Sunday, 25 September 2011

Kharen Hope Made Flat Glass Too

I blogged a few days ago about a piece in my collection by Kharen Hope, and outlined the information I had been able to gather on this artist, previously unknown to me.  Several people I met in Whanganui recently during the Festival of Glass recalled Kharen when she was a student and a staffer in the Glass department at UCOL, and suggested she now lives in Wellington.

However, new information has come to light from an unexpected source.  A reader of my blog offered me a piece by Mel Simpson, which will feature in a forthcoming entry.  With the piece he gave me a copy of the catalogue for the 1984 Philips Studio Glass Award.  This is great, since while I had 1985 and 1986, I lacked this first exhibition catalogue.

Browsing through, I was surprised and delighted to see number 12, a piece entitled 'Aging', entered by Kharen Hope of Matapouri.

The catalogue images are not brilliant, and are all monochrome.  It's not easy to see the detail of the lettering around the left and top borders, but it appears to say 'aNd So tHeY GRoW old, AnD sO wE gRow olD aNd SO I groW OlD'.  At $2665 this was one of the most expensive works in the show. The late James Walker had the most expensive entry at $4500. Ann Robinson's pioneering pate de verre bowl was priced at $500 - I think Auckland Museum bought that.  Kharen  was the only artist giving Matapouri as her address, Matapouri being a coastal settlement northeast of Whangarei.

So now I know that Kharen began her glass career working in flat glass, before going to UCOL in Whanganui to develop her skills under Tony Kuepfer's tuition, and branch out into hot glass, and make the pieces I showed in my earlier blog.  The catalogue also confirms the spelling of her name with an 'h' in Kharen.  It's great to be able to add a little more information.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Whanganui Was W(h)onderful

The Whanganui Glass Festival was a great experience last weekend.  The whole town was buzzing, and there were glass artists, glass enthusiasts and glass events everywhere.

Nick Mount blows glass at Chronicle Glass with assistance from Katie Brown
Things kicked off with a 'Raise Your Glass' celebration at Chronicle Glass for the sponsors, the retailers who had provided display space, invited guests and members of the Whanganui Glass Group.  Once again glass blowing as performance art was to the fore, with veteran Australian glass master Nick Mount showing his skills, to the accompaniment of a local band, with a very enthusiastic audience.  The pieces Nick made were included in the auction the following night.

Karen Ellett holds one of the pieces from her Mainstreet display
On Saturday I did a tour of the Mainstreet shop window displays.  This was made all the more enjoyable by the knowledgeable guide we had, glass artist Karen Ellett.  Karen's commentary on the pieces and her background knowledge of the Whanganui artists made for a fascinating tour.

 Each artist had selected pieces for the display, and each was accompanied by an ID photo.
Rachel Ravenscroft, Nigel Jones and Kerry McDonnell featured in the window of Kathmandu


On Saturday night there was the official opening, and the charity auction.  Whanganui people raised nearly $20,000 for Hospice Whanganui and the Whanganui Glass Group - a wonderful effort, and a credit to their generosity and that of the artists.  At left Whanganui Glass Group Chair Lynne Vinsen thanks coordinator Larinae Steward for all her efforts, and at right Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage Chris Finlayson shares his enthusiasm for glass.  Two of Katie Brown's works feature in the foreground.
Enthusiastic bidders crowd the auction floor

Emma Camden's Flyer was a feature of the auction

Of course, there was much more to my weekend - studio and gallery visits, conversations with artists, lots of new information and yes, a few acquisitions.  We all had a great time, and Whanganui is to be heartily congratulated. 

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Karen Hope Made Glass in Whanganui

One of the exciting things about collecting New Zealand glass is the opportunity to make a new discovery, new to me at least.  In December 2010 a trader on TradeMe offered this piece with the description 'Karen Hope perfume bottle with removable stopper, signed and dated by artist, app. 8cm high, modern design in shape and size, is in perfect condition white swirl line rotating the glass with a yellow translucent inner set glass.'

I knew from my archival research that Karen had exhibited at Masterworks in Auckland in 1990 and at an exhibition in Wellington in 1991.  I had never seen any of her work, and beyond those mentions I knew nothing of Karen Hope, but it looked like a good piece.  I paid the 'Buy Now' price. It is signed 'Karen Hope '90', as well as having a paper label with 'Karen Hope' in ink.

The vendor wasn't able to tell me anything, but Google produced a mention in Anthony Genet's (FlameDaisy) biography on the Thornton Gallery website of a highlight in his learning having come from a workshop with Karen Hope (among others).  That set off a trail of enquiries to Anthony, Tony Kuepfer and Lyndsay Patterson, who were as always very helpful.  Lyndsay made enquiries of Nigel Jones at the Wanganui Glass School as well.  Glass people are always helpful and friendly in my experience.


