1. Let the light in
I learned the hard way with the first window I designed – a 7 swans inspired snow queen painting – to use transparent materials. It’s much easier and visually more effective to backlight a window. More importantly, it doesn’t matter how fabulous a painting looks from the outside, after a month of permanent darkness in your living room you will hate it being up! I’ve used tissue paper every year since.
2. Beg, steal and borrow
Every year, my window planning process starts with a sort-of idea, then a search of Google images for other artwork on that theme. I’m not great at making up designs, so by browsing and saving pictures that I like, I can pick and choose elements that I think would work well. 2016’s window, for example, was a composite of a northern lights painting, tree silhouettes and a photo of Joni Mitchell ice skating in a nod to my favourite Christmas song, River.
3. Keep it simple and playful
By 2017 I’d learned that a black silhouette on a white background shows up best by far, especially if your windows are a little foggy. Mine and Jed’s homage to our favourite Christmas films was easy to make, because each panel had its own cutout that we could work on individually. It was also our most popular window, as everybody loved the quiz element of trying to guess them all. (We heard a LOT of wrong guesses from our living room and were often tempted to shout the right answer!)
4. Save the date
When you volunteer to do a window, you can request a particular date to switch on. You can also get creative with the date you’re given. One of my all time favourite Saltaire Living Advent windows was a clever neighbour who requested December 23rd for a ‘Delia Says Defrost’ turkey themed window! In my first year taking part, I chose the 7 swans theme for 7th December. In 2018, I asked for winter solstice – the darkest day of the year – as the perfect date to unveil a ‘Hope in the dark’ window.
5. Make it personal
One of the things I love most about Saltaire Living Advent Calendar is reading the stories behind the windows when the photos are posted online. It’s a little glimpse into the lives of people in our community and what matters to us. You might include something in your window to mark a special event – 2018’s lighthouse design was a nod to Jed and I getting married at Buchan Ness that year. Or make a window to celebrate something you love, like our 2019 Star Wars window! (Though please note, for copyright reasons, designs like this don’t make it into Christmas card packs.)