#2 The Long Origin Story 

July 5, 2024

When we gaze down from a plane at city lights at night, we feel like giants. Yet, looking up at the stars, we feel like tiny specks amongst them. That a person can feel like a god and like a speck of stardust at one time, in one body and mind – what marvels we humans are!

This concept – that humans can be multiple seemingly contradictory things at once – is at the heart of the Glass Cathedrals concept.

“The Wish” – my latest Glass Cathedral, made only yesterday! Click here to see in the online shop.

I’ve been thinking in this ‘non-binary’ way since I was a child – a good place to start on the meandering path that led to Glass Cathedrals. Here are three words to describe my childhood:

1. Mortal
A major preoccupation I had as a child was: How can I exist – be EVERYTHING – and die, and be NOTHING? Though this made me cry a lot, somehow I was also able to get on with my (meaningless!!!??) life, and was even carefree and driven. Obviously! That is at the heart of the contradiction of the human condition. Meaningless and purposeful.

So you could say, in hindsight, that a dialectical way of thinking came naturally to me.

Small sweet creature having big bad thoughts | One of my first Glass Cathedrals: was “On Reflection”. You can see yourself, MASSIVE, peering over Death’s shoulder.

2. Glittery
One of my most magical childhood memories was finding a pile of broken glass on the pavement beside a vandalised car. I carefully picked it up and stashed it in a small bag where it glittered secretly for years. Worthless and precious.

3. Loskop
A LOSKOP is someone who loses things, forgets things, and is often late. Literally, a loose head, in Afrikaans. Although it could be inconvenient, back in the 70’/80’s where no-one had even heard of executive functioning, let alone expected it of children like they do today (grrr. makes me angry), I never had any real anxiety around being a loskop. For me it was a creative force, the floating elements in my mind were free to find each other and make interesting connections. Disorderly and coherent.

So when I sometimes say I’m not a real artist, I think I mean that I’m not driven by an instinct to create, but by an instinct to connect. And play with glitter.

Diving into glitter | Proudly a LOSKOP

When you start connecting things that are supposedly opposites, a kind of magic happens:

You can feel scared and brave at the same time. Be big and small. Limited and indefatigable. Important and insignificant. It kind of takes the pressure off.

And once you start looking for connections, rather than succumbing to false binaries – they are everywhere to be found. In the arts, in politics, in enduring relationships, in the seasons of nature and our lives.

Of course, it’s not just me who’s worked this out. Many people have these moments of realisation about what it is to be a funny little human traveling around a big planet. What to do with these thoughts? I started putting mine in boxes.

The Nightjob | The World is a Scary Place, but I have Armbands | Hope is an Action

I could end here – but – predictably, little chance of that. One more story to tell, of how I came to call the artboxes “Glass Cathedrals”.

Origin of the Name Glass Cathedrals

In 1991 I read just one page from the book “Oscar and Lucinda” by Peter Carey, in an A-level English Literature ‘unseen’ text exam.

In it, a life-size glass church, made by missionaries in the Australian outback, has somehow become unmoored from its foundations and is floating down a river. Trapped inside the glass cathedral is a dragonfly, colliding against the walls trying to escape, blind to the concept of glass. When I read that page more than half a lifetime ago, I recognised a parallel collision between the seriousness with which we take our life’s endeavours, and the limitations of our understanding. To be creatures aware of our own limitations, yet ceaselessly try to break through them – how ridiculous! How sublime!  It stayed with me.

When I started creating worlds inside glass boxes in 2004 – boxes you could stand both inside and outside of, that embodied vulnerability and strength, in a space that was simultaneously intimate and infinite – Peter Carey’s paragraph, from so many moons before, came to mind.


Well! This week’s origin story was indeed quite long. Hope you’re enjoying these emails …it’s hard to know as one clicks SEND into the ether… :) so feel free to send one right back at me.

Till next time, love Lisa