Country Squire Magazine’s Dom Wightman interviews Andrew Fitzsimmons, the talented stained glass artist. Born in 1978 at the start of the ‘punk era’ in London, Andrew spent his early childhood on Mersea Island, near Colchester. Andrew has one daughter, Lilly, who’s also an artist and he lives in Southend.
Dom: How long have you been an artist?
Andy: I come from an artistic family of, painters, designers, writers, singers and dancers and even a record producer. My first experience of being called an artist was in primary school, aged 10. One day, after lessons, my then teacher asked my parents “Do you know you’ve got an artist in the family?” “Yes”, they said. That was the start of a life-long passion for all things artistic. I have painted in watercolour and oils and had great fun with very messy pastels.
Dom: When did you come to stained glass?
Andy: I came to stained glass in my late 20’s as a hobby, at first. I absolutely fell in love with the medium. When I discovered glass making, I was transported by the wonderful things you could do with colour, light and texture in glass. I like being creative with my hands and often find it is therapeutic, in some way.
Dom: You are self-taught?
Andy: I was fortunate in that I later, worked with a great stained-glass maker, the late Ruben Caruana, in Southend. He helped me hone techniques for cutting glass, as well the importance of the types of glass to use in period pieces and those never to use, for authenticity. His view was that stained glass should really be viewed as a trade, with regards to construction and design as too many small complex pieces interrupt the design as well as impede manufacture.
Dom: You see the stained-glass industry as all good?
Andy: What I don’t like about the stained-glass industry is too many mass produced items, often “Tiffany style”, are on the market, overpriced, all the same with no or very little individual artistic merit and frequently made with cheap and inappropriate materials. There is no art in that or style. Many stained glass makers are fine craftsmen but not artists.
Dom: Who are your favourite artists?
Andy: My favourite 3 artists are Mondrian, Antoni Gaudi and Van Gogh. My favourite work is Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”. Van Gogh’s way of painting, consisting of small parts, is very similar to glass work, although much more intricate. Incidentally it’s also my daughter’s favourite. She is the most important thing in my life. Her pastel version is on her Nana’s ‘fridge. She is something of an artist herself.
Dom: Who influences you most?
I’m inspired and influenced by the art nouveau (Modernisme) movement. Barcelona, therefore, is just about my most favourite place. I love Gaudi’s (the Spanish architect) Sagrada Familia and his stained glass within. Perhaps I should have been born 100 years ago!
Dom: What are your ambitions?
Andy: What I would really like to do is some collaborative work, especially on a large commission. I have experimented with many forms of stained glass from lamp shades, terrariums, sconces and panels. Of these I’m most at home making panels as this allows more creativity.
Dom: You work mostly commercially?
Andy: I make pieces by request, to specified dimensions either as a novel design of my own, to a style or idea put to me, such as “after Mondrian” or producing a period piece in a similar vein to match others. I make all my work on a commission basis whether it is based on a piece I have already crafted or it is a completely new design.
Dom: Your work often portrays plants?
Andy: I studied amenity horticulture at Writtle College, in Chelmsford, straight after school and then had placements at Painshill Park, Surrey and Newnham College, Cambridge. My parents are both plant enthusiasts, which they passed onto me. I guess this lead to a lifelong interest in plants, their structure and form these things often inspiring my work. It also led to my experiments making terrariums.
Dom: And the process of making your art?
Andy: Sometimes, I just have an idea and start with a drawing, followed by marking it out, sourcing the glass and cutting it. Finally, it is foiled or leaded. If required, it is put in a frame.
Dom: Thanks very much for your time.
Some of Andrew’s work is for sale at Maclachlan Acquisitions here. You are welcome also to arrange a personalised commission. Please contact email@example.com and arrangements will be made to put you in touch with Andrew.