Sunday, 22 August 2010

Bursting Bubbles: 30 years of NZ Society of Artists in Glass

The New Zealand Society of Artists in Glass was founded in August 1980 at the first New Zealand Glassworkers Symposium, a gathering of 53 glass artists and enthusiasts at Hawkes Bay Community Coillege, Taradale. The first NZSAG conference was held in August 1981at the Hot Glass Company workshop of Peter Raos and Peter Viesnik in Devonport, Auckland.

NZSAG is going to celebrate its 30th anniversary at its Conference and Annual General Meeting to be held at Alexandra Park in Auckland at Labour Weekend 2010. Registrations are now open, with early bird registrations closing 24th September 2010.

A great programme of speakers, demonstrations, exhibitions and celebrations has been arranged

For full details and a registration form go to

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Sue Hawker Wins Ranamok

Congratulations to Kerikeri glass artist Sue Hawker. Sue was awarded the 2010 Ranamok Glass Prize with her tall Pâte de verre vase entitled Too much is never enough.

The Ranamok Glass Prize was established in 1994, and is an annual award for glass artists who are resident in Australia or New Zealand. Works selected for Ranamok are expected to be 'a major effort in the artist's personal body of work'. The judges look for pieces that are innovative and display excellence and imagination in both the quality of the idea and its execution.

Sue's caption for her work says: Too much gloom, too much doom. Too much misery, too much! Enough! Drink of Me, I am joy and vitality. Now too much is never enough.

But for the Ozzies it's just possible too much may be too much. Sue is the third Kiwi to win Ranamok in the last four years, following Lisa Walsh in 2009 and Evelyn Dunstan in 2007. Other Kiwi winners include David Murray in 2003 and Emma Camden in 1999. If we don't watch out, the Ozzies may discover that fire blight can be transmitted on glass.

Well done, Sue.

(photo: Ron Hawker)

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Robert Middlestead architectural glass

I've been taking a bit more interest in New Zealand architectural glass lately, for several reasons. One of these was the need to include architectural glass in the note I wrote for the forthcoming book on NZ glass being published by the NZ Society of Artists in Glass. That led me to try to make contact with Robert Middlestead, which I was able to thanks to the wonders of Google. As a real bonus, however, Robert was in New Zealand recently, finally tidying up and disposing of his workshop studio, which he had retained even though it is a long time since he lived and worked here. So I was able to meet him and talk about his work.

Robert was born in Canada in 1947. On his post college wanderings in 1974 he arrived in Auckland. In due course he met John Croucher and became involved in the Sunbeam Cooperative of glassworkers. He had had a minimal amount of exposure to glass in California on his travels, but like many other early Sunbeams he was substantially self taught.

After working at Sunbeam in Jervois Rd, Robert bought a disused factory in Garnet Road, Grey Lynn (left). Robert exhibited widely, with works in Art in Architecture 1982, Pacific Glass '83, and the Philips Glass Award exhibitions in 1984 and 1985. He was one of a number of New Zealanders who exhibited in Japan in Glass '84 in Japan, and also in New Zealand and Australian Glass in Germany. Since the late 1990s he has lived and worked in Portland Oregon, though 'home' at present is frequently his beloved yacht.

The piece shown above entitled Crossroads was his entry into the Japanese exhibition in 1984 - he had retained in amongst his belongings in Auckland.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Passing of Stephen Bélanger-Taylor, window maker

I have just learned with sadness of the death in July 2009 of Stephen Bélanger-Taylor. I visited Stephen and Denise in their studio set against the foothills of the Southern Alps west of Geraldine in 2007. I went to see Denise's blown glass work, but was delighted to learn of Stephen's work with stained glass, his pride in his energy efficient kiln design, and to visit his then recently opened window at Woodbury.
Stephen Bélanger-Taylor held a BA from the Royal College of Art, London. He was an Associate of the Royal College of Arts, and Fellow of the Master Glass Painters in England. Stephen Taylor was born in South-East London in June 1940 during the blitz and the Battle of Britain. The repair, restoration or replacement of windows in bombed-out churches and cathedrals throughout Europe was to become a significant part of Stephen's life as a stained glass designer. It is said that Stephen would refer ironically to Adolf Hitler as the 'patron saint of stained glass'.
At 15 Stephen won a year’s scholarship at the Wimbledon School of Art where he was introduced to stained glass, and where he learned the skill of its restoration. He then won a place at the School of Stained Glass at the Royal College of Art, London. His studies took him to Paris and all over France where he learned the historic glass techniques of the early Flemish Glass Masters in order to replicate 12th to 14th century glass and pigments. On completion of his studies, he lectured at the Royal College of Art. In 1968, after receiving a stained glass commission at St James Cathedral in Toronto, he moved to Canada. He later lectured at Toronto University, Humber College and Georgian College in Ontario where he met his wife, Denise Bélanger.
Some of Stephen's most notable works in Canada are windows in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, St Luke's Thornhill, St Michael's and All Angels Etobicoke and Picton Town Hall.
During their time in Canada, Stephen and Denise set up a joint glassworks studio near Picton by Lake Ontario in Canada. After an initial visit to New Zealand in 1985, Denise and Stephen made a number of visits here and finally migrated in 1995, and established their home and studio outside Geraldine.
In his glass art in New Zealand, Stephen worked closely with artist Beverley Shore-Bennett of Wellington. They had a long and fruitful creative partnership, producing numerous windows in many parts of the country. Some examples of their collaboration I know of are in the Anglican Cathedral in Napier, in Holy Trinity Church, Devonport, the Old Girls Chapel at St Cuthbert’s College in Auckland, St Matthew in the City in Auckland and the Lady Chapel windows in the Cathedral of St Paul in Wellington. Stephen designed and made the Nurses' Memorial Window in the Nurses' Memorial Chapel in Christchurch. In 2007 Stephen created what he believed to be one of his finest works, at St Thomas’ Church, Woodbury, not far from where he and Denise lived (shown above and his signature at left).
Stephen's substantial body of work is an enduring legacy of inspirational art.