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Window into the Word

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Sister Jane Maisey looks over an illustration of the books of the Bible as a stained glass window. Photo: Supplied
Sister Jane Maisey looks over an illustration of the books of the Bible as a stained glass window. Photo: Supplied

How well do you know the books of the Bible? Sr Jane Maisey RSJ hopes her recently-completed artwork will inspire many Catholics to see its beauty and to read the scriptures more.

The New Zealand-based graphic designer spent eight months researching and combining her love of traditional etching and stained glass to create her visual representation of the Old and New Testaments, which she says is ideal for schools as a religious education resource.

The large poster-sized image depicts all of the books from Genesis to Revelation as scrolls, along with the letters of the early Church, as illustrations in a set of five arched stained-glass windows.

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The Old Testament books take up the first four windowpanes, labelled Pentateuch, Historical, Wisdom, and Poetry and Prophets. An additional windowpane is devoted to the New Testament.

Sr Jane was encouraged to embark on the project after a friend asked her if she could create an image that would feature the books of the Bible.

“As Catholics we’re not typically big Bible readers, so having something visual that’s non-confrontational or overwhelming and is almost exciting and inviting …”

She’s now making it available as a poster in three sizes through her website designjane.com and is receiving orders from across New Zealand and Australia, mostly from schools, and even from the ecumenical college where she is studying counselling part time.

“It was all very providential how it came about,” Sr Jane told The Catholic Weekly via phone.

“As Catholics we’re not typically big Bible readers, so having something visual that’s non-confrontational or overwhelming and is almost exciting and inviting is what we were going for, and the response has been really positive so far.

“There’s a lot of really bad imagery out there in terms of Bible bookcases and simple clip art type illustrations of the books of the Bible but nothing intricate to this level of detail.

Obscured by her creation, Sister Jane Maisey holds an illustration of the books of the Bible as a stained glass window. Photo: Supplied
Obscured by her creation, Sister Jane Maisey holds an illustration of the books of the Bible as a stained glass window. Photo: Supplied

“You had to be a bit obsessed with it or a bit mad to stick with a project like this working nights and weekends and making so many changes!

“It kind of combines Gothic-style stained glass and the kind of details you would find in books from the late 1800s to early 1900s, so it meant drawing line after line.

“That required a lot of patience, praying through it, and asking people for help with feedback.

“But it’s drawn in such a way, that the way the glass would have to be cut and the way the colours were separated, is accurate. So if someone wanted to commission it to be made into actual panes of stained glass it’s doable, the template is there.”

Now 42, Sr Jane she has loved drawing for as long as she can remember and ran her own design business for around a decade before entering religious life as a postulant in 2013.

“But in art and design as in any industry you have to keep working at it, and it’s hard work to get to a different level so you’re always trying to be better.”

“My mum said that when I was quite little, other children would be doing circles or blocks or things and I’d be drawing finger details and hands. So I think some kids just kind of have an eye for detail and pick these things up,” she said.

“But in art and design as in any industry you have to keep working at it, and it’s hard work to get to a different level so you’re always trying to be better.”

Her favourite book of scripture?

“Probably one my favourites would be Wisdom, or the Psalms or the Song of Solomon, the Gospels. Sorry, it’s not really possible to pick one!”

Further information: designjane.com

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