Remarkable People

Modern tools recreate a mediaeval art form

Modern tools recreate a mediaeval art form
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December 8, 2006 Glass is a jewel-like substance made sand and transformed by fire. Its origins are as distant as the discovery of the wheel, and within a short time, we learned to colour it. Stained glass windows came along 1700 years ago when Constantine first permitted Christians to worship openly in 313 A.D., and came to prominence a millennium ago when substantial church building began in France, Germany and England. The earliest surviving example of pictorial stained glass is from the tenth century Lorsch Abbey in Germany. Now this mediaeval art form is being recreated in the 21st Century, using the latest in digital technology. "In the Womb of the Rose" is a unique, digitally created stained glass window, produced by worldwide collaborators via the internet. Traditionally, stained glass windows, or ‘rose’ windows, featured in medieval churches, telling stories from the Bible using recognisable iconography and symbolism, using the skills of many glass artists to create the final monumental artwork.

Delia Whitbread, from the University of Sunderland’s glass and ceramics department, used chat room workshops to create the piece with 15 artists from countries including the UK, USA, Lithuania and France, as part of a research-based PhD.

The pilot project tested the viability of artists working long distance over the internet, to create a large scale independent work using a brief for the rose window design.

The monumental piece spans 45 feet in diameter and refigures the time-honoured idea of stained glass into a modern, multi-cultural context with digital graphics.

Delia Whitbread, project curator, said: “The project has been as successful as I had hoped. It is great to see it finally complete as I had the initial idea 20 years ago as an MA student. Everyone involved enjoyed the experience, despite the stressful meetings in the chat rooms where there were many conversations going at once - it was like talking at a party.”

The design celebrates feminine culture. It encompasses the idea of the goddess, the mythical heroine, and modern working women. In the Womb of the Rose features female images from myth and history to religion and spirituality in monumental geometric panels.

Delia hopes to display the image if she receives funding, and is aiming to project the image onto the side of the university’s Media Centre on International Women’s Day next year.

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