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"My work is inextricably linked to the light."
The young Ellen van Dijk (1996, Breda, The Netherlands) is a passionate stained glass artist who just won the Young Talent from the Dutch Portrait Prize, a prestigious portrait contest in The Netherlands, in which 1400 artists from different disciplines participated. She won with a grisaille portrait she made of her boyfriend.
Ellen works as a full-time stained glass artist and restorer at GBB (Glasbewerkings Bedrijf Brabant), located in Tilburg. In this studio the projects vary from restorations to the creation of contemporary works and glass fusing, mastering a great variety of techniques. She works here since a few years and the job has allowed her to learn a lot about handling stained glass windows.
In her free time, she spends time on her own projects and commissions, in her studio "Glasatelier Ellen". There she creates her amazing portraits with the traditional grisaille technique. ''The black lines in the artwork are actually the lead lines. Each time I put a stained glass window together, it's a puzzle to integrate them into the design as much as I can,” Ellen explains.
How did you get the glass?
The first time I came into contact with stained glass was when I was still in college. At the time I was 17 years old, still studying decorative & restorative painting and had the option of taking an additional course in stained glass. Although my first piece wasn't very good technically, I loved it and immediately knew that I wanted to learn more about this beautiful craft.
Where did you learn to work glass?
After finishing my painting studies, I went straight to the Antwerp Academy of Art (Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp), where they teach stained glass part-time. That's where I learned all the basics. I gained a lot of experience in my current job and apart from that I took some additional courses.
''My work is inextricably linked to light. When you look at my work placed infront of a wall, it will look completely different. Even the morning light affects it differently than the evening sun. ''
''I love the fact that glass is so dynamic - the colors change depending on the time of day and the way the light shines through can be so beautiful. This is especially the case with traditional mouthblown glass, it is my favorite to work with.''
How is the total process of a piece, from the idea to the final work?
When an idea starts to form in my head, I try to put it on paper with a couple of sketches. Once I am satisfied with it, I start to draw up a life-size design that I can then use as a format to cut all the glass pieces. Painting the glass pieces is a lengthy process that requires many layers and having to fire each of them at 600-700 degrees Celsius. Obviously, this technique requires a lot of patience, but in the end it is all worth it.
What inspires you?
I work full time in a large stained glass studio where we primarily handle large restoration projects such as church windows. Seeing those painted windows up close and having the honor of restoring them is one of the things that inspires me the most. For me, it is really amazing what people were able to do with glass even back then without the modern tools that we have today.
What places do you recommend us to see beautiful stained glass windows?
I would recommend visiting the Sint Jans Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch, the Amsterdam Old Church and the Sint Jans Church in Gouda. This last church is famous for its beautiful stained glass and it is definitely worth a visit. The stained glass windows in the Old Church in Amsterdam date all the way back to 1555 and are currently being restored in the studio where I work. It has been an incredible experience to see them up close!
What are your favorite stained glass windows that you have known while traveling?
My absolute favorite stained glass window that I have seen in real life so far, are the windows of the Chartres cathedral in France. I also loved seeing 'Mary's Deathbed' in the Amsterdam Old Church, the painting is amazingly done. Another work that I have not seen yet, but that I would love, are the stained glass windows of the Cathedral of York Minster and those of Saint Chapelle in Paris.
By Maria Eugenia Diaz de Vivar - June 28, 2021