Derek Hunt in his Limelight Studios in Medbourne.
Derek is top of the glass!
At the age of 17 Derek Hunt had his career mapped out as a graphic artist.
All that changed, however, one day when he attended a foundation course in stained glass while studying at Edinburgh Art School.
"I fell in love with it from there," recalls Derek. " Just the idea of working with your hands, learning a craft skill, lots of colour and lots of working with light. It was something I hadn't considered until I went to Art School, but when I tasted stained glass as a subject I just thought this is definitely the one for me. "
Since those early days Derek, who is 55, now has more than 30 years' experience under his belt and has built up a growing reputation as one of the best architectural glass artists in the country designing artworks for public spaces, libraries, schools, hospitals, theatres and churches. He works with sculptural objects which can be hung on wires or fixed to walls, and also makes traditional stained glass.
He is now a Fellow of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, ICON Accredited stained glass conservator, and Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers.
After graduating at Edinburgh Art School in 1984 with a BA (Hons) in Art & Design, Derek moved South to Leicester to work for Norman & Underwood, one of the UK’s most established roofing, structural glazing and building conservation contractors, as their painter and designer.
And in 1985 he decided he wanted to work for himself and set up a little studio in a garage. He stayed in Leicester for 15 years before moving to his Limelight Studios in Main Street, Medbourne in 1999, where he has remained ever since.
Some of the more unusual architectural glass projects Derek has undertaken include the one above at Guilford Baptish Church and at St Lawrence Church, Alton, below.
Above: One of Derek's hanging glass sculptures in St Felix Church, Haverhill.
Detail of the Baptismal window installed in St Giles' Church, Medbourne, by Derek Hunt.
One look round the studio leaves you in awe that such objects of great beauty can be made from coloured pieces of glass.
And Derek is proud that he makes traditional stained glass windows in the same way that they have been made for centuries.
"We use farriers' nails and simple tools which medieval craftsmen would use like a lead knife and an oyster knife, which we use for opening up the hearts of the lead.
"The only concessions to modern technology are things like glass cutters. Modern glass cutters have a tungsten carbide wheel on them, medieval craftsmen would have run a hot poker down the glass and it would have fractured it. We use computer-controlled kilns whereas medieval craftsmen would have built a bonfire, heated the glass and put the painted glass into the bonfire.
" I don't know how they knew that it worked but there is still glass that what made that way in the 12th and 13th century in our churches today so it was a techique which really worked well and it hasn't really changed a lot."
Derek uses glass from this country and abroad.
"It's a little bit like choosing wallpaper. You've got different manufacturers. It's the same with glass. I buy hand made glass. Because it is hand made every piece is unique. For instance, French glass has a characteristic that's different from German glass. And English antique glass, which is made in Redditch, has a different characteristic.
"I use a combination of European glass and British hand made antique glass. Each piece of glass has its own movement and striations. I hand pick all the glass I use from a warehouse in London."
So does Derek have a favourite project he has completed?
"They all tell a story and the lovely thing is because each project is unique you get involved with the community. It's like meeting an old friend again when I visit a piece of work.
"You maybe haven't seen a window for years. You come back to it and it's familiar but new as well. All the projects I do are different. I like them all for different reasons. And they all have a little story.
"What's lovely is that at the end of the day, when I'm finished, I'll have a portfolio of projects that I know will bring pleasure to people for many years to come, whether they're in churches or libraries or schools. So it's nice to leave a legacy.
"I've got two windows in the local church in Medbourne, so that's really nice. It's really nice to put something in you think is going to become part of the history of the village as well.
"The hardest challenge on some projects is getting the glass the right shade of colour. There are 40 different shades of green, for example, so that can be tricky."
Derek Hunt is pictured carrying out conservation of the Great West Window at St Mary’s Church, Nottingham City Centre.
Derek has several projects under way at the moment, including a stained glass window for St Mary's Church, Melton Mowbray, and windows for churches in Bristol and Brighton and he has completed conservation projects on Kilworth House, Leicestershire; St Mary's Church, Nottingham; Staveley Hall Derbyshire; Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire; Coventry Cathedral and Glasgow Cathedral to name but a few.
And now it looks like Derek's two daughters might be following in dad's footsteps.
Both Ruby, 15, and Lily, 11, enjoy making stained glass.
"They often bring friends home to make it too, " says Derek. "My wife Sue and I won't be pushing them into the business, but if they decide to go into it of course we will support them."
*To find out more about Derek and his work at Limelight Studios go to his website by clicking here.
*To find out more about the stained glass window being made for St Mary's Church, Melton Mowbray, and to view pictures of it click here.