This past spring, we lost one of our most innovative artists on the tour – Constance Laing.
Even though Constance was a resident in Uxbridge for many years, she preferred to be a guest artist rather than a site artist, and a lot of you will have seen her always exhibiting with her friends Fly Freeman and Tracy Walker.
Constance started on the tour as a furniture painter, faux finisher, and creator of fabulous copper ornaments - her much loved angels, fish and occasional horses.
However, her interests gradually focused on the gilding side of the furniture finisher’s skillset, forming a passion for gilding on glass using a special technique called Verre Eglomisé – which is the creation of a mirrored surface on glass using gold and silver leaf.
As she developed her skill with this new material, she created a style of painstaking layering of precious metal leaf, often incised into stylised botanical imagery, then antiqued, maybe regilded, gradually building up rich and exotic textures and images.
However complex the images got, there is always this incredible reflectivity which adds in another layer to the images: they change throughout the day as the light shifts, or even as you walk across a room.
How to describe her pieces? Are they mirrors or extraordinary pictures created in various different metal leafs? This confusion of deciding what exactly these artworks were meant it took a little while for the gilded glass work to catch on.
Then there was a magical year, when it was decided to hang Constance’s pieces on a wall painted a deep dark blue. Her artworks gleamed and shimmered and then started to disappear off the wall into the arms of happy clients!
There was no looking back from there, Constance created some larger, more ambitious pieces that she took to an Interior design show in Toronto, bringing her to the attention of a designer who could use her extraordinary skills, and before long she was creating fabulously patterned gilded doors and surfaces for this designer’s clients.
Constance brought an attention to detail and perfectionism to her work that was married to an exuberant design sensibility – her work is rich in pattern and fabulous flowers, scrolling branches, tumbling leaves and delightful birds.
Constance also brought a practical, determined attitude to all she did, and was a good, good friend to so many in this community of artists, as well as her neighbours and colleagues.
She is sorely missed in so many ways.