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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Let There Be Light (and Water)!

Pool of Dreams

I wanted to make a bird bath loosely based on The Whirlwind That Takes Me There only using a different colour palette.

Like my Pretty Maids and cockle shell bird baths, I made this one by hand forming the base using wire, glass fibre mesh (I recycle the mesh sheets that mosaic tiles come on) and cement mixtures. I have another bird bath I make using a bowl as a mould but I really prefer the hand shaped ones as they can be any shape and they are so imperfect which exaggerates the idea of hand-made. In this world of highly finished craft objects, this is possibly seen as taking a step back again, but maybe it’s important to do that from time to time otherwise we lose sight of what really is hand-made and the work begins to lose integrity. I see so many craft objects that do nothing for me. Ok, they are technically brilliant which is what the maker has strived for, but what has it become? It’s started as a blob of glass, clay or metal, it’s been melted, beaten, punched and hammered, it’s been transformed into something else, something beautiful maybe, but along the way it seems to somehow have lost it’s soul. Of course if you recognise this mosaic bird bath as an art piece, then perhaps I wouldn’t need to justify it, (since we know art is subjective and can be anything)  but as I always think of mosaic art as craft as well as an art form then I feel the need to justify it a little bit. So yes it has an imperfect shape and yes it is hand-made! And yes it holds water and looks lovely in the garden!

Rant over, I’ll show you some photos of the process…

I started by buying some beautiful ammonites. Madagascan and Jurassic coast.

I was very excited to finally be using some of my stoneware ceramic tiles I made in a pottery class over 15 years ago.

After making my bowl I rendered the bottom brushing the cement mixture to smooth the surface. This can be done at the end but I was waiting for my fossils to arrive!

I began with the large fossil in the centre and began to work around it. I didn’t really have a plan, it was quite spontaneous, I just placed several pieces next to the prior pieces and considered how it looked aesthetically.

And finally picking out the tile adhesive between the tiles before grouting.

When I had grouted it (charcoal colour) and it was finished it wasn’t until I added the water that I felt satisfied. The water brought up all the colours beautifully.

I have used gold leaf glass as well as my hand-gilded metal leaf glass and tried to get a photo to show it shining.

Some details.

Pool of Dreams is 60cm in diameter and holds over 4 litres of water.

I used fossils, glass tiles, vintage glass tiles from Marble Mosaic company, ceramic tiles, hand-made ceramic and gilded metal leaf glass, gold leaf glass, stained glass (iridescent), smalti, slate, glass marbles, glass nuggets, milliefiori, glass rods, gold-lipped oyster shell from Boris Anrep’s studio.

Happy Easter!

🙂

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The Four Winds

This was my third piece for the Mosaic Odysseys festival.

I love the story of the four winds in Homer’s Odyssey.

Aeolus, keeper of the winds gave Odysseus a bag of wind bound up with silver thread to help him on his journey. He stored it safely on the ship and at first it was only the fair west wind that blew. However Odysseus’ men believed it to be full of gold and silver so they opened the bag and let out the four winds  … “They loosed the sack whereupon the wind flew howling forth and raised a storm that carried us weeping out to sea and away from our own country” (The Odyssey – book X by Homer)

The Four Winds or “Anemoi” were the wind gods. Boreas was the north wind god bringing cold winter winds, Zephyrus was the west wind god bringing spring and summer breezes, Notos was the south wind god who brought later summer and autumn storms and Eurus was the east wind god bringing warm winds and rain.

After a few rough sketches I came up with another rough one …

drawing

Uh oh! Did you notice my mistake? I got east and west the wrong way around which might explain why I get lost so easily in big cities (or anywhere really!) My map reading is hopeless and if I drive or walk somewhere new I have real trouble reversing the directions to get back. I think it is a kind of map dyslexia!

Luckily I noticed before I started the mosaic so was able to flip the design!

beginning

I started with  Eurus , the east wind. To hide the cut edges of the deep foil backed glass I cut the rain drops from, I built up the cement adhesive in between to lay the hand gilded silver metal leaf glass and mirror. Then stained glass was laid on edge either side of the rain drops.

For Notos, the south wind, I used a mixture of marble, stone, ceramic and gold lipped oyster and a little silver leaf glass to depict storm clouds.

progress2

progress

I used warm colours of Italian smalti glass and milliefiori flowers for Zephyrus, the spring west wind, the gentle curves in the design imitating the gentle breezes.

I imagined the Boreas wind would look like cold silver and white snakes, and I used smalti, hand gilded silver leaf glass, Italian silver leaf glass, vitreous glass tile, and gold lipped oyster shell.

Just like the other two mosaics the bird is made of Italian gold leaf glass.

You might notice I laid some mirror tile below the tail of the bird. This was because I was going to use transparent rods to illustrate the Notos wind coming from the storm clouds but I changed my mind, it didn’t work and I ended up using slate and smalti laid on edge with silver leaf glass as the bolt of lightning.

detail 6

I grouted the work in different shades of grey, Zephyrus was a paler grey than the rest in dark charcoal and I left the slate and marble sections ungrouted.

detail 4

detail 3

detail 2

 

detail 1

 

the four winds

The Four Winds (smalti, milliefiori, marble, slate, stone, gold lipped oyster shell, vitreous glass tile, iridescent glass tile, stained glass, metal foil glass, hand gilded metal leaf glass, silver leaf glass, gold leaf glass)

 

The Mosaic Odysseys Festival

The first exhibition is now over at the Hellenic Centre in London.

I was delighted to sell all three works I made.

three sold mosaics

My work sold at the Hellenic Centre. From left to right: The Four Winds, The Enchanter, The Whirlwind That Takes Me There

I will be making some new work for the next two exhibitions of this wonderful mosaic odyssey!

The festival will move onto Athens at the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation from September 9th to September 18th.

The final exhibition will be at the Muncipal Art Gallery of Mykonos, starting 23rd September and finishing 3rd October.

Exhibiting artists –

Greek artists :

Ioannis Touliatos, Artemis Klitsi, Eftychia Finou, Vasso Spanou, Lydia Papadopoulos, Alexandros Bassadis,

UK artists:

Dugald MacInnes, Nathalie Vin, Aliyahgator, Arianna Puntin, and myself.

Have a look at our website here

Thank you to Artfinder for publicity and for sponsoring our printing costs!

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