I spent a couple of days away at the beginning of September. The first was spent in Barnard Castle, a beautiful place with (for me) the perfect combination of coffee shops, castle and second-hand bookshop (Book Aid, a Christian charity). After a damp morning there, we ventured further afield to Eggleston Hall Gardens, where I had the unexpected pleasure of finding an artist’s studio.
There, in this small garden nursery, I entered a world of flower art that was so delicate and intricate, I was mesmerised. Puzzled at the medium, I went further in to find the artist herself at work, making this intricate beauty from the very ordinary medium of tissue paper. In front of her sat bowls of tiny pieces of differently coloured tissue paper and I watched as she stuck the different hues onto a canvas frame to bring beautiful flowers to life. Layer upon layer was stuck and then varnished to create a canvas of floral magnificence.
Victoria Bellas Carter (https://www.victoriabellascarter.com/) works with a tissue paper collage technique, ‘tearing, cutting, layering and manipulating shapes to create vibrant and beautiful images of flowers.” I spent quite a long time simply gazing at these works in awe.
Layering was the technique that fascinated me the most, how the artist created different shades for the flowers using the different layers of tissue paper.
God uses different circumstances and seasons in our lives to create beautiful shades whcih add depth and colour to our existence. Not all of those circumstances are easy. The Bible shows us many people in the wilderness, on the run, facing opposition, grief, obstacles. Ruth and Naomi suffering the bitterness of multiple bereavement and famine. Joseph in the wilderness of prison through no fault of his own. David on the run from an insanely jealous king whose cause he had only tried to serve faithfully. Moses in the wilderness because temper got the better of him and he was forced to flee Egypt to live in Midian for forty years.
Those difficult seasons seem more than a layer of tissue paper to us. They seem to last forever. But perhaps they are simply another layer, intended to build character, to shape our flowers into what we were designed to be.
The painstaking work of the artist results in something magnificent to behold. I suspect our lives are the same if we can see beyond the individual shreds of tissue paper.