Thursday, 25 August 2011

Visiting International Glass Artists

I mentioned recently my acquisition of a piece made in New Zealand by Lino Tagliapietra during a demonstration and workshop visit he made here in 1990. This was one of quite a number of such visits organised by NZ Society of Artists in Glass over the years - I have mentioned those I know of in my article on the beginnings of NZ Glass in the book New Zealand Glass Art published recently by NZSAG.
As well as the Tagliapietra goblet, I have been lucky to acquire two other examples of glass made in New Zealand during these visits.  Richard Marquis was one of the first American glass artists to study glass making in Venice, spending a year on a Fulbright scholarship at the Venini factory on Murano in 1969.  Subsequently, Marquis shared widely the knowledge and skills he had acquired by touring and demonstrating in many countries, including New Zealand in 1981 to coincide with the first NZSAG conference.  During that trip, Auckland Museum was given one of his fabulous teapots by NZSAG.  But Marquis also made a number of pieces in the Devonport Hot Glass workshop of Peter Raos and Peter Viesnik.  An eagle eyed daughter of mine spotted this piece on a stall of glass Peter Viesnik was selling during a studio clear out in 2004, and gave it to me as a much appreciated present. It's not signed, but the attribution is clear, confirmed by Peter Viesnik.

Fred Daden was an English gaffer whom Tony Kuepfer first met on his way to New Zealand in 1973, and then again at a glass conference in London in 1976.  At Tony's invitation, Fred Daden spent a month at Inglewood in 1977.  Tony has described this as being equivalent to the amount of glass making in a year’s diploma course.  He learned a great deal from Daden, technically.  He learned how to make glass move – “a good piece is a fast piece”.

At Tony's suggestion, NZSAG invited Fred to return to demonstrate at the second NZSAG conference held at Inglewood in 1983.  To help fund the trip, Daden made a number of pieces at Inglewood for sale, and this one turned up on TradeMe in 2008.  The vendor thought it was English, having seen the London University tag (Fred lectured at London University) and didn't understand the Inglewood reference - but I did!  I'm delighted to have these tangible links with some of the world's glass greats who have passed on their skills in New Zealand.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Lino Tagliapietra, Italian Glass Master at Sunbeam Glass

Lino Tagliapietra was born in Murano in 1934, and has a long career as a maestro in making glass.  Significantly, through his connection with Dale Chihuhly, he fostered the process of sharing the Muranesi glass making skills, until then closely guarded secrets, with the wider world.  Lino taught at Pilchuck in Washington in 1979, and undertook teaching, classes and demonstrations in many parts of the world.

In 1990 Garry Nash and NZSAG arranged for Lino to give a masterclass at Garry's Sunbeam Glass studio in Ponsonby.  I was thrilled to have an opportunity to visit one of the sessions at Garry's invitation.  Lino made a number of pieces during his time here, and I was delighted recently to be able to add one of those to my collection after it was offered on TradeMe.

This dolphin goblet is a classic example of Venetian glass making, but it is signed Lino Tagliapietra NZ 90.  It's made in clear glass, but the eyes are red murrini with white centres.  It's just under 20 cms high.

 After I bought it, I asked Garry and Peter Viesnik, who was NZSAG President in 1990 what they could tell me about it.  Peter replied: 'this was the one goblet Lino made that I really wanted to buy and Danny Keighley beat me to it by asking Lino if he could buy it before they were put up for sale in Garry's workshop! I was very disappointed.  Was it Danny who sold it?'

It was indeed Danny Keighley, but I confess I was not familiar with the name. You live and learn.  Danny was part of the original Sunbeam Cooperative of John Croucher and James Walker.  He has told me he blew glass for some years from the 'Egg Furnace'.  Danny said: 'John Croucher was probably my best guide initially, and we struggled to 'wrench' shapes from glass when we should perhaps have been more fluid in our approach - but we did some good work.  I took on the role around 1980 of touring the country with boxes of mediocre glass vessels blown by everybody and persuading craft shops to take one or two.  Their interest grew, but was minimal initially.'

Danny has told me more as well, but this blog is supposed to be about Lino.  The remarkable thing about that Sunbeam workshop was that not only was Lino there, but also two American master glass makers who had learned with him at Pilchuck, Dante Marioni and Dick Marquis. I was too new to the world of glass to understand then just how significant this was, but as Garry has said the workshop is still talked about today among glass artists, several of whom were greatly influenced by their exposure to these masters.  I have a dolphin goblet Garry made in 1990 directly as a result of that influence.  Sadly it has come apart, so I can't include a photo, but it's still a treasured piece.