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The Big Picture: Liz Falconer, aka Liz Dart, Stained Glass Maker

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A snake, a fox called Bryn, wild garlic and a teapot……

By Simon Pizzey

“I always knew I wanted to be a maker. When I left school at 18, I was bored with education. I simply wanted a job where I could spend the day working with my hands and create something. I became an apprentice to Graham Dowding, a stained-glass artist and conservator in Nailsworth and spent the days working on windows from churches all over Gloucestershire and Gloucester Cathedral. As part of my training I studied the history of design and I particularly loved the style and form of the Arts and Crafts Movement and William Morris, and that influence of nature has always stayed with me. The Stroud valleys are full of treasures all year round, from snowdrops, wild garlic and bluebells in the spring, cow parsley, orchids and harebells and the wild grasses of summer through to the trees in their autumnal splendour.

Liz Dart 2 of 13 | The Big Picture: Liz Falconer, aka Liz Dart, Stained Glass Maker

“My family moved to Nailsworth in 1962. My father bought a large semi derelict house with an overgrown garden and set about restoring and taming it. It was big project- the house had only two habitable rooms, the previous owners had kept chickens in one of the bedrooms and there was snake living in a hole in the dining room floor. My two brothers and older sister cut paths through the jungle of a garden and gradually it became a family home. I arrived in 1972, born in the house I still live in today with my own children. It always been a rather strange house with lots of stories, ghosts and a collection of pets and wildlife to rival the Durrells but it made for a magical childhood. My children have loved growing up here.

Liz Dart 7 of 13 | The Big Picture: Liz Falconer, aka Liz Dart, Stained Glass Maker

“My mother used to acquire injured and abandoned animals; on one occasion she was given a tiny two day old fox cub by the vet to hand rear. She named him Bryn and he lived with us in the house alongside the cats and dogs. At night he would sleep on the end of my bed and pounce on my feet whenever I moved. When he was fully grown, he lived in our garden and came and went as he pleased. He lived for nearly 10 years which was an astonishing age for a fox.

“Stroud has a long history of creativity. From the Huguenot weavers and glass blowers in the 17th century, the Arts and Crafts Movement 200 years later and the bohemian incomers in the 20th century it has always been a thriving hub of artists and makers. The School of Art which has been around for over a century continues to provide one of the best creative courses in the country and the mills and industrial buildings that once churned out cloth and goods now provide creative habitats for a plethora of artisans and small businesses. Stroud is surrounded by beautiful hills and valleys overflowing with history and inspiration. It’s the most wonderful place to live for makers.

Liz Dart 8 of 13 | The Big Picture: Liz Falconer, aka Liz Dart, Stained Glass Maker

“My favourite place in Stroud has to be the Farmers Market. I’ve been a regular stall holder for many years and as well as being a major source of income for my business it is my main opportunity to meet my customers. Being a maker and sole trader can be a little lonely sometimes and I’ve always loved the social aspect of the market. Being able to meet my customers face to face, listen to their feedback and chat about my work is really important to me and in between customers I can get my food shopping done and enjoy the odd treat!

“My favourite shop has to be Made in Stroud. They took me on as a maker when they first opened, and Clare and Ry do a fabulous job promoting the shop and all the talented people and businesses that it helps support. Alongside the market it draws in visitors and income to the town and it’s a vital part of the creative economy.

Liz Dart 11 of 13 | The Big Picture: Liz Falconer, aka Liz Dart, Stained Glass Maker

“My studio is a converted coach house at the back of the house so when I’m not working I won’t be far away. The house is surrounded by a large and increasingly wild garden so a lot of my spare time is spent outside trying to manage it. Foxes and badgers, pheasants and deer are all regular visitors and I often find myself being supervised by an inquisitive stag while pegging out the washing. When I feel the need to escape from the garden and take the dog for a walk I often walk up to Woodchester Park or the vineyard beyond. The view from the top of the vineyard along the Nailsworth Valley is probably my favourite although the view from the Black Horse pub at Amberley is a close second. I don’t like driving much and don’t have my own car so I usually walk the mile into Nailsworth. That’s probably my favourite walk locally.

Liz Dart 5 of 13 | The Big Picture: Liz Falconer, aka Liz Dart, Stained Glass Maker

Favourite object: I have a teapot that my mother gave me over twenty years ago. I was working in a local china shop at the time after finishing University and I bought a set of china from the Hornsea Pottery with some money my grandfather left me. Although the set came with cups and a jug and sugar pot the pottery did not make a matching teapot. My mum secretly arranged with the shop owners to contact the pottery and ordered a one off special. When it arrived there were two in the box- they had made a spare just in case, and on the bottom of each one it says ‘To Lizzie, from Mum and Dad. 1998’. They are the only two teapots ever made in that pattern. I use one regularly and the other stays safe in its box.

Liz Dart 10 of 13 | The Big Picture: Liz Falconer, aka Liz Dart, Stained Glass Maker

Favourite photograph: This was taken on holiday in the village of Port Charlotte on the Isle of Islay in August 2022. Out of all the Scottish islands we’ve been to, Islay is our favourite. My husband and I first went there on our honeymoon over 20 years ago and our children love it there too. The village sits on a big sea loch and on this particular morning a sea mist or ‘haar’ was sitting on the loch obscuring the other side of the island making it feel like the edge of the world. It was a beautifully calm and peaceful moment.”

Pictures by Simon Pizzey

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