TOAST Magazine

Workspace | Flora Jamieson


For this month’s workspace we visited Flora Jamieson at her studio in Dorset, from here she designs and makes contemporary and traditional stained glass...

Tell us about your work?

I design and make contemporary and traditional stained glass windows and I also work as a freelance glass painter for several other studios, painting replicas of damaged fragments from church and domestic windows in need of restoration. I specialise in reproducing the hand-painted glass roundels, usually featuring birds, flowers or pastoral scenes that are commonly seen in Victorian front doors up and down the country.

What materials do you use?

I predominantly use handmade, mouth blown glass, which is both beautiful to look at and to work with. The irregularities, striations, air-bubbles and subtle graduations of colour give the glass life. I cut the glass to shape and then paint it to add detail, pattern and to modulate the light transmitted, creating shading and depth. The pieces are fired in a kiln and then leaded and soldered to make the finished window.

Where and how did you learn your craft?

My interest in stained glass was sparked by a school trip to Salisbury Cathedral as a teenager – a friend and I slipped away from the main tour and, after getting a bit lost, we found ourselves peering in through the window of the stained glass restoration workshop. Fascinated by what I saw, the idea of working in a heritage craft appealed to me. After a couple of wrong turns (a university degree in media studies and a few years working as a design and photography studio assistant), but with the notion still firmly lodged in my head, I took up an informal apprenticeship at a stained glass studio in London, which involved Saturday mornings making tea and running errands, followed by a stint in the cementing shed – which is about as glamorous as it sounds! This lead to a full time position: the first few years were spent on the workbench, cutting and leading, then I eventually became studio painter. In 2004, after a move to Dorset and the birth of my first daughter, I set up my own studio.

Describe your workspace…

My workshop, which is opposite our house, is a converted outbuilding. I have two workbenches: one that I keep white and clean for sketching, drawing plans and admin, and the other I use for making the panels, which is a bit more industrial and pitted with horseshoe nail marks (they are used to hold everything in place while the panel is being leaded). I like the way that the workshop takes on a different smell, depending on what part of the process I am doing: a porcine smokiness from using tallow while soldering, an earthy richness from the linseed oil in the cement and putty, or a heavy sweetness from the graphite polish, used to buff and blacken the leads. The space is slowly being taken over by house plants that miraculously I am managing to keep alive – stained glass studios can become rather dusty and grubby places, but plants make the workshop feel fresh and vibrant.

What inspires you, both in your work and life in general?

Much of my work - both contemporary and traditional - takes its inspiration from the natural world: the shapes and forms, the patterns and textures. Living in West Dorset, where rolling countryside meets the shoreline, I am never short of places to run or walk to spark ideas for my work. I have recently started collecting the Oxford University Press series of botanical and natural history books, printed in the 1960s, and these are a wonderful reference source. The illustrations on each page (particularly those by B.E. Nicholson) are gloriously lush and exuberant. One of my big passions in life is wild swimming – give me a river, sea or lake over a chlorinated pool any day. This complete immersion in nature always leaves me energized and inspired. I love the ever-changing blue/green of the water, the way the rays of sunlight play on and under the surface, and the secret foggy world beneath.

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