Following the introduction by Connie Cavanaugh (read article here)
Christine Lane writes: I was awakened to the art of stained glass while an NDD (National Diploma in Design) student at Oxford School of Art. In the final year came a major requirement : produce a book from start to finish. There was freedom of choice regarding subject matter, study, research, written copy, illustrations, (hand-drawn, printed and coloured, e.g. lithograph, silkscreen, woodcut, etching), setting up the typeface for printing, designing hard covers and binding three copies.
I chewed over several ideas for a choice of subject, (eventually) discovering that none of them came close to that which the Lord had in mind. His Omniscient thoughts and ways1 do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think or even imagine.2 I still lived at home on my parents’ farm some 14 miles from Oxford. One autumnal night I was awakened and physically shifted from sleep. I found myself sitting bolt upright and heard my voice speak and declare to the darkness, “Stained glass windows.” Now surprised into wakefulness from my usual sound slumber, I asked of myself what on earth I might be doing? sitting up and talking to no-one? Lay down, I told myself; go back to sleep.
I often cycled the 14 miles to the Art School but the following day I decided to leave my bike in the village (2 miles from our farm) and caught the once-an-hour double-decker bus to Oxford, upstairs to a window seat. Without the bike, there was no need to watch the road and soon my mind turned again to pondering the book project. As we neared the sweet city with dreaming spires,3 various clusters of trees in the woodlands at the top of Hinksey Hill caught my attention. I gazed at shapes and colours, at tree trunks’ noble stoicism; I mused on lofty choirs of leaves, singing, for it is written in Psalm 96 that “all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.” (tongues in trees wrote Shakespeare.)
Without warning, a latch lifted on memory and I heard again that cry into darkness about coloured light and I wondered greatly at the clarity of the recollection and the strange boldness of the ‘awakening’. Sitting upright on a bus in daylight did nothing to diminish the clarity or the boldness, and indeed this second time I sensed that an answer was awaited. “Well . . . yes, I like stained glass but . . . (with slight shrug of mental shoulders) surely there are many who could say that.” I stepped off the bus near Christ Church College, headed toward St. Ebbes and resumed chewing over my ideas for the book project.
Steventon village church dates from the 14th century but the three-light east window contains stained glass from the mid 19th century. I asked the Reverend G. Westerdale Bowker, “Is there any other stained glass in the church.” “Well,” he replied, “there were six 14th century panels here, but they were sold for 7 guineas, (about 15 dollars), to squire Bryant Barrett in 1772. He had them installed in his private chapel at Milton Manor House.” I learned that the elegant 18th century Manor House was built by Inigo Jones for Bryant Barrett, who was lacemaker to King George III.
Come Saturday, bike and I set off to the neighbouring village of Milton, cycling part of the way along a tree-lined Causeway, probably built by monks in the 13th century. Mrs. Mockler, owner of the Manor House, answered the doorbell, listened to my request and at once took me across the great entrance hall to the staircase leading up to the chapel. Can you picture this? Within a week of the ‘awakening’- and minimal effort on my part – I stood alone and astonished to be in close company with six 14th century stained glass windows. I knew an indefinable sense of being ‘brought into’ something and I have often reflected that the Lord chose that time and place to orchestrate my introduction into the compellings of stained glass.
I sensed that I was “shaking hands” with engifted artisans who, six centuries ago, were inspired to work with a medium of sand transformed by fire, and light. Interest became pursuit. As I thanked Mrs. Mockler for her gracious and kindly welcome, I asked if I might be allowed to come over on Saturday mornings to draw and paint the panels? “Certainly you may, take your time and do make use of the bathroom if you need water for your brushes. And there are towels in the cupboard.”
Saturday by Saturday, bike and I turned onto the ancient Causeway toward Milton Manor House. Weekdays became Oxford City Library days; I researched archives relating to squire Barrett’s acquisition for his chapel in 1772, and simultaneously, I was being taught, learning as I gleaned4 about the eloquence and the discipline – “discovering in this intractable medium of glass a challenge and a fulfillment.”5
My art-student thought was simply that this study would provide a goodly theme for the required book project. Little did I think or imagine that that slim diploma volume would open the door to the RCA, to studio apprenticeship with Professor Lawrence Lee and to the reality of producing “stained glass windows.”
“All the way my Saviour leads me.”6 God’s plans,7 His thoughts, His ways.
1 Isaiah 55:8
2 Ephesians 3:20
3 Matthew Arnold
4 Book of Ruth
5 Lawrence Lee Stained Glass; Handbooks for Artists
6 Fanny Crosby
7 Jeremiah 29:11