This is where it began, the interest in stained glass that has sent me into churches and cathedrals in cities, towns, suburbs, villages and fields to look for colour, pattern, detail, light and expression.
St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, the enormous medieval church on what is now pretty much a busy roundabout in Bristol (the surrounding buildings having been bombed in WW2), the church I thought for a long time was the cathedral until I found the cathedral tucked away near council offices and not nearly as impressive as St Mary Redcliffe with its exotically carved porch, tall spire and beautiful interior. I had recently begun to pay more attention to stained glass, but wasn't really looking too hard until I came across the windows by Harry Stammers in the Lady Chapel.
I was amazed. I'd never seen ordinary people in ordinary, contemporary clothes. Headscarves! Handbags! Court shoes! Aprons! On women who weren't saints or queens, but who probably scrubbed doorsteps and cleaned out stoves and swept floors, brought up children, and took them to Sunday school. Women who had a shampoo-and-set once a week, went shopping with baskets over their arms and wore sensible coats in winter. The kind of women I saw and knew when I was growing up: mothers, workers, wives, daughters.
And here they were. Not beautified, idealised or objectified, but depicted with clarity and simplicity and dignity.
I'd always assumed stained glass wasn't my sort of thing, yet I found myself completely enthralled by a mix of post-war Social Realism, abstraction, woodcut linearity, book illustration, poster design, plus glorious colour, superb handling of huge windows, and masterly manipulation of light.
Harry Stammers (1902-1969) was my introduction to stained glass, my way into looking at and appreciating an art that is so often excluded from art books, and he remains my favourite maker/designer.
That is the story of my stained glass epiphany, my conversion.