Sunday, July 12 will always be one of those days I will never forget and I will always remember.
On this day I presented my latest piece of artwork - The St Mary’s Church Balcombe altar cloth and frontals. I was approached earlier in the year to design and make a new altar cloth and lectern frontals for St Mary’s Church for Pentecost.
Pentecost is the Greek name for Shavout, the ‘feast of weeks’, and is the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and followers of Jesus Christ.
This is partly why I wanted the cloth to be perfect for St Mary’s Balcombe. When they allowed me in I saw how much their faith meant to them; that’s why I wanted it to be perfect, as a sign of respect.
When I first got the commission I felt honoured and privileged to be approached to do the altar cloth, but what I wasn’t aware from this project was that I was to gain more than a commission, I was to gain new friends and gain the knowledge and meaning of life and what truly matters. The altar cloth is designed and hand made by me. I did a few preliminary drawings, a few quick sketches but for most of it I had a general idea in my head of what I wanted it to look like.
My inspiration for the St Mary’s altar cloth and lectern frontals came from the church around me; I wanted the altar cloth to be perfect and to reflect the heritage of the church. From the main window I looked at the star constellation and from the older window there’s a triangle with a circled stone structure in a blue and gold frame.
For the main altar cloth the bird on the front is a cross between an eagle and a dove which represents strength and peace embodied in one. In the church there is a brass eagle; I wanted the bird on the cloth to reflect the eagle and the dove as a combination.
The original cloth sadly got destroyed but what I was able to do was to save part of the original and incorporate it into the new one - a bit of old and new like the phoenix rising from the ashes.
I also looked at the Knights of the Round Table, Camelot, and the legendary King Arthur and mythical sword Excalibur and the knights templar for other inspiration. A lot of the design for the altar cloth and lectern frontals happened by coincidence - it just felt right, like a natural nudge in the right direction.
The blessing was emotional and meant a lot for me as it was recognition of my craft. The moment the Archdeacon’s hand came down and blessed my cloth my creation was alive. I feel so privileged to have met such nice people and for them to be there for me and supporting me.
I would like to thank Reverend Desmond Burton, Penny Burton, The Archdeacon of Horsham West Sussex Fiona Windsor, Jeremy Quin MP, Councillor Sandy Ellis former Hayward Heath Mayor the Balcombe Parish Councillors who attended and community and congregation of balcombe who also attended. And I would especially like to thank Rosemary Corder for giving me this opportunity and for making this all possible.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank The Archbishop of Canterbury your kind words of support for the blessing meant a lot. I wanted the altar cloth to be perfect - when someone is genuinely kind to you and excepts you for who you are, that means a lot, this is why I wanted to do the best I could for the church and community. I wish the readers well and the community of Haywards Heath and Balcombe well; it’s nice that I can return a piece of heritage to the community of balcombe and for Sussex for the future.
by Paul Milton
B.D.A Ambassador for Arts and Dyslexia