When I first saw Deborah Lowe’s work, my mind was blown. I have at least a cursory understanding of most art forms. I may not be able to do all of them, but I generally have a rough sense of how they’re done. But her pieces? I could not even begin to unravel them.
Stained glass is a medium that pairs the artistry of a painter with the tooling of a fine craftsman. And then there’s glass painting, which involves using metallic salts or glass powders to create delicate shading or texture. The painting is added in fine layers, each of which must be fired in a kiln to permanently bond with the glass. But remember, the glass is still in pieces at this point. Dozens or hundreds or thousands of perfectly cut shards hoping you remember what goes where.
And then there are the architectural elements involved in envisioning how light and color will play within a space, and of course the technical aspects of it all being a window. The process alone is enough to make one marvel, but then you see the finished work and realize what an absolute master she is.
I asked her what inspires her creative process. Here is her story.
Although I use modern tools, electric kilns and soldering irons etc, the basic method of making a stained glass window is still the same as that used by the medieval glaziers. I feel part of a long history, yet as free to play and experiment as any other contemporary artist. Glass painting is such a rich and expressive medium, a lifetime is not long enough to explore all it can do!
Drawing from nature is a key part of my work. I think everything I’ve absorbed since childhood, walking in the hills, by the sea, along the canal towpath, watching the weather (we have a lot of that here in Britain), studying plants and flowers, comes out in my work.
Glass is an inspiring medium to work with. A magical substance. Nothing hits home quite like coloured light. The english stained glass artist Jane Gray called it ‘playing with rainbows’, which I’ve always thought is a lovely phrase as it’s just how it feels. The glass I like to use is mouth blown, it has movement and colour variations in it, no two sheets are the same. It offers the stained glass artist choices, the ability to use colour almost as a painter would. Although that said, the restriction of using only what colours you have, rather than being able to mix up exactly what you want, creates new ideas and takes you in directions you’d never have thought of.
I’d say the biggest challenge I face as a contemporary stained glass artist is getting the work. Stained glass is often seen as a historic art, its roots firmly in the church and its historic buildings. Because of this it isn’t considered for some new builds, while historic buildings, though lovingly preserved, are frozen in time. Contemporary stained glass is alive and kicking and needs to be seen!
Architectural stained glass is a site specific art, each commission is designed and created for its particular setting. It is a living, interactive art form, changing with the light and throughout the day. I find this aspect one of the most stimulating, finding solutions to problems, ways to control light, create privacy or a particular mood in a space. Each commission is a chance to explore stained glass a little further, an opportunity to show what it can do. And I know, for a fact, that it can do magic!
Thank you, Deborah, for sharing your stunning work and process.
You can find Deborah’s work on her website.