Monday, 11 November 2013

A Glass Mini Road trip - Part 3 Whāngārei

Recently I had a chance to combine a non-glass related visit to Auckland with seeing several glass exhibitions and activities. Nothing particularly links these things except my participation, but they did provide some acquisitions for my collection. I have divided them up so they don't make too big a blog - this is the third of the series of three.
On my way back north, I called in (as I frequently do) at Burning Issues in Whāngārei. I was keen to see the new gaffer, Keith Grinter, who has taken over following the death of Keith Mahy (see my blog of 17 June 2013).  On his website, Keith describes his excitement over his venture:
'On 16th September 2013 I started work in my own glass blowing studio in Whangarei. I had been discussing moving to Whangarei and working with Keith Mahy when he died unexpectedly. A few weeks later I was offered the opportunity of purchasing the studio by Shona Firman. With the help of Garry Nash I started the furnace on Tuesday and spent the next two days warming it up slowly until it was ready to add batch to make glass. During the week I made my first glass batch from the raw chemicals following Keith Mahy's old recipe. On Saturday 21st September I spent from 8am to 3.30 blowing glass in my own studio. Thanks to Shona Firman and Garry Nash for their kind support.'
Keith Grinter's art practice until now has had a painterly emphasis; he is a painter both on canvas and on glass.  Whilst I am sure that will continue, he has recognised the need to vary what he does, and he is currently working to develop his glass blowing skills. Not that he is any slouch; at left is a piece in my collection that was exhibited at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington in November 2007. 
But being totally responsible for a studio is quite a different matter, and Keith's current production is much more exploratory. I was delighted to purchase one of his 'trial' pieces, to document this new phase of his work. Getting rid of the bubbles is a current challenge. 

Another issue is the blue tinge in what is batched as clear glass. Rebecca Heap is continuing to blow her work in Whāngārei, as she was doing when Keith Mahy was there, and it was great to find she was there too when I visited.
Rebecca had been working with Keith Mahy on a new furnace, and Keith had made its first batch just before he died.  With help from Garry Nash, Rebecca got that first melt going, and blew some pieces from it, one of which she very kindly gave me. 
Rebecca said ''Keith and I shared an interest in hand blown industrial glass so it seemed fitting to use an old factory mould to make these little cups out of the last batch he melted. They look especially nice when used as votives as the cold graphite thumb prints make the candle light dance. The glass is blue because it was the first melt in a new furnace and we bought the pot second hand from Gaffer Glass where it had last been used for cobalt colour bars".
The reference to industrial glass relates to Keith Mahy's work at Crown Crystal Glass, and Rebecca's experience working in Sweden at Pukeberg and Orrefors between 2006 and 2011, after she graduated from Whanganui.
I'm delighted that my 'local' glass studio continues, under new management, and I'll certainly be calling in to see Keith Grinter, and Rebecca Heap on her working days there, as I pass through Whāngārei.