Illuminating the past

Have you ever thought about the work that went into the creation of medieval illuminated manuscripts? Toni Watts is one of the few remaining professional illuminators in the UK, specialising in the creation of traditional and contemporary designs using 24-carat gold leaf and hand-made paints prepared with coloured pigments extracted from semi-precious rocks, roots and berries. The traditional methods used to transform these raw materials were once a natural part of the training of the artist, the process of preparing paint being seen as an integral part of the artistic process.

Photograph of tools and materials in Toni Watts' workshop at Lincoln Cathedral, 2016. 

Photograph of tools and materials in Toni Watts' workshop at Lincoln Cathedral, 2016. 

13th-century stained glass panel of Noah's Ark, east window, Lincoln Cathedral.

13th-century stained glass panel of Noah's Ark, east window, Lincoln Cathedral.

Last year, she was appointed artist-in-residence at Lincoln Cathedral, where she has re-created some of the Cathedral's own medieval illuminated manuscripts so that they may be seen by a wider audience. However, she has been creating her own original work inspired by the building itself, the people she has met and Biblical texts. For example, there is a 13th-century stained glass panel in the large window at the east end of Lincoln Cathedral that shows the dove returning to Noah's Ark. Toni has created her own illuminated page based on the image that features a selection of local animals including a Lincolnshire Red Cow, a woolly sheep, a fox, a badger, a Lincolnshire Buff chicken, a dormouse and a Lincolnshire curly-coated pig (now sadly extinct). In her version, Noah is releasing the dove. 

Toni Watts, Lincolnshire Ark, 24 carat gold on manuscript gesso and watercolour, 2016.

Toni Watts, Lincolnshire Ark, 24 carat gold on manuscript gesso and watercolour, 2016.

If you'd like to see more of Toni Watts' work, there'll be an exhibition of it in the Chapter House at  Lincoln Cathedral from 3 - 30 September 2016. Why not go along and take a look?