Meet the Artist: Linda Norris
Interview with painter and glass artist Linda Norris
I went to college in Aberystwyth in the late 1970s. A few years after graduating I moved to London to work as a community artist. I returned 30 years ago when I moved to Pembrokeshire to focus on my own work as a painter.
It is always challenging to work in different media but that is what makes it exciting!
I am constantly exploring materials to find the best way to make the work I want to make. My painting is more about the feel of the landscape, but glass allows me to explore more conceptual ideas.
I have no formal training in glass techniques, I have taught myself on a need-to-know basis and have attended a number of masterclasses with some fabulous glass makers. I have found the glass community both here in the UK and in the USA and Europe has been very supportive and many artists have been very open with their advice when I have asked for it.
I have also learned a lot from Rachel Phillips with whom I set up the Architectural Glass Partnership, Studio Melyn to undertake large-scale architectural glass commissions like the work we recently installed for Cadw at Caernarfon Castle.
Thanks! That is great feedback!
The design process for the Caernarfon window spanned Covid and was therefore quite long and complicated. There were times when we couldn’t visit the site or meet with the relevant people, but Rachel and I live in the same village of Maenclochog and we formed a bubble so that we could go on working together and sharing equipment. The design went through many stages and changes due to the special considerations of working in a Grade 1 Listed World Heritage Site.
The brief was to tell the story of the glaziers who would have worked on the building over the years since it was built in the 13th Century so we did a lot of research and have included text from a glassmakers handbook written by 12th Century monk, Theophilus Presbyter and fragments of other medieval manuscripts and liturgical music. We aimed to create a contemporary window referencing the original use of the room as a chapel and combining the use of traditional materials and techniques with modern techniques like waterjet cutting and bonding.
In my studio, I have a kiln, a flatbed grinder and cutting facilities along with lots of brushes and other tools.
Rachel and I share equipment and together we have a sandblaster and a vinyl plotter and UV lightbox which enables us to make photographic resists. I also have boxes and boxes of different materials and specialist tools for gilding, fusing, making plaster and silicon moulds, cyanotype and many other media. Essentially I need a brush, some paint and a pencil and a sketchbook!
I have worked with many different people of all ages and interests.
Everyone is different but artists tend to come to me because they want to break away from fixed and rigid ways of working. Whatever the situation I always try to develop a rapport and gauge what each particular person wants and needs and to encourage them to explore new things. Often this means setting out some clear boundaries and objectives and then going with the flow.
I grew up in Fishbourne around the time that the Roman Palace was discovered and we often found coins and pottery shards whilst gardening. I was always digging clay from the stream at the bottom of my garden and making “pots” that my mother duly “fired” in the oven.
I loved making things and felt that objects dug up from the garden somehow directly connected me with the people who had made them across time…archaeology was the logical combination of making, connectedness and landscape, and these things continue to underpin my work today. Living in Pembrokeshire archaeology is everywhere! We have so many stones and historic sites that it would be hard to ignore them!
In 2020 I undertook the MA module in Art and Archaeology at the University of Highlands and Islands based in Orkney, the structure and deadlines of this course helped me through the isolation of Covid and the death of my father, and I became fascinated with pottery shards, small and intimate fragments which are sometimes overlooked in favour of monumental archaeology. The hand of the maker is so clearly seen in the Neolithic Fragments which I painted in Orkney and I decided to focus my research on overlooked fragments found in the fields, streams and spoil heaps closer to home.
You can see Linda’s glasswork on her website here.
This interview was produced as part of the 2023 Festival of Archaeology's Archaeology and Creativity Theme Day sponsored by Thames & Hudson.
Thames & Hudson are one of the world’s leading publishers of illustrated books. They publish high-quality titles across all areas of visual creativity. Their mission is to create a ‘museum without walls’ and to make accessible to a large reading public the world of art and the research of top scholars.