Saturday, 10 October 2009

Joan O'Leary Surprise

I bought this vase in a TradeMe auction this week. The seller just called it 'Pretty Vase', but I recognised it as a nice example of the work that Chuck and Lesley Simpson and Andrew Williams made at Inglewood from about 1988 - 1990. So I was thrilled to find once I received it that it was well signed with the full name Joan O'Leary and the date 1989. Joan worked with Chuck and Lesley at Inglewood in 1988 and 1989, and while I have several pieces of her work from that period, this is the first I have seen that is so close to the work that Chuck and Lesley were doing themselves. Other pieces I have resemble much more closely the work Joan did later when she moved to work with Mandy Angus in New Plymouth in the 1990s.

Several pieces I have from this period are marked 'Glassplant', which was the name former owner Tony Kuepfer painted on the studio wall as a spoof on the Taranaki Think Big projects of the 1980s - the Methanol Plant, the Gas to Gasoline Plant, the Glassplant...

But the one at right is signed Lesley Justin 1989, and the one below is signed Chuck Simpson 1989. Justin was Lesley's surname before they married, and she signed her own pieces with her own name, though they also signed pieces jointly as Chuck and Lesley Simpson

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Mel Simpson an early influencer

Mel Simpson was one of the pioneers of studio glass in New Zealand. He is notable as one of the two founders of the NZ Society Artists of in Glass (1980), which continues today as the national glass artists' organisation in NZ.

Mel learned his glass-blowing in the USA at UCLA (1975), having gone to the US to do a post-graduate design degree (Illinois 1974), but he discovered glass while he was there. His first degree was BFA from Elam School of Fine Arts at Auckland (1971) and he returned to Elam to teach. He established the glass facilities there with a QEII grant in 1978. Ann Robinson, Garry Nash, Peter Raos and others were all students of his there. He received two further QEII awards in 1981 and 1983, and exhibited widely in NZ and overseas between 1980 and 1993.

The earliest signed piece I have of his work (top right) is dated 1977, and the latest a 'trophy' dated 1986 (below), though I have two unsigned pieces I bought at an exhibition in Howick in 1991. I think he stopped making glass about 1993. One of the first pieces of NZ glass I bought was one of Mel's (top left), signed and dated MEL SIMPSON 1979, bought in 1979 or 1980 from an exhibition at Whitecliffe Gallery in Parnell, Auckland.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Rena Jarosewitsch Continues to Delight

The work that German glass artist and jeweller Rena Jarosewitsch created during her stay in New Zealand continues to delight.

I bought a platter and a broach in the early 1990s, but at the time I was unable to afford the intricate small sculptural pieces she assembled. I recall seeing these at an exhibition at Masterworks in Auckland in 1994 – I bought a broach there since it was quite a bit cheaper. But recently I was delighted to spot several of her sculptures on the internet auction site TradeMe, and to bid successfully for several, for about the same price today that I paid for the broach in 1994. They are delightful pieces, and they will bring a lot of pleasure.

Born in Munich in 1962, Rena Jarosewitch studied glass design at the renowned glass institute in Rheinbach near Bonn. After graduating she visited New Zealand, and loved it so much she decided to emigrate here. In 1983 she established a studio at the Christchurch Arts Centre, and began to work in a variety of glass media. In 1989 she was commissioned to make the Erebus memorial stained glass window in St Matthews-in-the-City, Auckland. Other window commissions included the Air Force Museum at Wigram, Christchurch and the Housing Corporation building in Wellington, as well as for private houses and churches.

Rena also made slumped and fused glass platters and glass jewellery, as well as a range of small sculptural pieces of glass assemblages of pieces decorated using stained glass techniques. Her work was exhibited at galleries in Auckland and Wellington as well as Christchurch.

In 1995, Rena left New Zealand to return to Germany, where she trained as a goldsmith at Hanau am Mein, centre of Germany’s jewellery industry, and then served an apprenticeship as a jeweller. In 2003, Rena established Feinform gallery and studio in Frankfurt am Mein, where she shows her own work and that of other jewellers. The gallery website is . The website does not suggest that she still uses glass in her work.