FEATURE: How Derek gives his village a touch of glass
A fox peeps out from behind a tree in Derek Hunt's Medbourne studio.
Elsewhere a dove holds a red paint brush and a pheasant takes flight.
They are just a few of the details from his latest big project - a stunning, three metre high stained glass window for St Mary’s church in Melton Mowbray.
Nationally there are just 23 ‘Fellows’ of the British Society of Master Glass Painters - and Harborough-based Derek is one of them.
Derek (55) makes beautiful stained glass windows and glass installations in his small Medbourne studio, seven miles north-east of Market Harborough.
He also works on stained glass conservation projects, providing specialist reports on the conditions of historic glass.
Currently he’s working on the window for St Mary’s, part of a £1.9m top-to-toe refurbishment of the large 13th-15th century church.
But he’s also tackled projects as far afield as the Netherlands, and as close to home as his local parish church - St Giles in Medbourne, where a large, distinctive ‘God descended like a dove’ window is his.
Stained glass has a thousand year history, but is a rare art today - only one British university still offers it.
So how did Derek get started?
“I went to Art School in Edinburgh, thinking I was going to be a graphic designer” he told the Mail.
“But as soon as I walked into the Stained Glass Department with its big, colourful windows, I changed my mind.
“I loved the idea of working with my hands, learning a craft, working with lots of colour and light.”
He now has more than 30 years experience, the last 17 based in Medbourne, and is considered one of Britain’s leading stained glass artists.
When the Mail visited last week, the Melton church window project was his exciting work-in-progress.
The first phase of any project is the application process, says Derek.
Artists usually compete for a project in the same way as actors audition for roles. “You have to have a thick skin” says Derek.
If his pitch is successful, Derek will then draw a life-sized “cartoon” of the window on paper.
He then copies the design in glass, using hand-made coloured glass from Britain and abroad.
He cuts the glass to shape, painting and firing the glass to get the right design and colours. He then inserts the pieces into the window, and puts in the black leading.
Finally he and two assistants put the finished glass into position - usually a church will have grooves in the stone into which window sections stack, on top of each other.
“What I like about the job is that every project is different, unique and has its own story.”
And in a church like St Mary’s, Derek’s window will take its place in the church with 600 years worth of other windows.
“It can be read as a conversation through the centuries” Derek said.