Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Big Picture...

... from small parts - so many similarities!

I have, for as long as I can remember, been interested in both stained glass designs (although not so much the church window variety) and mosaics. I have also had a near-lifelong ( and I'm not telling you how many years that is!) love of patchwork and applique.

In stained glass work, designs are composed of smaller pieces of glass, each framed by the 'leading', necessary to hold each piece in place. Whereas, in mosaic work, pieces are adhered to a backing, the border between the pieces provided by the grouting. Glass may be textured, coloured, opaque ( to different degrees), patterned, iridescent, in sheet form or 'nuggets'. It is immediately obvious now, to anyone who knows anything about stained glass work that I know very little - and certainly do not have the correct vocabulary - please bear with me. 'Leading' may be 'lead coloured', copper, zinc etc and may be in its original 'colour', may be allowed to age, or may be given a different appearance by the use of applied patinas. I like this example from Diomoglass on Folksy:

Mosaics may be composed of ceramic tiles produced for the purpose, or cut/broken pieces of ceramic tiles. The tiles may be textured, patterned, heavily glazed. The surrounding grout may be any colour imaginable. Mosaics may also be composed of natural materials - pebbles, shells etc.

Now everything starts to blur into one lovely continuum. Mosaics may be made of pieces of glass, and stained glass work may incorporate many other materials, as in these two examples from Amyorangejuice on Folksy:

Further examples of Amy's mixed media work can be found at .

The particular relevance of this to my preferred 'medium' of textiles? Patchwork is, inherently, a whole made from small parts. In general these 'parts' are butted up to each other without an equivalent of grouting or leading. However, in crazy patchwork, the seam is often heavily embellished with embroidery stitches. Stained glass patchwork involves the stitching of narrow (often black) tape around the boundaries between the pieces - simulating leading. My own recent designs, which are 'stained glass inspired' are composed by applique onto a black background. My fabric may be patterned, textured, translucent, iridescent, etc. My grout, or leading may be any colour I choose. My work will usually be 'flat-ish'. However if I want a more raised profile I embellish with - embroidery, beads, buttons, sequins, encapsulation of almost any item (shells etc) by embroidery or sheer fabrics, etc. I could also enhance the profile by the use of quilting and if I want certain areas to be particularly 'raised' the use of trapunto quilting. This is a brooch which I recently sold on Folksy:

Obviously, stained glass work and mosaics lend themselves to the production of items with a rigid structure - coasters, suncatchers and the like. Whereas my textile crafts produce soft and flexible items. There are many cross over points though. Artists in all these media produce - coasters, wall hangings, jewellery, pot stands etc. Another aspect which I appreciate - all these techniques provide a natural opportunity to recycle materials.

For me the fascination is not in the similarity of the items which are produced but in the design influences  and flavours which I can borrow from these other traditions.


Now I have described this brooch as 'stained glass inspired', beautiful bright colours against a black background:

Whereas, I describe this one as 'reminiscent of mosaic', blues and whites - from re-cycled ceramics perhaps!


1 comment:

  1. What a great blog post! thanks for including my wares! I started off doing textiles and used to do lots of patchwork using recycled fabrics, so maybe your next move is stained glass! Great comparisons and I am really looking forward to having a window to do a little project with you!
    Love Amy x