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Journal

Posts tagged tom denny
A Tom Denny Interlude...
 
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Regular readers here will probably have already realised that I have a bit of a thing for the stained glass windows created by artist Tom Denny. I had set myself a goal this year of arranging a tour to see a selection, but you won’t be surprised to know that I haven’t done that - yet.

However, in July, I did manage to visit Hereford Cathedral where Tom Denny has four panels dedicated to the seventeenth century poet and priest, Thomas Traherne.

Traherne’s writing, poems and meditations, are perhaps a forerunner of those of William Blake, mixed with the delight of nature you find in John Clare. 

Like most people, I’d never heard of Thomas Traherne until just a few years ago. In fact, the story of the discovery, or more accurately re-discovery of his work is only just short of a miracle - you can read about it here if you’re interested.

My own awareness came in a suitably roundabout way, through reading the Merrily Watkins novels by Phil Rickman - (they’re set in Herefordshire and who will occasionally make reference to the work of Traherne, who was a Herefordshire man).

Anyway, I’d seen photographs of Tom Denny’s Traherne windows, and was excited to finally be in the cathedral with time to go and look at them. The first surprise though, was that I couldn’t find them.

Tom Denny’s work is so unlike anything else I’ve come across in stained glass that I wasn’t anticipating any problem spotting the Traherne windows, but having walked a complete circuit of the cathedral, I hadn’t found them. Eventually, confused, I asked a cathedral guide if she could point me in the right direction.

And it turns out that the windows are quite difficult to find, as they are actually in a tiny side chapel, the Audley Chapel, at the very far end of the cathedral.

But oh were they worth the hunt.

I was astonished to discover that they are actually quite small - something I hadn’t appreciated from the photos I’d seen.

Small they may be, but despite that, they are crammed with the incredible details that are the signature of Denny’s work. And in the Audley Chapel, you’re able to get right up close to the windows, so you can really see and appreciate the details.

Looking at them, I couldn’t stop myself from repeating out loud, ‘oh wow!’ - which seems like such an inarticulate response, but in fact they simply did take my breath away, I was literally awe-inspired.

Now I’m not a stained glass artist, and despite being immensely attracted by the art form, I’ve never had any inclination to try working in this medium, so for me there remains something entirely magical about the way that light works through the colours, it’s magical because I have no idea how it’s created, I’m content to let it work on my senses without needing to understand the process.

I have recently discovered a video which shows Tom Denny working on the windows he created for Leicester Cathedral, in which he describes some of his process. This is fascinating, but fortunately doesn’t dispel the enchantment for me.

So I was able to stand in the tiny, dark chapel and be entirely overwhelmed by the play of colours, hidden images, light and shadow. 

Here are the photos that I took while I was in the Audley Chapel…

 
 

I continue to find this medium deeply inspirational. Deeply moving. The intensity of the colours does something to my spirits, something that I can’t put into words, but which I feel on an inner level. I’m drawn into the images, I feel their richness, I want to soak myself in them, to absorb their light.

Over and over, I try to recreate that feeling of light in the embroidery and fabric art that I make. I try to find ways to create the luminance with threads and fabric and to create that movement of light. It’s an on-going process of trial and error, but I always go back to stained glass and know that somewhere there I’ll find the answer, I just have to keep on trying.

Happy stitching.

Anny x

 
Out and about in May...
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out and about in May...

I blinked and there we were, three weeks into May!

Well, it’s all been happening around here. After weeks of being cooped up by the interminable grey weather, we’ve finally been granted a summer and we’re making the most of it!

If you're familiar with my stitch work, you probably won't be surprised to know that I'm very interested in Britain's ancient history, especially the remains left in the landscape from the neolithic to the Iron Age.  Over the Bank Holiday weekend the OH and I travelled to Overton Hill, the start (or end I suppose) of The Ridgeway (one of the oldest paths in England) and walked a 5 mile circular route taking in Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow, Avebury Stone Circle and a short stretch of the Ridgeway back to the start/end. Of course we chose the hottest day of the year, but somehow that didn’t matter because I was finally getting to see places I’d wanted to visit for a very long time.

As it was a Bank Holiday we’d anticipated Avebury (biggest stone circle in the country - with a village inside the circle) being very busy, and I suppose it was, but it didn’t detract from what I thought was an incredible atmosphere. Although I think perhaps that walking there, seeing West Kennet and Silbury Hill on the way, had prepared me by working its magic. There is certainly something so different about the whole landscape in that area, literally teeming with ancient earthworks, stone circles, barrows and mounds. By the time we reached Avebury in the very hot mid afternoon, I was happily away in another dimension.

