Billigoat Designs: Meet Kate Billington

 

Billigoat Designs: Meet Kate Billington

Kate Billington (of Billigoat Designs) is a regular tutor for The Art House. She has a tree themed Stained Glass workshop this month on the 11th August.
We caught up with Kate and asked her a few questions to give you an insight into what she does (and why) and her creative process.
The Art House: For people looking for a creative outlet, what’s so great about glass?
Kate: I have had a go with a lot of different materials over the years including clay, wood, metals, plastics, watercolours, and a variety of textiles….. But basically I get the most pleasure and satisfaction from working with sheet glass. I hope that some other people will get that same thrill.
The Art House: What will surprise people who’ve never worked with stained glass before?
Kate: What might surprise people is that with the appropriate specialist tools and techniques it can be easier than you think to cut and shape sheet glass.
What WON’T surprise people is that glass can cut you (although the joke is that it’s nearly always me that gets minor injuries and not my students!) Also glass doesn’t bend or respond well to being dropped or otherwise mishandled! I won’t pretend I never get cut, but the process of cutting and shaping sheet glass is relatively straight forward if you employ the right tools and techniques.
The Art House: What can people expect from your workshops ?
Kate: My workshops are practical and hands on from the start. There are a number of very different processes to complete and some will take a bit of practice. I generally have some examples of the potential finished piece to show the group. I start with getting to grips with glass tools & tackling some bits of scrap glass. It can be quite a physical activity, especially so with leaded work and much of the workshop is spent standing up and concentrating!
The Art House: How did you get into stained glass?
When I lived in Brighton as a student, a flatmate of mine was always making leaded glass pieces. She had learnt the craft from her mother. I just fancied having a go and took myself off to an evening class. This was about 38 years ago
The Art House: What project / piece are you most proud of?
Kate: I find this a difficult question, but the piece that is undoubtedly the most impressive, in its sheer size and complexity, is a 5 panel arched window I designed and made with another leaded glass artist for the Lead Mining Museum in Matlock Bath. It was funded by the national lottery and took us many months. The lead for the project was donated by a nonferrous metal manufacturer who have been in existence since 1777. I find this remarkable. The Matlock/ Derbyshire Dales area was the epicentre of the UK lead mining industry. This monster commission includes a stained glass Triumph Bonneville T120, a stained glass plate of fish and chips and a view of the High Tor and River Derwent, but not the cable cars. The staff at the museum were adamant that the cable cars would not feature in their window!

The Art House: Sheffield is a very creative city – how does that creative community feel of the city support what you do and what does it bring to your work.
Kate: I find there is a really positive “can do” vibe about creative arts here, which seems to get stronger and stronger. I am on the periphery really and have met a lot of people when I used to do craft markets and sell through shops. I have found my niche (for the time being anyway) mostly in teaching for Crisis, the charity that works with homeless people.
The Art House: What creative sources do you draw inspiration from?
Kate: I think I mostly draw inspiration from the creative environment in which I was brought up; though of course I hadn’t realised it was particularly unusual until much later in life. My mother’s family are Dutch and we had a lot of European artistic influences around- like giant Toulouse Lautrec posters (sometimes in place of wallpaper) and MC Escher’s amazing graphical work, and lots of Jugendstil images (what we tend to know as Art Nouveau).
My mother used to take me and my sister to museums and art galleries from a very young age. We visited the Stedelijk museum in Amsterdam and it’s likely we visited the Van Gogh museum quite soon after it opened in 1973!
My parents were both very creative, practical people. My mum just made stuff- everything from the macramé lampshades to the kitchen table, the curtains, cushions and most of our clothes. My father did a lot of photography and to this day spends time creating works of art from disposable cutlery and bottle tops (which he grills and irons) and fish tins, torn paper, found objects. One artist he cites as an influence is Kurt Schwitters, who is worth looking up if you are unfamiliar with his work!

The Art House: Why does creativity matter?
Kate: Many people find that the process of making and creating can bring them focus and calmness, which may well not be present in their day to day lives. The confidence building and non-threatening, nurturing aspect of participating in an arts activity can be a real stepping stone for clients who work with us at Crisis.

Click to find more information on Kate’s Workshop, and book your place.