Saint Brigid’s Cross is as much a symbol of Ireland as the Shamrock and the Harp. Celebrated every year on the 1st of February St Brigid’s Day is a major event in the Irish calendar. Over the years the cross has become a prominent feature of Irish art, design and culture. Born in Dundalk in 450AD St Brigid was the founder of the first monastery in County Kildare, Ireland. She died in 525AD aged 75 and was buried within the church she created. Her remains were exhumed years later and brought to Downpatrick to rest alongside Saints Patrick and Columcille. In the year 2023 Saint Brigid’s Day is set to become a national holiday in Ireland.
This is my own design of the cross, surrounded by Snowdrops to welcome the arrival of Spring. The panel is 17 inches in diameter, made using the copper foil method and edged in lead came.
A brief history
The presence of Brigid’s cross in Ireland is likely far older than Christianity. The Celtic Goddess Brigid was one of the Tuatha Dé Danann and her day was the feast of Imbolc. Imbolc is an ancient Celtic festival now also known as St Brigid’s Day, marking the beginning of spring. This was celebrated at the start of February, halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox.
There are many stories and legends surrounding the creation of the cross. The cross made of rushes today is very likely the descendant of the pagan sunwheel. This symbol invoked the great cosmic powers to bless the Earth with fertility, life, prosperity, and peace. The cross divides the circle into four parts, which represent the solar calendar. These symbolize the four annual seasons which have a very significant influence on the agricultural cycles.
Saint Brigid’s Crosses are made and displayed across Ireland today to ward off evil, fire and hunger.
This is my Tranquility Garden Sculpture which I created from a single piece of live edge Ash timber. Each of these timber pieces is a unique shape which from a creative point of view is perfect for stained glass.
Preparation and Inspiration
I had this standing upright in the corner of my studio for a few weeks before I started work on it. My initial idea was for four round panels with some sort of runic pattern in each one. After I had cleaned up and shaped my piece of timber I started to think more about which colours to use. The Reiki or chakra colours work very well in these sculptures so I chose to base my design on these. Starting at the base I drew four circles reducing each one until they fitted my piece of timber. This worked out quite well so I now had my timber shaped and finished and my cut-outs marked up. All I had to do now was come up with a design.
I wanted to use two colours for each circle so had to keep my designs simple. The only problem I had was seven colours and four circles so I needed to use another colour. I solved this by placing the lotus flower at the base in white glass using dark purple for the background. Next, I came up with a basic three petal Celtic spiral using indigo and blue. The yin and yang symbol followed, some intricate glass cutting here and finally the triangle in a circle. The three points that make up this symbol represent the” Arcane” the “Devine” and the “magical”.
These sculptures can be customised and made to order, prices range from €400 to €1200 plus any shipping costs. This particular piece sold within hours of completion.
This May Bush garden sculpture is a commission piece. Made for presentation to a retiring teacher in a local school who kept the tradition alive during his tenure.
A little about the piece
The upper section consists of a large piece of live edge ash timber, sourced from a local sawmill in New Ross. This acts as a frame for the five leaded stained glass panels and sits on a polished concrete base. It stands 1.6 metres high (5′ 3″) and 500 mm (20″) wide, with the base measuring 300 mm x 495 mm (12″ x 19″). The base has a 15 mm hole in each corner enabling the structure to be fixed into the ground. These garden sculptures are unique one-off pieces and are available to order, prices range between €400 to €1200.
The May Bush Custom
The custom of decorating a bush for May Day in Ireland goes right back to Pagan times. One of the many rituals celebrating fertility, rebirth and the start of summer taking place on ” Beltane“. This was the Celtic festival of fire held on 1st May between the Spring equinox and Summer solstice.
It is still widespread in County Wexford where it even has its own Facebook page. On May Day morning the children would get a small Hawthorn bush in blossom. Upon this, they would tie ribbons, tinsel and coloured paper. Old Christmas decorations and even painted eggshells from Easter.
They would then parade the festooned bush around the village, collecting pennies on the way. In the end, they would burn the bush and spend their pennies.
This is my Queen Bee PDF Pattern. Bees are a fascinating subject so I am going to share a few facts I discovered whilst researching them with you.
Although there are 98 different species of bees in Ireland there is only one native honey bee. It is a subspecies called Apis mellifera mellifera or the Northern dark bee. There are three rare bumblebees in Ireland all threatened with extinction. The Great yellow bumblebee, the Shrill carder bee and the Red-shanked carder bee. Bumblebees would have between 50-200 workers in a nest whereas in honey bee hives it would be 50,000. In Spring a queen Bumblebee would visit up to 6,000 flowers a day to generate the heat and energy to hatch her first eggs. Bees can see primary colors blue, green and ultraviolet. They can identify orange, yellow, blue/green violet and purple but they can’t see red. To bees, the ultraviolet radiation patterns on flowers are as important as the colors. One last thing only female bees can sting. Click the link to view more Stained Glass Patterns
Stained glass PDF Pattern Information
Downloadable PDF pattern prints actual size 15 3/4 inches x 15 3/4 inches, ( 400 mm x 400 mm ) across six pages. Instructions are included for enlarging the pattern to your required size when printing. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to print this pattern.
I have called this post ” Slade Poppies Part 2 ” as it is about bringing the top and bottom section together. The second row of flowers have now been added and at this point, I am quite happy with the way things are progressing. Even so one can never be sure exactly how it’s going to look once the backlighting is introduced. The method I use is to hold the glass up to the light and make my selection before cutting and proceed that way. It’s the same system I use for all my work, something I have developed over many years. A lot of glass artists like to mount their pieces on a sheet of clear glass using Blu Tack which is then held up to the light. This provides a comprehensive preview of the panel, although it would be fairly time-consuming.