The Charlotte Museum Trust has two of Karen's (or is it Kharen's?) s pieces- you can see them at The piece shown here is a portrait of her grandmother who wanted to be a doctor but was not allowed, and so she married a doctor as the only way to do it.

Maybe I'll get to meet Karen some time and find out about her directly, but what I have established is that she was a student at Whanganui under Tony Kuepfer in the late 1980s.  She went to England and spent some time improving her glass skills there, then returned to Whanganui about 1992, when she became a tutor at the former Wanganui Regional Community Polytechnic School of Glass.  Sadly, about 1996 she developed repetitive strain injury and had to give up making glass.  She sold Lyndsay Patterson some of the glass making tools she had bought in England - they were made by Ivan Smith, a specialist toolmaker for glass, and Lindsay treasures and uses them still.

I'll be keen to see more of Karen's work, or to find out more about her career in glass, so if you can help, please let me know. 

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Spring is Sprung

The supermarket this morning was full of daffodils.  I began a ritual in 1980, which I think I have repeated each year since.  I had just bought a vase made by Mel Simpson, and it is perfect for tall stemmed flowers like daffodils.  Most of the year it sits with other pieces in my collection, but come spring it is given pride of place with a bunch (or several) of daffodils, jonquils or erlicheers.  It's a fairly simple cylindrical piece, distinguished by an applied band that spirals up to its rim (or down from the rim, I suppose).  It has a lustre, something that Mel used a lot over the years, but it appeals to me because of its simplicity - it doesn't compete with the flowers.

This was one of the first pieces of glass I bought after moving to Auckland in 1979 and 'discovering' that New Zealanders made studio glass.  I didn't record where I bought it - from memory it might have been the Whitecliffe gallery that used to be at the top of the Parnell shops for a while. Mel was unusual at that time in that he usually signed his pieces - this is signed Mel Simpson 8/80. It's 19cm high, and I paid $39 for it.

Whanganui Beckons

For the last six years the glass enthusiasts of Whanganui, one of the main centres for studio glass in New Zealand, have organised a week long festival to showcase the art of studio glass in New Zealand (and Whanganui especially).  I'm intending to join the fun this year, at least for part of the time.

All week from 16th to 25th September the town hosts the Main Street Glass Exhibition, with shop windows along the main street featuring displays of contemporary glass.

The official opening of the festival 'A Fragile World' with a charity auction of glass pieces is on Saturday 17th at the Sarjeant Gallery.  Tickets for this gala event are available on the Festival website .

The Hub at 56 Victoria Avenue is the information centre for the duration of the festival from 10 to 4 daily, and also features an exhibition of works by students of the Wanganui Glass School.

On Monday night 19 September master Australian glass artist Nick Mount will be giving a talk at the Sarjeant Gallery, and on Wednesday evening it is the turn of British glass caster David Reekie.

On Friday 23 September at the Whanganui Glass School there is 'Blowing in the Dark', which might be described as 'performance glass art'.  And on Saturday Chronicle Glass in Rutland St hosts the Glass Olympics, competitive glass making with teams of some of Whanganui's best competing.

And throughout the Festival a wide range of glass studios will be hosting demonstrations and exhibitions.

If you're interested in glass and you're anywhere near Whanganui, make sure you visit during the festival.all 

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Graff Was Probably Not a New Zealand Glass Artist

I have recently purchased on New Zealand auction website TradeMe a piece of glass signed graff 73.  It is 14 cms high.

I am pretty confident this is not a piece of New Zealand glass, but most likely a work by one of the early studio glass artists in the United States. 

The Live Auctioneers website shows a piece of Graff Studio art glass sold at auction by Richard Hatch Auctions of Flat Rock, North Carolina on 18 February 2005.

Maybe Mr (or Ms) Graff made only a few pieces of glass, since he (or she) doesn't seem to have left much of a trace in the glass art world.  But if you know anything about Graff Studio Glass, or have any examples, I would be very interested to hear from you. 

Saturday, 3 September 2011

New Zealand Glass Art a Wonderful Book

Last year to mark its thirtieth anniversary, the New Zealand Society of Artists in Glass published a major survey of current glass practice in New Zealand.  With 180 pages and a large number of beautiful colour photographs this is a magnificent introduction to the work of 115 of New Zealand's leading glass artists.  Each artist is given a full page spread, with some extending to two pages.  Edited for the Society by Evelyn Dunstan, there is an introductory essay by Grace Cochrane, and a short outline of the beginnings of studio glass in New Zealand by Stuart Park.  There is an introduction to the physics and chemistry of glass by one of the pioneers of glass in New Zealand, John Croucher, now a director of Gaffer Glass.  An illustrated guide to the technology and practice of studio glass describes the range of techniques from cold glass fabrication, warm glass working processes and the several ways of producing hot glass, flamework, glass-blowing, casting and neon.