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.

🙂

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

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.

🙂

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

🙂

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Relics of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere

As I mentioned in the last post I will be posting fairly regularly in the next few weeks to show you my work for the Glastonbury Abbey exhibition “Traces Revealed”

The inspiration for the pieces I made came from the abbey’s precious relics that were once in abundance in medieval times but then lost or destroyed by the Abbey fire and the reformation. Whilst other abbeys successfully moved their relics to safe houses during the reformation, I found very little evidence or traces about the whereabouts of the Glastonbury Abbey relics, so I wondered if the monks had hidden them to keep them safe. Perhaps in hidden hollows under the Tor.
6 magical birds (double headed eagles) keep guard as ‘guardians of the relics.’ They guard King Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s relics, 3 of the abbey’s saint’s relics and a living legend ‘rock star’s’ relics!

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

King Arthur’s Relics

In 1191 the monks discovered King Arthur’s and Queen Guinevere’s skeletons buried in the ancient cemetery within Glastonbury Abbey . They knew it was King Arthur because they found a lead cross with writing on it in Latin. Translated it means ‘ Here lies buried the renowned King Arthur in the isle of Avalon’.

In other words …

(fimo clay, metal leaf)

The monks were quite surprised at the size of King Arthur’s bones, he was a real giant of a man. They noticed his thigh bone (femur is it?) was broken, presumably from his last battle before being laid to rest several hundred years ago in the cemetery. Of course it unmistakeably belonged to Arthur as they noticed his name was written on the bone just like the end of a gift shop stick of rock!

King Arthur’s bone (cement structure, gold leaf glass, hand-gilded glass, marble, stained glass, vintage glass tile, millefiori, gold lipped oyster shell)

underside of bone

 

Queen Guinevere’s relics

Then the monks picked up a tress of golden hair still attached to Queen Guinevere’s skull and it turned to dust.

Or did it??

Queen Guinevere’s hair (cement structure, hand gilded glass, gilded grout)

The monks made a black marble tomb for King Arthur’s and Queen Guinevere’s relics (there were various treasures amongst the bones which included the leaden cross, and four lions heads) and invited pilgrims to visit. It was a useful find at a time of impending impoverishment of the abbey.

….come back soon to see the Magical Guardian Bird of these relics ….

or visit the exhibition at Glastonbury Abbey which begins on Saturday 30th September and continues until January 28th 2018

🙂

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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

🙂

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Red Pretty Maid birdbath

In a couple of weeks (9th – 11th June 2017), I’ll be showing my bird baths (see recent posts) and other bits and pieces at the English Country Garden Festival at the Bishops Palace in Wells.

I decided to add to my collection of Mary Mary Quite Contrary themed bird baths that I made last year and made another red “Pretty Maid” to replace the red one sold last year.

This one was made a little differently than the original one as I added a mix of glass nuggets, half cut glass marbles, milliefiori to the cut rounds of vintage glass tile in the centre.

I also commissioned some metal ‘stems’ to hold the baths that can be pushed firmly into the ground.

🙂

Save

Save

Save

Save

Coral Reef bird pool

I had a day off the other week so I went to Lyme Regis on the Jurassic coast on the Devon/Dorset border. I had a hunt for some fossils on the beach but the best finds were on a stall on the front.

I bought this wonderful piece of polished fossilised coral which is 345 million years old (carboniferous period).

I thought it would make a great centrepiece for a birdbath, although I felt a bit guilty that I would be hiding the unpolished underside by cementing it to the bowl. So to appease my guilt here’s a photo.

When I got home, I couldn’t wait to start. I made the concrete bowl using the same method and mould as the Garden Treasure bird pool.

Again I just let the fossil inspire my design, I didn’t plan it, just let the fossil talk.

The grey cement mortar you see here isn’t there to make me work fast! It was a coat to bring up the surface so that the coral wouldn’t be raised too high above the rest of the mosaic. Surrounding the coral I used copper gold leaf glass and milliefiori.

I wasn’t sure what to do next and mulled things over for five minutes, then it all seemed to make sense.

I emulated the design of the coral and like nature that does it so well I attempted to find perfection in imperfection.

Picking out the cement that is squeezed up above the surface of the tile.

Grouting and cleaning with my trusty toothbrush (don’t worry, I use a different one on my teeth!)

 

Coral Reef bird pool made with hand made concrete bowl and using  polished fossilised coral, gold leaf glass, hand gilded metal leaf glass, milliefiori, glass rods, pearl shell rounds, smalti, glass tiles.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save