Contemporary Vanitas, a look at mortality. Playing on the Latin word for vanity, Vanitas is a metaphor for the meaninglessness of earthly life and transient nature of earthly goods and pursuits.
. . .
Last summer as I enjoyed a picnic with my friends inside the ruin that is Laurence Kirk in Burray, an idea presented itself to me.
When I take time out to drive around the Orkney Mainland to make drawings, I always have some pieces of my work with me, in case I want to photograph them on location outside. During this particular visit to the Kirk, I took several images of my glass dressed into the stone ledges of the Kirk’s walls. This inspired me to think about site-specific works for installation in this space, and other Kirk yards in Orkney.
I’ve since spent the first part of this year researching and experimenting with various designs to suit the purpose. In conceiving designs, the criteria I set myself was:
1. To make something commemorative and respectful for a specific kirkyard.
2. To feature wording in the glass’ design derived from phrasing on historic gravestones in which the piece is installed. I won’t use any wording from recent gravestones.
3. To be respectful in relation to the burial ground and any relatives of the deceased.
4. To install works that can be removed if they do offend.
5. To hopefully bring pleasure and comfort to all visitors to the site.
6. Not to be intrusive to the building the grounds and the fabric of the church.
7. To dignify the vanitas theme in art, memento mori.
8. To honour the deceased.
The project required research, insight sought from my main source, Ruth Paxton and encouragement from Louis Paxton, friends, family and visitors to my studio with whom I enjoyed discussing designs and the project’s genesis. I am continually influenced and informed by my family’s history in South Ronaldsay and past lives lived in Orkney. Every-day living, homes, trade and domesticity are among the many aspects of Orkney’s history which inspire me.
Installation 1. St. Lawrence’s Kirk, Burray
Installation 2. St. Mary’s Kirk, Burwick, South Ronaldsay
all photo’s Joanne Torrance
installed by Brian Torrance


A set of three windows inserted into my sitting room wall.  Each window measures 40 x 30 cms.

The windows let light through to the hall behind and on a sunny day the sitting room side is illuminated.

All windows are based around mid century theme.

Window 1 – has a drawing from a still of my son from a film. It is set in the blue note style of jazz album.

Window 2- Is based on my own design of 1960’s psychedelic art.

Window 3 – Maid of Norway & Bonnie Price Charlie. These two are drawn for playing cards I had as a kid. I always loved the picture cards

Illuminated Glass | Kiln Fired Glass Orkney


A commissioned window for a home in Gardenstown. Another pleasure to produce. This piece has several firings culminating in an applied lustre to the herring.


This piece has 4 x sides each depicting The Three Craws in different poses. This was a gift to a couple who had bought their first home. The Three Craws is a traditional Scottish Song. The theme has a personal significance to the couple.

Each piece has applied frits and enamels. A light is fitted into the base of the stand.