With the top and bottom sections progressing so well I have now decided to build the two sides. This will help connect the two sections together. Starting out with the right-hand side which worked out well I then moved onto the left. I have also added a couple of blooms just above the leaves. Feeling pretty good about the way it’s going now and looking forward to filling in the middle section.
The story of this Poppies at Slade panel began around five years ago. While in the UK on a family holiday I was fortunate enough to visit Kansa Stained Glass in Yorkshire where I purchased these two fantastic sheets of Uroboros art glass. This glass has become very hard to obtain in Europe so to find two whole sheets definitely made my day. I have created many poppy panels over the years as they grow wild down here in Slade and are a constant inspiration so my first thoughts were of a large poppy panel. it has however taken this long to bring it to fruition.
This sheet was where I created the basic structure of the panel. Using fairly transparent tracing paper I sketched out the flowers and then adjusted them to suit the background. This way I was able to select the background glass I wanted to show. I also wanted to add a soil layer at the bottom of the panel which gave me a bit to play within my glass selection. The code for this sheet is Uroboros – 10 – 16 Light and dark browns, turquoise with mini fractures.
The code for this sheet is Uroboros 60 – 25 Red and orange with white. This sheet I would use for my poppies. Once again I would need another glass for some foliage. I wanted to try and weave these two sheets together just using the color within the glass to create the panel. The background glass in particular made me think of a Liberty/Art Nouveau feel. I started a design but for one reason or another, I had to put it aside. Eventually, in October of 2018, I managed to get back to it and produce three patterns, one full size ( 23 x 34.5 inches ) one reduced size ( 15.75 x 36 inches ) and a pair of door panels ( 10.25 x 36.75 inches ) each panel with an optional border.
Round Clematis Tutorial 3, in which I cover steps 11 – 14 including foiling, flat soldering, outer lead attachment, final soldering and applying the patina.
I am now starting to foil the pieces, I do this by removing them one at a time and then replacing them as I proceed. I find this method works very well as you are able to make minor adjustments as you work across the panel. It is important during this process to make sure you burnish the foil onto the edge of the glass. I always use a putty knife for this process.
Here is the panel with all the foiling complete. I will now proceed to flat solder the panel on the front side. I use 50/50 solder to do this if I have any, if not 60/40 will do. Once the front face has been flat soldered, remove the template and repeat the process on the reverse. I use a “U” shaped lead came to provide a nice neat finish to the outside edge of the panel.
First soldering was completed on both sides and the perimeter lead is in place. You can see the two pieces of black tape securing the ends to the panel. It’s always good practice to place the join on a seam for neatness. The final bead solder can now take place to finish the panel.
Once the bead soldering is complete all flux and solder residue should be removed. I would use hot water and a little detergent for this, then clean with” 0000 ” steel wool. This will make the patina take a lot better. Finally, I use a little black stove polish on a brush to buff up the finished panel.
This post will cover steps 7 to 10 in this Round Clematis Tutorial.
I am now adding some Uroboros fracture and streamer glass code 11-296 down the right-hand side. This will introduce a different more broken translucent light effect. Also, I still want to include a small strip of water glass at the bottom of the panel. Although I will now leave this until last as I am happy with the way everything else is progressing.
The remaining fracture and streamer background glass is now in place. I’ve added the last two flowers and the rest of the leaves as well. Now I have to make a decision on how to introduce the strip of water glass into the composition. I am thinking of a simple straight line, this will help to give the panel a base. Also to put it behind the flower and leaf petals so it appears in the distance.
With the water glass added and all the pieces now cut, I can see the complete picture and am quite happy with the result. The next step in the process will be to place the cut pieces on a lightbox. This involves putting all the pieces on a clear sheet of glass and placing it over a light source. This will give me a good idea of how the finished panel will appear and flag up any obvious mistakes. These can then be resolved before foiling begins.
On the light box now and although it’s difficult to see I’m quite happy with the way everything looks. Of course, I have the benefit of years of experience here. If you are new to stained glass it’s all about developing your own process or way of working. The best advice I could give to you is to make small projects. That way you will repeat the process every time. Pattern preparation, cutting and fitting pieces, foiling, soldering, cleaning and polishing.
In this Round Clematis Tutorial 1, I will cover the next four steps. They mainly cover the background on the left-hand side of the panel.
Round Clematis Tutorial Step 3
You can never be quite sure how a color scheme is going to turn out. So I have started this panel by cutting two flowers, some background and leaves. This is the color scheme in my mind at this point so laying it out will help future glass choices. I have settled on a Youghiogheny ” Laburnham ” glass for the flower centres. This may yet change as the panel develops. I find it’s best to keep ideas fluid in the early stages.
Continuing to build up the picture I have now added more of the background glass. This is a Youghiogheny stipple glass, code NO 57 ” Neodymium Pink with Peach Gold and Bubblegum. The background glass has a rather nice natural effect which I am trying to work into the panel. This means cutting the pieces very carefully using a band-saw.
Now with more background, flowers and leaves are added. Flower glass is Youghiogheny code N367 ” Neodymium Pink, Dark Purple and Blue”. Leaves are also Youghiogheny code 1431 ” Lime and Emerald Green “. You can now see the natural effect starting to appear in the background. I have used this to create some interest and balance the flowers on the opposite side.
I have taken the background glass down the left-hand side of the panel. I am now thinking of introducing some pink fracture and streamer glass on the right-hand side. This is to create more interest and texture behind the lower flowers. I would also like to introduce some water effect along the bottom of the panel. For this, I will use a ripple effect glass.