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.