Thursday, 20 December 2007

NZSAG Goes Live

After a lot of hard work, the revamped website of the New Zealand Society of Artists in Glass is up and running at . There are galleries of Members' work, details of membership and news and information. Importantly, there are details of the upcoming Conference 'Outside the Square' to be held in Whanganui in February next year. NZSAG welcomes as members anyone interested in New Zealand glass (if you're not a glass artist, you can become an Associate Member). Membership entitles you to participate in things like the conference and to receive the wonderful 'Glass News'. It's highly recommended!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Pacific Light Exhibition of New Zealand Glass by Emma Camden and David Murray in New York

If you live in New York, you've probably just missed the wonderful exhibition 'Pacific Light' at the Chappell Gallery on W 26th St. Emma Camden and David Murray cast glass in their home in a former Masonic Lodge in Whanganui, on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. British born Emma came to New Zealand in 1991, and has taught and cast glass in Auckland and Whanganui. She has exhibited at Chappell Gallery several times.

Emma's partner David Murray was initially a potter, but he turned to glass following a glass casting workshop taught by Emma in 1997, working initially as her assistant from 2000.

Emma's work has an architectural quality as she has explored especially buildings and structures, as well as making smaller objects and tools with personal associations (I talked about one of these in my blog on 30 June 2007). David has drawn inspiration from artefacts such as stone adzes and bowls.

These images show Emma's work (top) and David's (lower), and come from the Chappell Gallery website:

Monday, 3 December 2007

An Early Piece of Sunbeam Glass?

This unsigned green decanter probably dates from the first period of glass making at Sunbeam Glass in Auckland. The lady I bought it from is certain she bought it in 1979 in Jervois Rd. She said "I remember going down an alley and here were these two or three glass artists at work." That would suggest she was at a glass blowing studio rather than a dealer gallery, and Sunbeam seems to be the only one to fit the description. The studio in Jervois Rd was behind the shop, shown at right.

Sunbeam was established in 1976 by John Croucher and James Walker, but operated a bit like a co-op, with a number of people involved and working there in a number of media. After a reorganisation in 1980, Garry Nash and Ann Robinson became partners with John Croucher, and it entered its second phase, playing a leading role in the development of glass art in New Zealand. But in 1979 Ann Robinson and Garry Nash weren't there. John Croucher has said "I don't know who made this piece. It could have been made by Danny Keighly, Ken Cooke, or myself (although I don't think so)." The glass has distinctive black flecks in it - Garry Nash has commented: "It could be any one at that time. The glass is coloured with chrome oxide or potassium bichromate, the chrome is highly refractory and requires a very high temperature to melt, without flakes of chrome metal precipitating out of solution and causing black spots. It was a common problem in the early days with every one panicking about the price of gas and fear that the furnace would melt!"

So it is not certain who made this, but it would seem most likely to be by one of these first Sunbeam glass artists. I'm delighted to have it in my collection.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Beer bottle glass was used in these ash trays

The late James Mack, former Director of the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt, wrote that his father worked the night shift at the AHI Glass factory in Penrose, and as a 10 year old James was fascinated to see the workers 'pluck red hot beer bottles from the production line and fashion them into things fantastical.  Their best efforts were swan ashtrays, sensitively conceived but crudely rendered'.

Most of these ash trays are brown, but there are clear and green ones, using milk and wine bottle glass. 'Kia ora' (or sometimes 'Kai ora' if they got the spelling wrong) is a common motto - this recent acquisition has 'Happy Days' and the date 1966. Dates are not common, but all the dated ones I have seen are 1966.
These epergne style ash trays are the most elaborate I have seen. They have no motto or date.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Tony Kuepfer tortoiseshell glass from TradeMe

My latest TradeMe acquisition is the beautiful bowl on the right. I have two other pieces like it, in the same very distinctive 'tortoiseshell' pattern. It is not signed, but has Tony's distinctive cross-pontil mark. The others I bought several years apart at a second hand shop and a street fair. The bottle is clearly signed AWK '90, giving me a good date for the other two, since they are so similar. Tony was working at Whanganui at that time. It's nice to be able to assign some certainty to unsigned pieces.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Giovanni glass on TradeMe

Giovanni (Italian for John) was the name used by John Leggott and John Croucher for their Auckland partnership in glass between 1991 and 1995. Inspired by the glass of the Italian masters, they produced some remarkable and very distinctive pieces. I bought several at the time, but I have added second hand pieces from internet auction site TradeMe, including these two recent acquisitions. I suspect I paid less than the original price - NZ glass is generally not investment art - yet! At 46 and 47 cm tall, these are substantial pieces, in the truly glowing colours that the Johns made their hallmark. Nowadays, of course, they supply these colours to others, as the makers of Gaffer Glass, which they export from Auckland to glassies throughout New Zealand and world wide.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Mike Crawford's Amazing Glass Gourds

A quick trip to Auckland yesterday enabled me to catch the last day of Mike Crawford's show hue at Masterworks - see

I bought a gourd from Mike's first show at Masterworks last year - they are amazing. Mine is the red one in this Mastwerworks exhibition image.

