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Kerryming Sun: ‘When I think about the people who pour glass and colour, I picture them in wizard robes’

The emerging Irish-Chinese artist has been winning fans with her playful stained glass

Morning light floods the box room of a terraced house in Drimnagh, in southwest Dublin. Two dozen small, unfinished stained-glass pints of Guinness sit on the worktop. Beside them a stained-glass St Brigid’s cross waits to be soldered together. Above them hang swans, a fox, a blue morpho butterfly, a bee.

This is Kerryming Sun’s studio, an unassuming space where the emerging stained-glass artist creates work that glistens in the February glow. Her pieces are stunning, often playful, and somehow conjure a sense of serenity. Sun’s glasswork, which she sells online, is developing fans among people looking for personalised gifts, flourishes for windows in their homes, or even dog portraits.

She has also made portraits of Samuel Beckett, iridescent aeroplanes, and countless flowers. Sun points to a dragon swinging in front of the window, “It’s the Year of the Dragon ... I’m Irish-Chinese. My place and identity in Ireland has always been a question. I have the dreaded ‘Where are you really from?’ question even though I’m from Waterford.”

Sun draws on “the audacious colours that Chinese art uses, every colour of the palette, really primary-colour stuff. And then more Irish things, like swans on the canal, a sionnach [or fox]. But a lot of it is nature, Irish and Chinese. I’m a big nerd as well, so I do a lot of anime and manga stuff.”


She comes from a science background. “I used to be a geologist ... When I found stained glass it was really the idea that, if I continued at this, I could make every piece slightly better than the last, and I could do that for 40 years, just have a small incline in my skillset quality.” Where did she learn her craft? “The Royal Academy of YouTube.”

I ask about one piece, a green heart-logo bin in flames. “The dumpster fire? It’s a self-portrait. I’m not being unkind to myself when I say this, but I’ve tried a lot of things in my life, and I’ve failed at a lot of things. But I don’t think there’s such a thing as a non-transferable skill. I’ve been a chef, a cheesemonger, a bicycle courier, a geologist, and teaching in that context. I was a barista. I did speciality training in that, and some natural-wine stuff. It took getting to stained glass for me to go, ‘This is something I could see myself doing into my old age’.”

Sun removes pieces of glass from their cubbyholes. “If I won the lottery I wouldn’t tell anybody, but there would be signs! I’d buy so much glass.”

One pink piece looks rather unremarkable until the light hits it, its reflection turning the worktop bright pink. “This is a piece I bought myself for Christmas. Pink glass is the most expensive glass. It’s difficult to produce a transparent pink. I think it’s alchemy. When I think about the people who pour glass and colour, I picture them in wizard robes – same as my accountant,” she deadpans, “or any career I’m mystified by.” Sun gets lost in the colour for a moment. “Look how beautiful that is. It’s so stunning. It’s highly transformative.”

The pieces keep coming. “When I think about the Irish relationship to stained glass,” Sun says – pausing to show another piece that, she says, evokes the surface of Jupiter – “you think about the church. Stained glass has been the domain of the church and extremely wealthy people’s houses. There has been a mystification of it. If you’re going back even 100 years ago in Ireland, the average person’s access to bright, intense colours” was limited, she says. Besides natural flowers and natural light, stained glass in churches “may have had the brightest colours people would have seen in their daily lives”.

She pulls out an intense piece of red glass. “This is called cherry red. It’s water glass too, so it has a texture that really splits up the light ... There’s also English muffle,” she says, removing a sea-glass-green piece. “It’s been around for a long time ... You see a lot of this in Georgian houses. But from your 1960s corpo house to people getting windows commissioned, they’ll use a lot of this glass.” Then another piece. “There’s a holographic sense to this water glass. This one is dark-steel sky blue.” And more again. “Then we’ve got opalescent. These are glasses that are nontransparent, but they absorb the light. Look how intense that yellow is.”

A collection of delicate and incredibly beautiful stained-glass flowers glisten. “These are irises. If I’m doing flowers – these are purple and blue – I’m generally doing wild and native Irish or Chinese ones.”

One of the keys to Sun’s ability to practise and grow her art has been a pilot initiative that has been giving her and 2,000 other artists €325 a week for three years, as part of the Government’s response to the effects of the pandemic. “I qualified for the BIA, the basic income for the arts scheme,” she says. “That has been really, really life-changing ... I wouldn’t have been able to get to this point if I hadn’t had that buffer ... I’ve been able to grow the business and grow my client base in a way that’s organic and healthy.”

Downstairs in the kitchen, over a cup of tea, Sun shows more work. “This week was fully inundated with Palestinian hearts I’m doing,” she says, showing heart-shaped pieces in the colours of the Palestinian flag. “We raised about €2,000. I always said that if I got to the stage where I was able to support myself, part of it would be for charity or community outreach.” Sun also holds stained-glass workshops in Portobello in Dublin – a three-hour class where participants learn how to pattern, cut, foil and solder costs €110.

Harry Clarke is a huge inspiration. “I reckon he was a time-traveller,” she says. “There’s great power in having something in your head and conjuring it into reality.”