From textile designer to stained glass artist

From textile designer to stained glass artist

My designer life

Whether a creative field has been your career or something you’ve dabbled in just for fun many of us can say we have experienced that block, the dreaded creative lull. Sometimes this block can be temporary and passes after rest but other times, well the connection never seems to return, at least with the same passion you once felt.

It happened to me.


I have been a designer for over 15 years now, I’ve loved it – I still love it. I’ve also been fortunate to work full-time in the design field for all those years.

Joan and Rose is my side hustle. My personal outlet that allowed me to explore my love of watercolours, digital design and making nonsense.

In recent years my professional work has evolved to the point where its wholly and solely visual design. It’s a great gig but working full time in front of a computer and coming home to work in front of a different computer… well it just doesn’t gel anymore.

For over a year I tried to maintain, even force that creative connection but ultimately, the more I dug my heels in and pushed, the more strained and foreign my creative connection began to feel. That excitement in bringing a design to life was fading, it felt mechanical and I found myself avoiding creating new work.

The moment you stop trying is the moment you stop growing. 


A meme of a designer on a computer, a fibonacci sequence diagram is superimposed over his spine

So why did this all happen? Well, there’s a few reasons.

Being kinder to myself and exploring the concept of balance has been a big one. I’m getting older and a lifetime of desk work is starting to leave its mark on me. Headaches, body tension, eyesight, posture, I mean it all comes with the territory, always has - but I’m not invincible anymore, or at least that realisation has come to light.

My current full-time job ticks enough of the digital design boxes to keep me happy.

I’m also observing with interest the rise of visual AI models and witnessing the impact they are already having in many digital commerce markets used by visual designers. I believe in the not-so-distant future, the impacts of AI on many facets of my digital practice would be (for the most part) negative and the reality is I don’t have the desire or energy to compete in an increasingly saturated digital field.

But that damn creative spark, the bright dance of ideas with no schedule continue to live in my mind. For me, it’s an itch that will always require scratching.


Why stained glass?

My first attempt

I’ve always had a fascination with glass. The colour, the refractions, the fact that something so beautiful can be made with a medium so unforgiving. In my study many moons ago, I did a very short introductory rotation in a glass studio, I was even toying with the idea of glass blowing as my major.

Mid last year, as algorithms do, I was thrown some random stained glass video recommendations and they stuck. At first, I watched and wondered, then I lurked with determination. My creative spark had reignited and with it came the influx of endless ideas. I quickly realised this was something I wanted to try.

I watched YouTube, I followed stained glass and lead lighting artists, I researched and I read until I was ready to take the plunge. With every hour of practice, I began to learn how to work with different mediums.

stained glass geometric heart in yellows and browns

I learned some colours of glass are easier to cut than others, I learned red glass (one of my favourites) is also sadly one of the more expensive colours. A good grinder is a god send and soldering is an art-form that I imagine takes years to master.

The one lesson I expect I will never learn is how to remain disciplined when buying sheets of stained glass for my supplies.

Learning to work with a new medium has been so invigorating – and most of all fun! I have connected with glass as a medium and have found renewed motivation and passion for creative practice. It’s now been many, many months learning and practicing and creating and I finally feel at a point where I am ready to share my glass creations with you all.


So what’s next for Joan and Rose?

Does focusing on stained glass and lead lighting mean I will never design surface patterns or paint again? No, of course not. 

Shifting my focus means there will be some products I phase out of, others like textiles, paintings and prints might be more sporadic and targeted to compliment with future stained-glass collections. I will also remain available for commissions both in surface pattern design and stained glass.

I am excited to see where my practice with glass takes Joan and Rose. Working with my hands and creating physical pieces of art is a satisfying change - cuts, glass splinters and all and while success is the goal, the reward of expanding my skills and reconnecting with that creative spark has made it more than worthwhile.

If aspects of this tale feel familiar and you have also struggled with your direction as an artist, I hope you find your space, however it manifests itself for you and you reconnect too your spark once again.

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