This time, as well as whole gourds he has also produced some 'cut' and 'carved' ones, reflecting even more strongly the links between his art and the Māori decorative use of gourds (hue in Māori), which were also functional objects, of course. It'll be interesting to see where he takes this fascination with gourds next.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Lyn Campbell Keeps on Providing Pleasure

Sadly, Whangarei and Nelson glass artist Lyn Campbell died in 2005. She began her training at Northland Polytechnic under Keith Mahy in 1989, graduating in 1992. After working at Sunbeam for a couple of years, she set up her own studio in Nelson in 1995. She moved back to Whangarei in 1998, but illness kept her from working for quite a period. She was just beginning to recover and to work again, when she died on 7 May 2005. Her work is still to be found, increasingly rarely in galleries, and on TradeMe. The tall 'scent bottle' to the right was made in 2002, while the goblet at left was made in 1996. The beaker below, made in 1992, was from an early exhibition at the defunct 'Stanley St Gallery' in Auckland.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

A new acquisition from Ben Sablerolle

A while since I last posted, but my acquisitions have continued. A recent purchase from TradeMe is this wonderful example of Ben Sablerolle's 'piano keyboard' roll-up platters. After completing his glass studies at Unicol Whanganui in 2001-02, Ben set up a studio in his backyard with colleague Kerry McDonnell, producing both slumped and roll-up glass. I haven't been able to buy a piece of Ben's before, so I was very pleased to add this piece, which was made in 2004.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

“Who Was Who in New Zealand Glass”

I'm preparing a talk for the Mazda Artworks seminar series, held in conjunction with the 2007 exhibition and art events organised as a charity fundraiser by Ellerslie Sunrise Rotary club.

It's on Thursday 30 August at 2.30 pm in the Hilton Auckland, on Princes Wharf. I'll be describing the work of New Zealand’s first glass artists from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

You can see details at

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Emma Camden at Avid

On a visit to Wellington this week, I was pleased to be able to see the last few days of Emma Camden's exhibition ...something remaining... at Avid (see Emma's major works are her explorations of architectural forms, and there are three magnificent examples in this show. But she also expresses aspects of her life and daily experiences through smaller glass pieces, of which I now have a couple. I was pleased to be able to acquire one of the "Charms" in this show, pieces based on the elements of a charm bracelet that belonged to Emma's mother.

This is the one I bought, 'Fading memory', in a pale yellow cast glass

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Tony Kuepfer's Tall Bottles

Tall bottles with thin necks are a distinctive part of the glass art of Tony Kuepfer. My first purchase of a piece of NZ glass secondhand was a tall bottle labelled as being by Tony Kuepfer. I had never seen anything like it before. But then I began to see others, until I had quite a few – thirty at last count. Tony says he might have made about 250, so I haven’t quite cornered the market, yet. Because they are so distinctive, I can now spot them a mile away. Tony made these over much of the time he was at Inglewood, at least between 1979 and 1986.

When the 25 year old American glassblower arrived with his Kiwi wife in 1973, there was no tradition of studio hot glass in New Zealand. They went to Taranaki in March 1974 - some friends had mentioned the old church at Inglewood – and set up a studio, gallery and residence. Tony made his first hot glass in NZ in 1975.

At Inglewood, he taught others, laying the foundation for New Zealand's hot glass movement. His studio continued at Inglewood for nearly 15 years, and provided many New Zealanders with their first chance to buy studio glass and to see it being made. Tony was a true pioneer, who inspired, taught and stimulated many later glass artists, and who first began educating New Zealanders to buy glass as art. His influence continued through his teaching in Whanganui, and through his ongoing involvement in glass. Tony still makes glass occasionally. He plans to build a kiln and get started again soon. Maybe there’ll be more tall bottles.

I have been pleased to lend some of my Kuepfer tall bottles for exhibitions at Te Papa (2004-5), Objectspace (2006) and The New Dowse 2007. You may have seen them there.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Reg Kempton, New Zealand's First Glass Artist?

Arguably our first studio glass artist was Reg Kempton (1897 - 1987), an English glassmaker who began work in the family glass factory in London as a boy of 15 in 1913. Reg’s story is a fascinating one, though I can only present an outline here. He certainly deserves greater recognition than he has yet received – as far as I know there is not a single piece of his work in any public collection in New Zealand, though I am pleased to have several.

After World War II, Reg decided there was no future in England and so he moved to live for a while in Australia, and then set up a diesel fired furnace and coke fired lehr in a studio at Havelock in the Marlborough Sounds in 1963. His wife Ellen delighted in playing “punty boy” to his “gaffer”. In fact, according to their friends, she did a great deal of the “donkey work”, including the hand labelling of the pieces which she came to insist was an essential marketing tool. His earlier work is not marked at all.
Reg’s kiln and studio was built in a lean to behind his house in rural Marlborough. Although the house remains, no trace of the kiln now survives there. Reg Kempton died in Thames in 1987, aged 90.

I first saw pieces in collections owned by his neighbours, then found some in Blenheim second hand shops. Now I am confident I can recognise them even on TradeMe - I have bought several there, and identified pieces for others.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Tony Kuepfer sculpture - a major acquisition

I've been really pleased to be able to buy a major sculpture, made by Tony Kuepfer in 1983. Tony exhibited at the Canterbury Society of Arts, and decided to create a show of figure sculptures - 'I surprised them in Christchurch that year when there were 16 of these and not a goblet in sight', he has told me. One of these pieces, 'Violetta' was purchased by the then McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch - you can see it at

'Violetta' has 'legs' a third piece below the body, while 'Grandmother' is compete with just body and head. She is 50cm high, and 30cm square at the base.

A dealer in Hawkes Bay contacted me, seeking an identification and valuation of the piece. Email negotiations, including Tony's confirmation of the ID and comments on price, lead to the acceptance of an offer, and Grandmother's safe journey North.

I'd love to learn the whereabouts of any others of the original 16.

Collecting NZ glass

I began collecting New Zealand glass after I relocated to Auckland from Dunedin in 1979. There was no art glass being made in Dunedin then, so seeing art glass made in New Zealand was a real thrill. I still have all eight of the ruby stemmed wine glasses made by Garry Nash that I bought in John Abbott's shop 'The Kiln' in Parnell Rd in 1980.