In July 2019, Colin Norgate, a craftsman in wood, was commissioned to make a Crosier for the new Bishop of Stepney (London)
A meeting was held at Colin’s workshop to discuss some of The Bishop’s thoughts and ideas which could be incorporated within the design.
With enough information attained from this meeting, it was clear to Colin that this was an opportunity to involve the skills of other craftsmen.
In October 2019, at a Sussex Guild show, Colin raised the idea of the Crosier commission with two other fellow Sussex Guild members.
- Fleur Grenier – Pewtersmith (also Freeman, Worshipful Company of Pewterers)
- Sue Lowday – Leather (also Brother, Art Workers Guild)
Colin also used the skills of Robin Dimmock, a local blacksmith / metalsmith whose expertise he had used previously.
Although the basic concept of the Crosier was already decided with the Bishop, Colin wished each craftsperson to have their own input with the actual design of their specific part.
The emphasis of the whole design was Nature, for the commission was based around the poetic line of a poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins – “As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame”. Also to be incorporated was a textured finish taken from imagery of jewellery which constituted part of the Bishop’s vestments.
Fleur began researching the information she had been forwarded – ideas which were to be incorporated into the design – a poem, jewellery with a textured finish, and a flying kingfisher.
Having never made a crosier before, Fleur researched the various practical issues, such as the optimum size and weight of crosiers.
Finally, a satisfactory design was achieved – a kingfisher flying upwards, its wings outstretched in the symbol of a cross.
Seeing its beak stretching towards the edge, the Bishop commented, “I think that it is right that the beak doesn’t quite touch, which gives it a sense of work still to be done. We are all reaching for heaven . . . “
Various ways of making the kingfisher were explored, such as constructing it all in pewter, using glass, and incorporating anodised aluminum. Fleur consulted the jeweller Lorraine Gibby who specialises in the use of anodised aluminum in her work. Using this material solved a number of technical problems, especially the issue of weight.
Making the hook out of pewter involved ensuring it was solid and strong enough to endure years of use, but also was not too heavy.
When the commission was completed, Fleur commented ‘I could not have been prouder when the Bishop sent pictures of her using the crosier for the first time and knowing that the piece will now be used many years beyond my lifetime.’
The Leather Carrying Case
Sue started her contribution by making a few small paper maquettes.
This demonstrated her thinking with regard to the design and making process.
A chocolate-brown dyed leather was chosen by the Bishop for the exterior, and a burgundy soft leather for the interior of the case. The exterior was to have a decorative surface as this meant wear and tear would not be so evident and would add a special uniqueness to the case.
The imagery used came from the first line of the poem, and the leather was to be embossed with images of a kingfisher and dragonflies.
Careful consideration was paid to where to place the various images and Sue drew a number of sketches of kingfishers in flight.
Myriad font was chosen for its clarity for the text on the case.
The design of the case required careful thought. It had to be practical, easily lifted onto the shoulders and with a discreet carrying handle.
The interior of the case also required quite a degree of designing to ensure that each part of the Crosier fitted neatly in place and looked elegant when opened.
Sue relied heavily on her former training and expertise in silversmithing and jewellery to create the hand-cut lettering for the embossed poem. Additionally the kingfisher was also hand-cut and engraved.
Lastly, the frame of the case needed structurally to be rigid and strong to avoid the contents getting damaged. Extensive research ensued to find a range of possible materials to help create a lightweight internal framework around which to build the external leather of the case.
I really enjoyed this commission and being given the opportunity to work with others on a piece that will be handed down through generations.
A successful commission
The completed commission, with the combined input and expertise of three artist/craftsmen, turned out beautifully to everyone’s great satisfaction.