Saturday, 4 November 2017

Purple and Grey Interview with Chantal Kelly

Chantal Kelly has been a supporter of Purple and Grey since the very beginning and it has been wonderful to watch her career as a Stained Glass Artist flourish, Chantal is also the founder of the craft group Medley who show together twice a year.

You are a stained glass artist but before that you were a geography teacher that’s quite a leap how why when! ?

How? Why? When?
I have to say I ask myself these questions as well and it’s perhaps easier to answer them in reverse order.
The ‘when’ is easy, it was about seven years ago when I first learnt the basics of stained glass.
Then the why…….., I was still teaching geography part time time when we moved into our house which needed a lot of work doing to it, after 6 months with electricians, plumbers and plasterers it was the decorating phase which took me three months as every room needed doing from scratch. When it was over I stood back and realised what the Edwardian house was missing was stained glass internal doors so I did some research and costed it. I soon realised we could not afford to get it done and had a ‘lightbulb’ moment……try to make them myself!!
And so that leaves how, I simply looked up courses and happened on one in Sheffield which was a small group workshop of just four people taught by a marvellous teacher Martin McAssey. I was so lucky that my teaching timetable was part time, and so with quite a bit of juggling I organised my course dates to fit in with my teaching commitment. I travelled to Sheffield each week for a whole afternoon to learn the basics and did this for two ten week courses……by then I was hooked and was working on pieces at home as well…the rest as they say is history!

We notice you seem to work in themes does this help?

I definitely have three different strands of work, I love doing larger figurative pieces showing recognisable local landmarks such as Heage Windmill or Crich Stand and am always looking for new local landscapes to translate into glass. I also continue to be fascinated with making larger abstracts and constantly try to see how different colours and textures react with each other. I also enjoy making smaller decorative items, anyone who has ever been to one of my shows will know my fascination with making butterflies and other smaller pieces for people to enjoy and to give as gifts.

Where do you take inspiration from?

I had been to Iceland years ago and had been overwhelmed by the beauty of the abstract leaded windows in many of the cathedrals and ordinary churches, the way the light burst through them at different times of the day throwing glorious patterns on the white walls inside the churches and the way the changing light affected the colours.
The colour and texture of glass is so amazing and so varied that inspiration comes from there; one of my favourite things is to open a package of glass and suddenly see the possibilities unfold literally with each piece I unwrap. I revisited Iceland three years ago and went to Reykjavik cathedral which were stunning. Last year I was lucky enough to see the glass windows in the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral in Barcelona and I was blown away by the modern use of glass. I can honestly say it was so beautiful it made me cry… I will never, ever reach those heights but both those buildings are inspirational.

Has it been easy to break into the market so to speak any frustrations along the way?

I think everyone involved in the Artist/Maker business will say it is not easy. I have reached a point where I am breaking even and what I sell covers the considerable costs of materials, insurance, stall fees etc. For me at the moment that is a positive result. Perhaps the most important thing is to realise that there are lots of ups and downs and don’t be frustrated by expecting to be paid for your time when you start out ……..just because I have spent 40 hours on making a piece, including the hours gathering materials and designing it does not mean someone will want to pay you for your trouble. It just doesn’t work like that so price things realistically and swallow your pride to some extent. When you have reached an audience and gained a following with collectors your prices will be able to reflect your efforts but until then…..

You have attended many networking sessions with Purple and Grey have they helped you in anyway  at all, what else have we been able to support you with?

Purple and Grey have been brilliant…….I’ve gained so much from sessions on using Social Media and website design, neither of which I had a clue about. They were so helpful and approachable I didn’t feel the total idiot I actually am when it comes to technology! The free networking sessions are also amazing; to meet up with people who are on the same journey, perhaps a little further along the road gives you confidence to keep going and it’s lovely to keep in touch with them when you meet at shows… a ready made circle of support at new events.

As this is your second career how are you managing your time to suit you what plans have you for the next couple of years?

Time is always an issue for me…if only there were 28 hours in a day I dream I could keep up with all my commitments, however, sometimes I need to stop and think before making too many commitments that will just stress me out later in the year. Finding time to make pieces to sell, experiment with new designs as well as market them, attend shows and organise Medley is a challenge. Having said that my plan is to try to expand my geographical range and perhaps trying some larger events for the 2018 season! Watch this space!


  1. This is a really insightful interview Chantal, particularly learning of your earlier career and from where you take your inspirations. Your positivity and creativity shows here, I wish you continued success with your business and Medley and thank Purple and Grey for conducting the interview, great read! Julie.

  2. Great interview. I've long been a fan of your leaded glass and it has been interesting to see how your work has developed over the past few years.
    Really hope that people come to see your amazing work at the Medley exhibition and decide to buy quality hand-made presents for Christmas.