By Freya Thomas, First Year English Literature.
Janet Rogers first began her glass-work as a hobby, when she bought a soldering iron to make a stained-glass window for her front door. Ten years on and she now runs the Crushed Chilli Gallery on South Street, a beautiful space in which she creates, displays and sells her art work, using traditional glass-work techniques in daring ways to produce bright and eye-catching pieces bursting with colour and energy.
The gallery itself is beautiful: a refurbished old church hall in which Janet has been located for eight years, selling her art and that of other artists, as well as using it as a workshop to fuse her glass, creating windows, platters and beautiful pictures of Durham scenes or nature-inspired murals. The interior is bright, open and full of light, a perfect showroom for the vibrancy of her art. A stained-glass window near the ceiling – one of her own creations – casts mottled orange and red light on the wall, a rabbit sleeps in a hutch in the corner, and a wood-burning stove keeps the room pleasantly warm from the February chill.
I asked Janet if her art drew inspiration from anything in particular. ‘I love buildings’, she tells me, ‘that’s the first thing that inspired me. I’ve done lots of pictures with little houses: I call them “Durham Houses”. But I also love colour: I try sometimes to be a grown-up and use muted tones, but then I can’t help but put a little orange in there!’. The influence of both is clear in Janet’s work. Bright terraced Durham houses are a signature feature in many of the pieces in the gallery, alongside several platters and coasters depicting the cathedral’s silhouette. Janet tells me she’d never done so many works of the cathedral until she moved here, but it’s what the tourists love.
Alongside the art displayed in the gallery and her running of workshops, Janet also receives frequent commissions, particularly for stained glass windows in people’s homes. Currently she is working on a remarkable stained-glass replica of a Picasso. The glass is cut and decorated using fused glass rather than paint, before being assembled using traditional techniques of lead soldering.
While most of her commissions are for private homes, Janet also recently produced a piece for the Durham School chapel to celebrate 600 years since the school’s founding: three large windows, about 800cm by 4m high, designed by a pupil.
Janet is entirely self-taught. She left school aged sixteen and worked in film and television for twenty-five years, supplying black-and-white film cameras before running her own company. Having left this monochrome world of film she discovered her love for vibrantly colourful glass, and from there taught herself the techniques needed to produce her work, creating a gallery filled with bright, bold and contemporary creations.