Stained glass design and its greatest risk
Before I tell you about the greatest risk I face today, let me remind you of this obvious truth …
Namely, that stained glass designs – ours and yours – are used by different people in very different ways.
Yes, as I said, it’s obvious when you stop and think about it – yet the excitement and adventure and exhaustion of designing can sometimes make us blind.
The point is, even though the client is paying, you’re still making him/her a “gift”.
And the thing about gift-giving is, it works best when you give someone what they want.
Just so: in last week’s case, the tycoon needed one thing to know we understood his wants.
But we glass painters – we will need something very different to shade and trace his window.
And the tycoon’s bodyguard – big brute of a fellow with a badly mended nose and two fingers missing on his left hand (in case you ever see him) – would have thrown us out of the boardroom if we had forgotten to prepare an ancient-looking version of his master’s ferocious lion.
There! I’ve told you.
Most people imagine lead poisoning is the greatest risk I face with Stephen.
It is not.
By far the greatest risk comes from our various clients’ bodyguards and their assorted henchmen if we fail to please their masters …
But let’s now concern ourselves with shared dangers – dangers we all face, no matter who your clients are.
So now please listen to this useful – painful – tale …
Other dangers we all face
It can’t break your arm. It can’t eject you from a room. But flattery is a terrible danger.
Like when someone says, “Go on, do this for me, I know you’ll do it so well,” and you go and do it, even though it’s not the kind of thing you usually do. So you’re flattered into doing a favour, which, in business as in life, can have very costly consequences.
It’s also possible to be unduly influenced by the prospect of money. Yes, money can certainly meddle with our capacity for hard-nosed and objective thought.
Myself I’ve never ceased to be astonished by how many forms some people are prepared to fill in to qualify for a grant.
They think it’s free money.
Actually it’s expensive time they could otherwise use in better, happier ways.
But they don’t see this. No. They get very skillful at completing forms, and then all Hell breaks loose when grants dry up.
“It’s so unfair,” they say, “Society should support the Arts”. Which is true.
But it’s not the same as saying, “Society should support people who are good at applying for grants”.
Now we are human too, at Williams & Byrne. Oh yes, indeed. Very human. Which means you won’t be surprised to learn how flattery and money have sometimes taken us astray.
But like Stephen said last time, mistakes are important.
In fact they’re so important, we don’t intend to keep them to ourselves.
I’ll start the story now and make my point, then tell you the outcome some other time. Here’s how it began, this tale of the literary agent’s sitting room window …
The literary agent’s sitting rooom window – part 1
It began with flattery.
The literary agent did not wish to flatter us. It was completely our fault.
He didn’t flatter us. We – were flattered …
Not by his list of world-famous authors, many of whom dine regularly at his house. And, boy, wouldn’t we like a commission from some of them!
Nor were we even flattered by the house itself with its beautiful rooms, gorgeous furniture and breath-taking views.
No, we were flattered – by the prospect of adventure.
But in case you imagine this will become a different kind of tale to the one it is, let me quickly remind you that a glass painter’s idea of adventure is not the same as Indiana Jones’ …
It was the innocent words, “Brigitte Bardot” which did it for me and Stephen.
The agent wanted us to paint Brigitte Bardot on glass.
Brigitte Bardot …
On glass …
Now I’ve done more biblical scenes than I care to remember.
So I was like that lost man in a desert to whom you say, “Would you (really?) like a drink of water …?”
All that research we could do, all those films we could watch, the tales we could tell. (Well, as it happens, we have this one!)
Yet both of us should have known better. You see, even though we don’t have a house style – so long as we’re permitted and also paid to do something well, that’s good enough for us – we should have realized this just wasn’t our style, and never could be. It was just too distant from anything we were used to: it was more like illustration, which is fine for other people but not for us.
But we didn’t listen to our “inner glass painter”.
Worse still, as the agent listed more and more images he wanted for his sitting room, we became more and more seduced … seduced now not only by the adventure but also by the challenge:
The literary agent’s (many) demands …
So first he wanted Brigitte Bardot:
Then there was his cat:
Would we also include Henry Miller?
And Bill Haley?
And what about the Yorkshire Rose? (This literary agent is a Yorkshire-man …)
Now something to remind our agent of his happy days at university – his college coat of arms, that won’t be difficult, will it?
“Room for one more?” the literary agent said. “Good! I’d like my own silhouette as well – me as a young man please!”
So all this work, all these designs … and we hadn’t even got to the five large panels at the bottom yet …
We tried and we tried and we tried.
But nothing came together. It was – “all over the place”.
And in my heart I always knew we should have been wise to our instinct, we should have refused the bait, we should have had the confidence of our convictions, we should have said:
“Exciting ideas, wonderful ideas, but it’s just not the kind of work that we do well.”
But we didn’t.
It wasn’t the literary agent’s fault. In no way was he to blame.
It was our error of judgment, our beautifully designed error of judgment. Completely our mistake.
Days – weeks! – of self-congratulatory design work in the studio … They bore no fruit. Except this tale!
Thank goodness now we’re wiser. Lesson learned.
And you know what?
I’ve changed my mind.
Give me psychopathic bodyguards any day.
Better them – than flattery!
~ Williams & Byrne ~
“The glass painters who said ‘No’ to Brigitte Bardot”
P.S. Everything worked out fine in the end. We fitted the agent’s windows last week: a completely different theme, thank goodness! Not a Brigitte Bardot in sight … These new windows suit the house. They fit the views. The literary agent loves them. They were the kind of windows that we make well. As I said, lesson learned!
P.P.S. Remember this – the double-DVD is packed with techniques and stunning close-up video of kiln-fired stained glass painting as it’s really done. Plus it comes with a full 60-day risk-free money-back guarantee. 60-days! Get your copy here.