Category Archives: Art

The Illumination Window: The Making

In the last blog in the series, artist Mel Howse describes the process of making our newest cathedral addition.

Over a period of 25 years my skills as a designer and maker have evolved into taking on some large-scale projects. I was fortunate to have had commissions coming in on graduation as a student, and my experience of transposing drawn designs to full-scale glasswork has grown along with my portfolio. I am not daunted in this respect by scale, in fact, I relish it, and the development of commissions that take years to unfold is all part of the territory. My focus as an artist is in creating unique pieces of work, that explore the opportunities afforded by my medium, keeping it relevant to our era.

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The Illumination Window: The Cartoon

Artist Mel Howse discusses the process of cartooning for our newest piece of glass art

In the stained glass tradition, the working drawing that an artist uses to create the final glasswork is called a cartoon.  This cartoon is a full-size drawing at 1:1 scale and can be in either colour or black and white.

It conveys the essence of the glass work to come: the size and the shape of the glass pieces, details of applied techniques such as paintwork or etching. Quite simply, it is the glassmaker’s guide for the coming stage of creating the art in glass.

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The Illumination Window: The Design

Artist Mel Howse gives an insight into the design process and reading of our newest cathedral addition, The Illumination Window.


It has been a great privilege to be both designer and maker for the commission to create The Illumination window. It will stand as an important experience in my lifetime. As I write this in Spring 2019 this work is about to take on a new role. It will be leaving the intimacy of my studio, and travelling into the future as part of the Cathedral.

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April’s Treasure of the Month from Durham Cathedral’s Archives: Mercator’s Map.

Durham Cathedral has acquired an internationally renowned collection of manuscripts and historic artefacts over the centuries. Each month we feature one of these objects as ‘Treasure of the Month’.

Some items from the Cathedral’s collections are on display in Open Treasure, a new world-class visitor experience at the heart of the Cathedral’s medieval monastic buildings.

Continue reading April’s Treasure of the Month from Durham Cathedral’s Archives: Mercator’s Map.

Ten things you didn’t know about Durham Cathedral

Some of the most spectacular spaces inside Durham Cathedral are being transformed by a multi-million pound development project Open Treasure. These world-class exhibition galleries will open in 2016, providing access to the Cathedral’s internationally renowned collection of manuscripts and other priceless artefacts.

To whet your appetite, here are ten things about Durham Cathedral, its collections and the new exhibition spaces that you probably don’t know:

  1. Over 65,000 tons of sandstone were used to build Durham Cathedral, making it one of the top 100 geo-sites in the UK!
  2. Durham Cathedral marks a turning point in the history of architecture; it boasts the world’s first structural pointed arch.
  3. The ceiling and walls of Durham Cathedral were originally painted in vibrant colours, including blues, reds and gold. Traces of paint still remain on the walls and ceiling.
  4. The Monks’ Dormitory is the only intact monastic dormitory in England and the spectacular oak-beamed roof is rivalled only by Westminster Hall. This incredible space will mark the start of the new exhibition route due to open in 2016.
  5. The Great Kitchen is one of only two intact surviving monastic kitchens in England. It will eventually house the Relics of St Cuthbert as part of Open Treasure.
  6. Durham Cathedral boasts the best-preserved and documented medieval Benedictine Library in the British Isles, with manuscripts dating from the 6th-century onwards.
  7. Durham Cathedral holds three issues of Magna Carta in its collections, dating from 1216, 1225 and 1300. The 1216 Magna Carta is the only surviving copy of this issue.
  8. St Cuthbert’s wooden coffin held in the Cathedral’s collections is one of the oldest surviving examples of Anglo-Saxon wood-carving in the British Isles.
  9. Durham Cathedral holds the only surviving pieces of Anglo-Saxon embroidery in England; the stole and maniple offered in honour of St Cuthbert by King Athelstan in 934.
  10. In 1986, Durham Cathedral became the first English Cathedral to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Almost thirty years later, it remains one of Britain’s best-loved buildings.

Transforming the Future of Durham Cathedral

Our exciting development project Open Treasure is transforming spaces inside the Cathedral as well as the way in which the Cathedral engages with visitors and the local communities. As part of our successful Heritage Lottery Fund application, we submitted a detailed activity plan; a programme of outreach and engagement, learning, and a series of public events and exhibitions. As Project Co-ordinator, I am working with many departments across the organisation to deliver this activity plan.

Co-ordinating such an ambitious project is no easy task! The physical transformation of spaces off the Claustral buildings, led by the Cathedral’s Property Team, is due to be completed in 2016. Ahead of this we are already working on the outreach and engagement programme and each department has an important part to play. With so many people involved, my role is both challenging and highly rewarding!

I started at the Cathedral three months ago, and progress has been made with projects that will create opportunities for local communities to get involved with Open Treasure.  An oral history project will offer people the chance to record their memories of Durham whilst Recreating the Community is providing local artists and local communities with the opportunity to produce unique artwork inspired by the Anglo-Saxon Treasures of St Cuthbert.  We have already held artists workshops in collaboration with Durham Creatives and can’t wait to get this project off the ground.  Other projects include reading groups for book-worms to a Young Curators project for ambitious young people with an interest in history and heritage.

With so many projects to co-ordinate, we’ve certainly got a lot of hard work ahead of us but it’s great to be part of such an ambitious project and you can be part of it too!  As Open Treasure develops, there will be many opportunities to get involved, so keep up-to-date at  You can also follow Durham Cathedral on Facebook and Twitter. Watch this space!

Claire Hyde

Open Treasure Project Co-ordinator (Activities)