glass nuggets and marbles, hand gilded metal leaf glass, milliefiori, ceramic tiles, fossils from madagascar and the Jurassic coast, gold lipped oyster shell from Boris Anrep’s studio)

Happy May Day

Garden

🙂

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