Mullions, transoms and tracery

Tracery bouquet

Quilled tracery design by Philippa Reid; lace effect graphic courtesy of Karen Stimson

In Somerset – these things always seem to happen to me in Somerset – I was struck last year by an aspect of church architecture which I had never really noticed properly before.

I used to live near to the lovely old country town of Langport, and like to return there whenever I’m in the area – these days, it’s quite a ‘hot-bed’ of contemporary and traditional arts.

During a visit to the town’s breathtakingly beautiful All Saints Church, I stopped to look – really look – at the wonderful stained glass windows in the church, which are complemented by beautiful examples of tracery.

As I mentioned in my last post, tracery is the network of interlaced ornamental stone ‘ribs’ which can be seen supporting the panes of coloured glass. The upright posts in such windows are called ‘mullions’, while the horizontal cross-pieces are called ‘transoms’. Now, I’m not entirely sure where mullions and transoms stop and tracery begins, but I do know that the overall effect can be stunning, and the patterns which are formed can – with a little imagination – be effectively translated into quilling.

This has set me off on a real ‘quilled tracery kick’ which is taking me on an interesting journey of experimentation and discovery.

The basis of the tracery I’ve been making has been ring coils cut into consistently-sized incomplete circles (horse-shoe shapes). By gluing these cut circles side by side, I’ve been able to create patterns like this:

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… which has then led on to some new ideas for card designs:

Tracery fish

Tracery #2

Last week I was in Somerset again, and took some time to check out the fabulous church architecture to be found in the county town of Taunton. I took this photo of St George’s Roman Catholic church, whose main tower window is a classic example of the way in which tracery patterns can be linked together:

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Then I visited the amazing church of St Mary Magdalene where I discovered that these tracery patterns are also evident in carved wood pew-ends, the font cover and ornamental seats like this:

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The pattern in the photo above interested me, because in a way it’s ‘tracery within tracery’ – take a close look and you’ll see what I mean. So I had a go at reproducing the shape using metallic edged gold and silver strips – and this is the result:

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I love these patterns – they really to offer SUCH design potential. So please bear with me, because I suspect I am going to be continuing on my ‘tracery kick’ for quite some time to come!!

Tracery and deconstruction

Every now and then, my love of experimentation gets the better of me and I eagerly set convention aside to try some ‘different’ forms of quilling.

DSCF7273Regular readers of this blog will know that I often like to cut things up when trying something new, and a few weeks ago I tried cutting through some of the spiracles (loops) of an eccentric coil, just to see what interesting things might happen! I’m not a particularly enthusiastic cook, but I do enjoy watching the TV programme Masterchef, and I’ve noticed that the chefs in the competition are often very keen to ‘deconstruct’ classic dishes, presenting familiar ingredients in different and surprising forms. I had this in mind while I played with my eccentric coil, looking for ways in which I might cut the loops and then put them back together in new ways. The shape shown on the left is the result!

Once I started, I realised that there are all sorts of ways in which the spiracles of a coil can be shaped and repositioned … and I also could not resist inserting a few new coils inside the loops of the original one! Incidentally, all this has strong echoes of the cut coil flowers that I wrote about a while ago, and which I believe also offer some interesting potential.

After seeing my ‘deconstructed’ eccentric coil in a post on Facebook, Jane Jenkins asked me whether I had tried deconstructing a husking, so I decided to give that a go too. I fiddled about with a wheatear and also an alternate side looped husking, but didn’t really get very far with either – both the shapes are just too linear. I’ve concluded that spirals offer far more opportunities for creative variation than straight, narrow loops, but if further inspiration strikes I will definitely let you know!

The other thing I’ve been experimenting with is an attempt to reproduce Gothic architectural tracery patterns in quilling. In architecture, tracery is the network of interlaced ornamental stone ‘ribs’ which can be seen supporting the intricate panels of stained glass windows – I have often admired this feature when visiting old English churches and cathedrals. Tracery gives us beautiful trefoil and quatrefoil shapes which are formed by positioning incomplete circles together. I’ve found that it’s possible to recreate these patterns in quilling, simply by cutting regular sections out of ring coils. To achieve consistency in my cut circles, I’ve made marks on the dowels that I roll the rings around so that I always make the cuts in exactly the same place. Then, with a little imagination and careful gluing, I’ve managed to create the simple tracery-style quilling that you see below. Experiments are ongoing!

tracery card