Last weekend was August Bank Holiday and hosted the Spirit of the Eden open arts and crafts exhibition here in Armathwaite. I took some hand knitted tea cosies with teapots and thought if they don’t sell, well that’s several friends sorted for Christmas. I sold 2 hedgehogs and spent the evening knitting another. I’ve been asked to make one with a Highland cow as a Christmas present. I will have a go and let you know how it turns out.
Phil has started work on the stained glass window for the church where we got married 2 years ago last April and exhibited it as a work in progress, together with the drawings and a resume of the story depicted. It’s currently assembled on a piece of toughened glass made to the same size as the final window. The individual pieces of coloured glass are temporarily held in place with ‘Blu-tac’. This enabled it to be displayed on the light box so visitors could see it more easily but also allows Phil to take it to the church periodically to see it in context and make changes to the glass if required. The theme of the window is ‘Return to Eden’ and the symbolism can be interpreted in both religious and secular context. The idea came about whilst we were looking to move North. We chose Armathwaite which is in the Eden Valley and focused on finding a suitable home to buy. We were living on the South coast and Phil was working periodically in the North, a journey of about 270 miles each way. We did a find a property but the sale wasn’t progressing very fast so Phil made this little painting of the house to focus our positive energy on making it ours. The house is still for sale four years later!
‘Return to Eden’. This is Eden Villa, the house we wanted to buy and our offer was accepted.
The rainbow angel is me being dragged North by Phil from the South coast which had been my home for over twenty years. The ‘signature’ bottom left looks like Phil’s however it actually says BH15 which was the first bit of my post code. The plant beside the front door is actually our bay tree which was still in Dorset at the time. The salmon come up the Eden river to their original home every year without having to be dragged! The Goldfinch is often used in religious context to represent sacrifice; here it reflects the sacrifice I made to sell up and move with Phil. The red dots and blue lines at the bottom left to right represent the motorways and junctions of the journey from Poole to Armathwaite. The bottom right corner is blank as the story was ‘to be continued….’ This is written on the back of the painting which was put on the mantel where I could see it every day.
We finally succeeded in our return when we bought our home in November 2011. Phil offered to make a window for our village church, The Church of Christ and St Mary, Armathwaite and the offer was received with great enthusiasm by the Church Wardens. The plan went before the Diocese Advisory Council last year and was approved, so we have until March 2016 to complete the project. Here is the progress so far.
Preliminary drawing for ‘Return to Eden’ window
There’s a way to go yet; painted detail to be applied, hydrofluoric acid etching and painted pieces to be kiln fired.
Design overview: the theme of the window is ‘Return to Eden’.
1. The swallow.
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries when interest in the apocryphal books of the Bible flourished, artists were quick to incorporate the themes from these stories into their work.
One such story was found in the ‘Pseudo-Matthew Legend’ known in antiquity as ‘The book about the origin of the Blessed Mary and the childhood of the Saviour’. It tells of the Christ Child playing with toys or clay birds which His companions brought to Him, and which He miraculously brought to life. This ‘bringing to life’ quickly came to stand for the idea of Resurrection. The swallow, long considered as a sign of spring and the rebirth of the year, was assumed to hibernate in the mud through the winter and then become revitalized with the advent of warm weather. The similarity between the idea of the dormant mud-encrusted swallow and the clay bird is obvious. Its connection with the Resurrection theme (and thereby with Christ) led to its being called in parts of Germany, the ‘Madonna Bird’.
The swallow is depicted in the window with outstretched wings against a stylised sweeping cross to suggest the crucifixion. The constellation of Cygnus at the top of the window, also known as The Northern Cross, is positioned above the swallow to further represent the crucifixion. Swallows normally migrate at the end of summer however this bird has remained even when the leaves have fallen from the branches suggesting that Christ will not leave you.
2. The salmon
The fish represents a return to Eden as the salmon return to the place of their birth to spawn in the tributaries of the river Eden. The fish also echoes the IXTHUS symbol of early Christian faith.
3. The elvers
In 2013 we were fortunate enough to observe elvers climbing the waterfall on the Eden at Armathwaite over a geological feature known as the Cleveland Armathwaite Dyke. This is an intrusion of igneous rock estimated to be 55.8 million years old. 12 elvers represent the 12 apostles and their struggle up the dyke symbolises the arduous journeys made by the Apostles to spread the word of God.
4. The sun moon and stars
These are symbolic of the first day of The Creation when God said ‘let there be light’.
5. The tree
The tree is a symbol of the first Eden and the three fruits represent the Holy Trinity.
6. The river Eden
This water is symbolic of life force and the central feature of Armathwaite
7. The sandstone cliffs
These are part of a sandstone gorge carved through 250 million year old fossilised sand dunes by the river Eden. The towering cliffs have five faces, a salmon and a poem (a corruption of ‘The compleat angler’ by Izaak Walton 1653) carved into them. The carving of the poem is thought to be the work of a Victorian gentleman, William Mounsey and dated 1855. The faces, one of which is represented in the window are thought to be considerably earlier.
8. The viaduct arches
These may be seen as bridge arches or an open doorway through which the swallow has flown. Armathwaite was probably most densely populated during the construction of the railway and the viaduct connects the village with the wider community.
The glass is all hand made using traditional methods by artisans. The majority was sourced from English Antique glass, Alvechurch, Birmingham. It’s the last remaining manufacturer of hand made sheet glass in the UK. The rest was from Lamberts which is a German manufacturer.
We will post further images as work progresses.