I had some news this week which was definitely worth celebrating. On Monday evening my husband came home through the snow with this...
That presentation I had last week? I didn't want to say anything about it (just a leetle bit superstitious), but I can now reveal that I'm DELIGHTED and deeply honoured to have been commissioned by Durham Cathedral as one of four artists to create a piece of work as part of their amazing Open Treasure project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
I will be hand-making a solid gold medieval inspired ring, engraved on the outside with animals from the stories of St Cuthbert. It will also have a quote from Venerable Bede engraved on the inside, and although the exact design isn't yet finalised, I intend to include garnets and sapphires in an echo of St Cuthbert's pectoral cross and his ring. The loose theme of the ring is love and commemoration, but with specific reference to compassion, kindness and empathy; a sort of rural 'love thy neighbour'.
St Cuthbert was a real man. Although he was also a monk, a bishop and a hermit, he is best loved for his affinity with animals. He related kindly and gently to the creatures around him, both wild and domestic, and the stories of his animal companions are delightful.
Many of the techniques I use to make my rings have remained unchanged for centuries, so it's also hoped that my ring will be used to highlight the importance and survival of traditional skills and techniques, as a kind of 'mirror' to the skills which the cathedral has required from local people for centuries (stonemasons, carpenters, metalworkers, stained-glass makers, textile artists, icon-painters etc).
St Cuthbert and the Otters, by Christabel Anderson
The ring will be displayed alongside the actual treasures of St Cuthbert which are 1000 years old - his silk robes, his golden garnet-set pectoral cross, and his carved wooden coffin. I'm having trouble believing that something made by me is considered worthy of accompanying the possessions of a saint.
Some of my favourite commissions were made in a medieval style in high-carat gold, also involving garnets and engraving. My favourite commission of all time (apart from my own wedding ring, of course) was this beauty from 2012.
It was entirely handmade from 18ct yellow gold and set with an antique cabochon garnet. The figures inside are inspired by early-Christian engraving on ancient rings and are a form of talismanic protection. The figure of John the Baptist on the far right is only 4mm high.
After the exhibition and the exciting outreach projects running alongside it, my ring will become part of the permanent collection of the Cathedral; hundreds (thousands?) of years after I'm gone, my ring will still be there as one of their treasures.