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Clifton Spiritual Pathway, Clifton Parish Church, Clifton, York

Designer profile.

The designer and manager of this project, Helen Bower, is a professional stained glass conservator and glazier with over twenty years experience.  She also teaches evening classes in stained glass design and fabrication, has a Masters Degree in Stained Glass Conservation and Heritage Management, and is an S.P.A.B. Craft Fellow (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings). This organisation promotes skills and philosophies on the ethics of conservation of historic and ancient buildings, with minimal intervention, retaining the layers of history and respecting the landscape, which are Helen’s values as well.

Helen approached the Vicar of Clifton Parish Church, David Casswell, in 2007 with her idea for a mosaic pathway at the church.  She wanted to use her professional creative and heritage skills for the good of the church. For many, simply walking through the door of a church for the first time is a difficult thing to do, therefore what better way than to draw them gently in with words of encouragement and beauty.  Helen chose the quote from Isaiah 40:31:- “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength – they will soar on wings like eagles”.  David readily agreed, and the design and manufacturing process began in earnest.

Helen has thought carefully about the design so that it may fit sympathetically into its surroundings.  The geometric lines and ordered angular shapes are stylish in their simplicity.  This aesthetic has made the project accessible to all in practical terms, in order that all abilities could take part in this community venture.  The direction is purposeful, with a view to entice the curious at the very beginning of the pathway, in the hope that they will follow it to the end, and in doing so read the message it holds.

It has been designed to be a slim and narrow part of the driveway so that it does not overpower its environment.  Similarly the colours used include natural browns, yellows, russets, and greens etc.  The contrast between the black and white in the main body of the mosaic tiles is purposeful for the clarity of the message, the white reflecting purity and peacefulness.  The white background tiles also run in an alternating diagonal pattern, which adds interest and texture to the overall effect, and mirrors the pattern inside the church on the nave roof.

Thought has been given to the different textures within the pathway; the flat and relatively smooth ceramic tiles on the mosaic section contrast well with the rough granite setts which surround each complete word.  The grey block paving which surround the mosaic pathway has been carefully chosen to compliment, but at the same time highlight the main mosaic feature.

In short the balance of colour, script, and texture provide a unity and harmony to the design and allow the pathway to sit well within the natural landscape of the churchyard.

Such a large project like this has been an ideal community venture, and over 100 people from the parish and local area have been involved in its manufacture.  It also included a great investment of time and energy for regular progress meetings, planning, training workshop assistants, ordering and managing materials and equipment, the mosaic and grouting workshops, organising and overseeing the installation, and administration in abundance.  Quite early on in the project Lorna Siddons came on board as workshop coordinator, whilst Helen took on the practical and creative aspects of running the workshops.  They have continued as a great team throughout the project, and have found it a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience.

To contact Helen – please enquire through the parish office.