A Pre- – – -Tense of Bitterns

A design idea sparked by a call for artists for an open exhibition entitled ‘Telling in Full’ as part of the Lancaster Festival of Words.

The brief  (in brief) was to come up with a piece of artwork inspired by words, be it a piece of literature, a poem or even song lyrics. And oh my, this sounded good to me.

I pondered and bounced a few ideas around and then it came to me, one sleepless night, brain churning and whirring with thoughts and ideas…..


For Christmas I had received a copy of Bill Bailiey’s Guide to Birding… a very entertaining account of his 100 favourite British birds splattered with his funny tales, illustrations and anecdotes. And one phrase had stuck. Wedged in a part of my brain was ‘pretence’ being the collective noun for a group of Bitterns. Upon reading it it had immediately conjured up images  with me, of camouflaged bitterns pretending they were reeds!…. Something to think on, i had paused to think at the time….

And now. Now. Worming away in my head was an earworm by Radiohead. An hypnotic repetitive tune that makes me stop and dance around my shed whenever it is aired on 6 music. ‘In you I’m lost, In you I’m lo-o-ost’ being whistled and hummed constantly by myself as I cheerfully go about my business….

And then. On that sleepless night the two ideas crashed together and the germ of an idea was born. A doodle was drawn and bounced around friends…  And, oh. The idea? … Here you go.


Now, if you don’t know the song, inside out and back to front, like myself, then I would suggest you pause and go take a listen. You can find a really terrific live version on youtube. I am sorry I can’t add a link here as I have a budget blog(!) but I am incredibly happy with it and Youtube is very easy to navigate to in any case…. so off you go. (Open a new tab and play…play whilst looking at these pics…)

So first, I drew up my pair of Bitterns. I decided to go reasonably big as I like my subjects to feel real and have scale. Then I copied and slid the images around. No fancy photoshop…just scissors and a pritt stick…. This sliding around and distortion from the song ‘keep it moving’.

And then the tragic part of the song when the world comes crashing down. I slashed the piece horizontally this time with fractures that respond to that repetitive hook of the melody that repeats and repeats endlessly throughout the song.

In you I’m lost. In you I’m lost. repeat, repeat…repeat.. repeat….

And so it works on paper but ….can I make it work in glass?

I settled on a simple palette of four colours, 2 yellow, 2 grey and set-to testing up some samples. Here is where I am at..


I do love this experimenting with paint. And I think I am nearly there… But for now I submit my ideas to the ‘Telling in Full’ submission panel and see if my piece will make it to the exhibition.

I should know soooooooon. (But hey, I’ll make it anyway. I’m sure.)


The Finished piece will be constructed using traditional stained glass methods. Painted sections of glass joined by leadwork to unpainted sections of glass… playfully and gleefully distorting the light and imagery.

About debbiesshed

My blog is all about the stained glass projects I get up to in my shed. I promise to post regularly with fresh and beautiful jobs. Thanks for looking.
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2 Responses to A Pre- – – -Tense of Bitterns

  1. Peter Vreede says:

    thank you for this wonderful story of exploration.

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