Silbury Hill - despite archaeological investigations, no one has yet established a reason for it's creation. It's one of many mysteries in the landscape.

Silbury Hill - despite archaeological investigations, no one has yet established a reason for it's creation. It's one of many mysteries in the landscape.

Avebury stone circle - of course without a drone or helicopter it's difficult to give any impression of the scale of Avebury. In fact there are three circles in all contained within a massive henge. 

Avebury stone circle - of course without a drone or helicopter it's difficult to give any impression of the scale of Avebury. In fact there are three circles in all contained within a massive henge. 

Walking back towards The Ridgeway even small copses of trees turn out to be guarding ancient burial mounds. The air was tingling.

Walking back towards The Ridgeway even small copses of trees turn out to be guarding ancient burial mounds. The air was tingling.

That evening we had dinner in Laycock (the village where the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice was filmed) and then walked across the river and around Laycock Abbey as the sun went down. We watched bats flitting past and a heron fishing in the river and as we approached the Abbey in the gathering dusk, the one window illuminated from inside was the famous oriel where arguably the first ever photograph was taken by William Fox Talbot in the summer of 1835. A truly magical day.

After that we slipped over the Severn Estuary and met up on the Monday with my brother at Chepstow Castle.

Chepstow is a lovely historic town and the castle has such a long and fascinating history, perched up on the cliffs above a turn in the notoriously wriggly River Wye, it’s a perfect place to spend a lazy day wandering about. Although it was so hot when we were there we had to pace ourselves and stop frequently for tea and ice cream.

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Then last week we nipped up the M1 to Leicester and paid our respects to Richard III again, this time we weren’t rushing so much so we made it to the Richard III experience across the road from the cathedral. Have you been? I enjoyed it, although I thought the historic background on the ground floor was a bit thin on detail. But upstairs, the exhibition of the dig that uncovered Richard was enthralling. I must admit to feeling quite moved by the whole thing. It’s hard not to feel that there was some guiding hand pointing to the spot where his bones were lying and encouraging those who were so committed to finding him. Well, it made me wonder.

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In the cathedral, the chapel beside Richard III’s tomb has two windows specially created for the occasion of Richard’s interment by my favourite stained glass artist, Tom Denny. So you can imagine, I took about a zillion photos and spent a long time gazing up at the windows. They have a strange power, they always seem to draw me in, I feel as if I'm becoming part of the story. Quite hypnotic.

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Hedgerow Watching

Meanwhile, out in the lane the transformation from spring to summer has gone on apace.

There’s so much may blossom this year, surely it must be more than recent years? But not just the hawthorn, we’ve had a wonderful carpet of bluebells, lilac, apple blossom, stitchwort, holly blossom and cow parsley. Yesterday I noticed the first buds on the dog roses - I love these, especially when there’s been a little rain and the raindrops are caught in the ridged leaves. Our morning walks have been even more uplifting for the last couple of weeks as every day seems to bring on some new flower to make you smile.

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Slow stitch diary

And then there’s the stitchery stuff…

Thank you so much to everyone who messaged me after the last journal post. It does help to see through other people’s eyes, and I have persevered with the smaller piece which I’ll show you shortly. But I said last time that I needed to play, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

Experiments with acrylic paint and ink on canvas. I miss getting the paints out and it felt good to use them again. This is the first time I've used them on fabric.

Experiments with acrylic paint and ink on canvas. I miss getting the paints out and it felt good to use them again. This is the first time I've used them on fabric.

Inspired by Stephanie Redfern’s book, I got out my old acrylic paints, taped a variety of plain fabrics to a board and splashed the paint about. It was hugely cathartic and it fascinated me to see how differently it looked on the various substrates as it dried. It’s helped enormously to just stand there and experiment, now in my mind I’m already thinking about what I want to try next.

From the pieces I painted, there’s one waiting for me to work at it with threads and there’s this one, which I decided to go straight to work on. The background is hand painted with acrylic and metallic inks and then I’ve stitched on some silks and worked over the whole in threads. I’m not sure if it’s quite finished yet - nearly though.

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So, all in all a busy but productive couple of weeks. I hope you’re also having a good time with your creative work at the moment, it’s such a cyclical thing isn’t it, we have to find a way to work with the flow.

And so until next time,

Happy stitching!

Anny x