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.
Isn’t Glassheart such a delicious book? I loved it.
Did you read her first, Nevertell?
Yes, loved Nevertell as well!