Wheel alignment

Monday 16 August 2010

There are some clever people....

Motorcycling is a passion but as I get older, I'm becoming increasingly interested in what might be termed as "traditional skills" to make things of beauty.  It would therefore be poor form not to share and acknowledge the amazing talents of our retired friends Brian and Mary who live a few doors away from us.  Both are true "Renaissance people", supremely talented at whatever they choose to interest themselves with.  Brian is an ex-motorcyclist and breathtakingly good wood carver. Both of them are similarly outstanding with stained glass work.  Their 30 ft home-built Bristol Channel Cutter keelboat is as much a work of art as it is a beautiful yacht.

Getting to the point, our main living area has a high, sloping ceiling with two tapered windows up high on one wall.  They're a pain to clean as it involves getting the steps out of the shed downstairs and also, direct sunlight through them in the mornings is dazzling .  We were grizzling about this one day and Brian reckoned that stained glass would look great.  Furthermore, he said that he wanted a winter project and that if we'd like to come up with a design, he'd love to make a pair for us.  An incredibly generous gesture.

Top windows are a pain to clean!

Give me a technical problem to solve and I'm your man but when it comes to arty stuff, I have zero talent; sub-zero in fact.  Fortunately, Jennie has a great eye for design and colour so we both sat down at the computer with Photoshop to ponder some design basics.  We wanted a design to represent the Coromandel Peninsula where we live in NZ and Jennie's idea of a nautical theme was great.  First attempt was an impressionist one of sails and spinnakers which was pretty cool as a rectangle, but looked awful once we tried to fit the idea to the true shape of the windows.

First try and doomed to failure

Several other iterations were tried over a month or so and went nowhere (apart from mutual droopy bottom lips and silences when we couldn't agree) so eventually, we sat down with Brian and Mary to get their input.  Here's where artistic talent really shows and Mary quickly whipped up a couple of sketches with sailing boats, a rowing boat and some NZ native Clematis flowers. 

Mary's sketches

Now we were getting somewhere!  Over a bottle or three of wine, the Clematis flowers got dropped, substituting them with NZ flax in flower, a native Nikau Palm tree, and islands like those just offshore from us - we had a winner!  Delighted to say that I was at last able to make a minor contribution by scanning and scaling Mary's final sketches on the computer to get  them to full scale and to be eventually used as glass cutting patterns.

Next step was a trip to Hamilton to choose some stained glass and lead from a specialist supplier.  What a mission but great fun at the same time - every texture and colour imaginable but after a few hours, we had something which looked like it would work.  Brian couldn't wait to get started and talking with him about the method of approach, it was clear that stained glass work is incredibly complex to get it right.  What a buzz it is to learn about cool new stuff!!!

Watching the windows taking shape was an utter privilege.  Actually, watching a master craftsman at work was what was really a privilege.  Here's some shots of Brian at work on them. Sadly, the photos simply don't show the detail, colours and textures adequately but they're still pretty good. Click photos to enlarge.

Template cutting for flax flowers

Building up the small window

Brian checking soldering on rear of large window

Brilliant use of texture and colour

Amazing level of detail

After sealing all the joints and blackening the lead strip, it was time to install them.  The Health and Safety Nazis wouldn't have approved of Brian and me teetering at the top of step ladders but that gave a bit of extra pleasure!

For God's sake, don't drop them!

A perfect fit and here's the finished windows........

Texture, colour, local theme - wow!!

The windows have been in place for just a few days and we can't take our eyes off them.  As the light changes with the passage of the sun, so do the ripples in the water and sky effects.  Moonlight will be interesting too. Always something new to be discovered.

In these days of instant gratification and mass production, people with traditional skills are in decline.  May there be people in each generation who are able to give us all joy from producing something which has a bit of their soul in it.


  1. This is so beautiful. Lovely motive, nice artwork.

  2. Wow, that's very nice. Fantastic work alright!

    Motorcycles on the big window - right?

  3. Thanks Guys!

    No motorcycles, prefer to live to a ripe old age :-)

  4. Geoff:

    it is stunning. You are lucky to have such talented neighbours.

    Wet Coast Scootin


Hello! I love to hear your feedback as it often leads to other things. However, if your comments are blatant advertising, then they won't get published.