Welcome to My Shelves Are Full where I am so pleased to welcome a guest post from Katharine Orton, author of the fantastic Glassheart. I was drawn to this story with “glass at its heart” and I adore all things glass- decorations, stained glass windows, beach glass- you name it and I love it!
Putting the glass in Glassheart
For the longest time, I’ve wanted to write a story with glass at its heart. When I was a kid I was fascinated with the colours in stained glass; the way each piece reflected the light differently, because in real leaded windows (not the ones that use stick-on lead, which is only a single pane of glass coloured differently and which you often see in modern doors and windows), each piece sits at a minutely different angle. That’s how you know if it’s real.
I have this really weird memory from when I was even younger. I was at my childminder’s house and for some reason I was crying. Maybe I was getting ill, or something bad had happened. Whatever was the cause of my upset is lost to time now, but I do remember it was a full, feverish meltdown and I had lost all control.
Thinking I must need sleep (or perhaps because nothing else was working), my childminder had put me in the spare bedroom alone. And all I can remember is staring at their Victorian stained glass upper window. It had curvy shapes and a red centre piece similar to a heart. In staring so hard at it I felt almost as if I’d poured my feelings into the glass. And this experience undoubtedly inspired a part of Nona’s story – and her precious half-heart glass.
To this day, that particular style of Victorian stained glass gives me the heebie-jeebies. Strange eh? But that’s how people’s minds work sometimes.
Later I went on to work with glass. It was in a place that sold all the tools and supplies for tradespeople and hobbyists, taught courses and had its own studio taking stained glass commissions. During this time I learned everything I could from the people around me – artists, teachers and crafters. What amazed me was that the process of making stained glass windows had gone virtually unchanged for so many years – while at the same time people were discovering new techniques every day. It was magical and captivating.
A friend and colleague (also a former monk) was always experimenting. Some days I’d come to work and the whole place would smell of lavender oil. ‘I’ve discovered that lavender oil gives my paintwork a lovely sheen,’ he’d say. (It did). Then the next day everywhere would honk of antifreeze. ‘It stops the paint drying out too quickly!’ he’d tell me. Honestly, I preferred the lavender oil. But it was this environment, these people and working methods, combining new and old, that inspired Uncle Antoni’s studio – and Uncle Antoni himself.
One last thing before I go. Stained glass was traditionally used for telling stories. It used images back when all but the few most privileged could read – or even have access to books. So something seemed fitting about reversing that by putting stained glass itself in to a book. Like bringing it full circle: the final piece in the craft’s own story, slotting in to place.
A thrilling read from an inspiring author! Thank you Katharine for this blog piece- it is so lovely to read!
Thank you to the lovely folks at Walker Books for this incredible set of goodies and for allowing me to be part of the blog tour.