The Gilroys’ Vancouver
When the sun shines in through a well-crafted stained glass window, the richness of the colour and the warmth of the reflection set the room aglow. Stained glass artists spend hours looking in and out of windows, trying to capture light and to create a natural link between what is happening outside the glass and inside the building.
Laura and John Gilroy – renowned stained glass artists – spend a lot of their time looking out at Vancouver. What elements of our city do they work into their commissions? Where is the light particularly radiant?
“Vancouver is a very special place for us,” say the Gilroys. “It’s difficult to narrow it down to just a few of our favourite parts.” But, they will try. “When we relocated here in 2005 from the UK, we stayed in an apartment overlooking Stanley Park. Moving countries is not the easiest endeavour, yet having that glorious view of the mountains always made us feel as though we had made the right decision.”
The Architectural Institute of BC asked the Gilroys to create an exhibition. “The inspiration for one of the pieces was a summer day in Coal Harbour, observing how the sky reflected upon the glass-fronted condos. The reflections on and off the buildings seemed to give them a fluid appearance. It still makes us think of gentle sea breezes and float planes!”
Having lived in Vancouver for over eleven years, the Gilroys particularly appreciate the Sea Wall. “Our daughter enjoyed seeing the Girl in a Wet Suit, which we initially thought was a mermaid but is actually a contemporary version of the Little Mermaid sculpture in Copenhagen. I rather like the mermaid theme; a legendary creature that brings together aquatic life with life on land. We’ve created it several times in our work; the latest being a feature piece for a home on Protection Island, which, fittingly, is only accessible by water!”
The British born Gilroys lived for awhile in Kerrisdale. “One of our favourite places there is St. Mary’s Anglican Church. It is over 100 years old and has many beautiful stained glass windows. One of our early commissions was to create a clerestory window for there depicting Saint Brigid, a formidable Irish saint. As John is Irish, it seemed like serendipity.”
When the Gilroys have family visiting from England, they are sure to take them to VanDusen Botanical Garden. “It is a gem within the city. I particularly like the the new Visitor Centre design: so organic, fluid and perfect for the location. Visits here surely inspired our Creation of the Land window for Dunbar Heights United Church.”
The Gilroys are also excited about the Vermeer Building on 4th Avenue. “We created a window for the lobby paying homage to Vermeer’s painting The Glass of Wine. We worked closely with the developer of the project, and art within the creation of all was a theme that continued throughout. The acclaimed local stone carver Tony Rogac created lovely heraldic carvings for the frontage and carved small curiosity pieces elsewhere to be seen from the residential balconies.”
Another building admired by the Gilroys is the new John Paul II Pastoral Centre on 33rd Ave, near the Children’s Hospital. “We created two windows for the chapel, one of which was inspired by Bernini’s great oval window in St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. As soon as you enter the building, it is apparent that the artwork deepens the participation of those who use the many ministries and services. The icons, paintings and beautiful gilding work were all created by talented Vancouver artists.”
After more than 11 years, say the Gilroys, “Vancouver is now home, but no matter how familiar it becomes, I hope we always appreciate its wonderful characteristics.”
Written by Elizabeth Newton
* To see more of the Gilroys’ work, check out their website:
Gilroy Glass Website
And our past profile:
The Gilroys Profile