Sunday, 14 December 2014

More Mahy Mahi

For those of you not conversant in New Zealand Māori, that's a poor attempt at a pun. Mahi is Māori for work, and I want in this post to explore more of the work of Keith Mahy.  In June 2013, I wrote about Keith's death (, and explored some of his early work on 18 October 2014 ( Following that I have had a wonderful opportunity to talk with Keith's partner Shona, and see the wide range of examples of his work that Shona has. I was able to photograph these, and Shona kindly gave me several pieces. I've also come across some pieces held by others, and most recently was able to buy five wine goblets on TradeMe.

Keith was one of the pioneer glass artists in New Zealand, and one with a long career.  This blog presents examples of Keith Mahy's extensive glass practice, from the time he came to Northland from Christchurch in 1975 to set up his studios, initially at Otonga in 1976, then at Pahi from 1979 and lastly from 1986 in Whāngārei, at Northland Polytechnic and at Burning Issues.

A couple in Whāngārei bought this decanter set and two pair of wine goblets, from the wine shop in Hikurangi in the 1970s. Keith saw a marketing opportunity in selling his work through a wine shop, so customers could purchase both the glasses and their contents.

 These similar goblets belong to a friend who bought them from Keith's studio at Pahi in the 1980s.

The pair of goblets, at right, also bought at the wine shop in Hikurangi, are decorated with applied 'squiggles' (technical term!), which links them to Keith's use of this decoration on other pieces.

 I have puzzled over this small stoppered bottle for a decade, and finally the squiggles confirm I can be sure it was made by Keith Mahy.

But I couldn't make up my mind about this decanter and goblets, which I see now are clearly Keith's work, so I left them in the second hand shop where I found them. Sadly, it later closed. I wonder where they are now?  


The decanter at left belongs to a collector in Taranaki, who emailed seeking my opinion. I wasn't sure, but now I'm quite confident it is by Keith.

The following pieces, from a range of dates, are part of the Mahy Collection held by Shona.
Sadly now cracked, this jug has Keith's distinctive 'manaia' handle form


The exaggeratedly flared rim on the piece below was a trademark form of Keith's. 

These light shades were made for the Matakohe church

and this one as well
Shona generously gave me this wine glass

 Keith iridised this piece in the glass studio at the Elam School of Fine Art in Auckland, courtesy Mel Simpson

I was delighted recently when a potter from Havelock North listed on TradeMe five wine goblets she had bought from Keith Mahy's studio at Pahi about 1980. She had also been at the very first conference and workshop of NZ Society of Artists in Glass at Taradale in 1980, and had a try at glass herself, using the portable kiln Garry Nash made, though she has pursued ceramics rather than glass as a career.


On either side of the slightly flattened stem is the small 'manaia-like' detail that Keith liked to use in his early work - it's very helpful in identifying some of his pieces.

That same little device, seen here at the upper attachment of the handle, indicated strongly to me that this separate TradeMe listing was also a piece of Keith's


As well as the glass itself, some of the treasures Shona gave me access to are Keith's scrapbooks, which contain a wealth of information. There's probably the making there of a further Mahy blog - watch this space! 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Crackle Glass by Chuck Simpson

Until now I've been only dimly aware of crackle glass, a form I tended to associate with trinkets from some European and American glass factories, and not something that appealed to me at all.  

So I was very surprised when this cranberry red crackle glass decanter appeared on TradeMe. 

The listing read: 

Cranberry crackle glass decanter with stopper.
Very pretty and in lovely condition.
Signed by Chuck Simpson 1989. 
Very collectible piece.
28cm x 10cm 

No-one except me showed any interest in it, so my bid was successful. Now it has arrived I can confirm it is clearly signed Chuck Simpson 1989, when Chuck was working at Inglewood.

I can't recall seeing any other piece of crackle ware made by a New Zealand glass artist. Of course, now I'm hoping other examples will show up.

An article by Stan & Arlene Weitman in Angela Bowey's Online Glass Museum  tells me that crackle glass is formed by immersing the glass in cold water while it is still molten hot, thereby cracking the glass. The glass is then reheated and either mold or hand blown into the shape desired. The reheating of the glass seals the cracks. On the outside of crackle glass you can feel the cracks, but the inside is smooth.

Having experienced what happens when a hot glass object is dropped accidentally into a bucket of water (the explosion put my young daughter off visiting glass works for a number of years!), it sounds like a scary process, but it does create an interesting effect.

I will be interested to hear of other pieces of New Zealand crackle glass. I wonder how much of it Chuck Simpson made.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Are These Early Pieces by Keith Mahy?

Garry Nash said this handle was a Mahy trademark 19cm h
In June last year I wrote about the death on 14 June 2013 of Keith Mahy, one of the pioneers of glass in New Zealand One of my considerable regrets is that although Keith lived and worked so close to me in Northland, I never got to interview him about his life and work. I spoke to him about my intention several times and he responded willingly, but I never got round to it.
Sadly now broken, this handle was the identifier too

Again the handle form is distinctive 13cm h
One of the things I intended to do in that interview was to show Keith a number of pieces in my collection that I believe to be his, seeking confirmation that they are Mahy pieces. Keith seldom signed his work, and certainly in the early period I don't think he signed anything. So identifying his work is problematical. Some times a former owner will attribute a piece to Keith, sometimes other glass artists have recognised a piece as being made by Keith, but often I have made a (more or less well-) informed guess, based on design, glass colour and quality, and ultimately, 'gut feel'. It's not a very good way to identify pieces, but it is usually all I have. 
The TradeMe vendor said Keith made this pair of beer mugs
Mugs 12.5cm h left, 15.5 right

Bottle 28cm h, vase 13cm dia
I believe the pieces shown here were all made by Keith in the 1970s or early 1980s. But my purpose is to seek feedback from others who may know. Please let me know if you think Keith did not make a piece (or if you can confirm that he did, better still!). And for those of you who may use my blogs to help develop your own collections, 'caveat emptor et lector' - buyer and reader beware! 

The same vendor said these two were also by Keith

25cm h

23cm h

As I see more pieces, my confidence grows, but equally, the risk of making a mistake grows too! These two bottles 'feel' like Keith Mahy pieces, but are they?

And then, if those are Keith's, what about these?

22cm h

23cm h
21.5cm h
28.5cm h
14.5cm h

21cm h

Sam Halstead, Mt Eden stained glass maker in the 1980s sent me this photo of a Mahy piece he has, which he thought he bought in the early 1980s. That made me more confident about the brown one above.
9cm diam
A neighbour of Keith's in Pahi bought the piece at right from him in the 1970s, which gives me confidence the piece at left is by him too.
And lastly, of course, there can be no doubt about these, though Keith was the designer rather than the maker of these Crown Crystal glass pieces