I have been making the Advent window design for display at Saltaire United Reformed Church for a few years now and the lovely folks at Saltaire Inspired have asked me to share some top tips for a great Advent window design.
1. What is your message?
The church shares a message of love, peace, joy and hope at Christmas. Whether you have a religious faith or not, I hope that these universal themes will appeal to you and remind you that you are loved at this special time of year. Around the village the windows often seem to reflect events from the previous year, so I expect to see plenty of rainbows and messages of community spirit lighting up the streets of Saltaire this Christmas!
2. Keep it simple
My design is displayed in the large window on the tower of the church and since no one can view it up close it works best if I choose a simple, but easily recognisable design. I am often inspired by simple stained glass and geometric designs and I keep my eyes open all year around for my Advent window inspiration. I love to see the small details in the up close windows around the village, but do remember that it is supposed to be fun to create your window, so don’t put too much stress on yourself by taking on something too ambitious.
3. Start small
I always sketch out my design on a smaller scale first. At this stage I often ask a few friends and family for their opinion and see if any tweaks need to be made to the design. Carefully consider anything in your display that could be tricky. My design goes over four panes of glass, and it is a challenge to get the edges to line up so I have to consider how the design goes across these joins. I also find that text doesn’t work very well on my designs as they are displayed so high up in the church tower, so consider how large your finished piece will be and how close your viewers will be.
4. Be prepared
The window at Saltaire URC is usually one of the first to be lit, so it is important that I start to consider my design early. Work usually begins to finalise the design in the early weeks of November. This gives me time to gather the materials so that we don’t have a repeat of the year the sellotape ran out just before midnight and we had to do an emergency supermarket run, or the time I had to buy an extra roll of cellophane from a different supplier and it was a totally different colour! I also like to work on my design over a few evenings, usually in the company of friends who used to pop over with their own Christmas crafts and keep me company over a pot of tea, but I guess that is not likely to be an option this year… Zoom meeting window making anyone?
5. Consider the lighting
I create my designs using a stained glass effect with cut black paper and cellophane, so we use a strong light to create the best and brightest effect. For years we used an angle poise lamp but recently we upgraded to an LED work light designed for DIY/ building sites. This light is lower energy and we use it with a timer switch, so that the design comes on with perfect timing every night. This might not be necessary if you are displaying a window in your own home, but it could be helpful if you are going out.
I can’t wait to see the designs that are created this year. We have lived in and near the village for almost 15 years now and the Advent Windows are a real highlight of the festive season for me.