How I Created My Hand-Painted Christmas Window

There’s something so magical about the warm glow of windows at dusk, especially in the late autumn and winter. Peeking in and seeing the sparkle of a Christmas tree is even more special. This was the starting point, along with the iconic architecture of the historic Pantiles, for my Christmas window display. Here, I’ve shared how I designed and painted my Tunbridge Wells’ jewellery shop window.

The Pantiles’ Big Reveal

The Big Reveal

This is the second year of The Pantiles’ Big Reveal, which is organised by our neighbours: The Zero Waste Company and sponsored by Royal Tunbridge Wells Together and Maddisons Residential. On Saturday 19th of November, from 6-8pm, The Pantiles’ Christmas lights will be switched on and you’ll be invited to vote for your favourite window display. They’ll also be carol singing, mulled wine and a visit from Father Christmas. There’s always a great atmosphere at Christmas in The Pantiles and it’s a brilliant way to support the independent shops and makers at this critical time of year for small businesses.

The Design

Christmas Window original design

The Pantiles has always been part of my life. I grew up in Tunbridge Wells my paternal family are from here and I have always loved the striking black and white architecture of the area. I recently found a black and white photograph I took outside my shop in 1987 when I was an Art student in Maidstone, little did I know then I would one day be lucky enough to have my shop in the Lower Walk. For my windows, I chose to draw a miniature version of my shop and one of the buildings on The Pantiles Upper Walk with its striking pillars.

Creating the life size template

I worked with my friend, and local creative Josephine Compton. We each sketched the buildings and the placement on the windows and detailing. We needed to make sure we had twenty four windows so that one could open each day of advent. I started by making a reverse template of the design - which was not easy. Then we met up at Josephine’s house to create a full-sized template.

painting on the design onto the window

We placed the template onto the window to form a guide. Then hand-painted the design using white acrylic paint and chalk pens. Last year I used a mixture of acrylics and glass paint but we found that white acrylic or chalk pen worked best for the outlines as glass paint is very runny.

The Details

painting the 'through the window' scenes

At home I painted 24 miniature scenes - one for each window. It took hours and I struggled with my perfectionism but tried to keep Josephine’s voice in my head to help me be bold and stay on track. I wanted to capture the magic of Christmas and include some details to make people smile. You’ll often find my Airedale terrier, Rolo sleeping in the window of my Tunbridge Wells jewellery shop so I’ve also captured him in miniature for one of the windows.

finished 'through the window' paintings

For some of the scenes I took inspiration from my work including my Antler Hoop collection, my Song Thrush Stud Earrings  and my Bauble collection and my Snowball collection.

Behind each Christmas window is one of my friend Elizabeth Harbour’s Christmas decorations. Elizabeth is a Kent-based artist and illustrator we went to art college together. Her work is inspired by the real trees and birds of Kent. However, my favourite of her decorations has to be the Airedale dog on wheels!

Thank You


Catherine Hills Jewellery Christmas window

Creating this Christmas window has taken hours and hours of work for both Josephine and myself, but it is really a labour of love. I hope you like the design.

I’ve always thought of The Pantiles as being the creative heart of Tunbridge Wells. Being a small business owner can be tough but also really rewarding and I’m really looking forward to the special buzz that the window competition and the night of festivities it will bring to The Pantiles. I  hope to see you there.