Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Murray Hill Made Lovely Glass at Inglewood

Signed MH85 6.5cm high
Living in Taranaki in 1983, 21 year old Murray Hill became interested in the glass being produced at Tony Kuepfer's workshop at Inglewood. Tony tells me Murray 'kept hanging around'. Having graduated with a B.Sc. in biochemistry, he began working at weekends in Tony's studio in 1983. He worked on the Motunui project and in the dairy factory, and saved enough money to spend a year learning to blow glass – he proved his persistence. Tony was able to arrange for Murray to receive a vocational training grant from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council in 1984 which also supported his working full-time at Inglewood. He continued there until 1987, making exhibition pieces as well as what he referred to as "domestic glass production work". He exhibited in the Philips Studio Glass Award in 1986 and was the overall award winner in the Crafts Council exhibition Glass '87 in Christchurch in 1987. Elizabeth McClure was the judge for the 4th Annual Contemporary Craft exhibition for Glass at Compendium Gallery in Auckland in 1987, and she awarded the prize to Murray.  (You can read about Elizabeth at http://newzealandglass.blogspot.co.nz/2014/05/elizabeth-mcclure-important-influence.html)

Signed M Hill '86, Earthworks paper label 22cm high
In 1988 Murray began working full-time for the Labour Department in New Plymouth, but he continued to blow glass at Inglewood at weekends. He won the ANZ Bank Art Award of $1,500 in the exhibition Fibre and Glass at the NZ Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington in 1988. In 1989, Murray went to Teachers Training College and then was a secondary school art teacher until 2013. Murray stopped making glass about 1990, though he did exhibit in the exhibition The Drama of Glass in Wellington in May 1991.
11 cm high


The illustration at left is Murray's entry in the 1986 Philips Studio Glass Award catalogue. The blown, cut and acid etched piece was entitled Taranaki Bite. In his artist statement,  Murray said "Glass is very seductive, it is easy to think you are making a statement with a piece, when really you are showing the intrinsic dynamics of the glass. I want to impose on the glass, not have it impose on me."

The piece at right is in a private collection in Taranaki and would seem to be from the same series as the Philips piece. It shows the colour not apparent in the monochrome catalogue photograph.

In an email to me recently, Murray said: "Right from the very beginning I was motivated by the desire to make sculptural  'art' pieces. During the financial strictures of the 80s and 90s this was not always a realistic proposition. Glass studios are expensive to run, and doing a lot of production work to pay the bills quickly stopped being fun. By production I mean the large volumes of day-to-day saleable items. You also had to be a very quick learner (which I wasn't) – studio time and materials cost money and failures had to be minimised. Sadly this worked against following up those mad ideas that were begging to be brought into form. Having said that, my happiest memories are of assisting Tony Kuepfer in the studio – bringing the gathers of hot glass to him (he could really blow glass)  and in his hands, the making of stemmed wine glasses, bottles, plates – anything at all – was this miraculous process. To have experienced that is a true gift. Midwinter in Inglewood was pretty harsh, and a hot glass studio was a great place to be – everyone wanted to stand next to the furnace!

"Lastly I must mention Nelson's Bakery of Inglewood, which was just around the corner from Tony's studio. They made these amazing steak and oyster pies (with real oysters) – stunning! A lot of glassblowing was powered by those pies!"

I'm pleased to report that Nelson's Bakery apparently continues in Inglewood, though I haven't sampled a steak and oyster pie - yet.

Signed 'Dropped by M H 86'  30cm high 

The pieces of Murray's glass in my collection are from 1985, 1986 and 1987. Murray's work in glass seems not to be widely recognised so I show a range of pieces here to illustrate what he produced.  

I asked Murray about the inscription 'dropped by MH' on this piece. He replied: 'When I was assisting Tony a piece would occasionally pop off the punti, and if it was at a certain temperature it would bounce and roll, and with luck the punti could be reheated and the piece picked up, and finished. These pieces always seemed a bit special to me, especially if they came through unblemished - have a close look on the sides and you may see some scuff marks. The odd, dull, hollow clonk these pieces made when they hit the concrete was so surprising, even more so when the piece was at a very finished stage and the crash of shattering glass is expected.  Thanks, that has bought back the memories of all sorts of sights, sounds and smells that were long forgotten.'   

Signed M Hill '86 11.5cm high

Signed M Hill 86, Earthworks sticker 28cm h

This sticker occurs on several pieces of Murray's work

Signed M Hill 87 - as below 25cm high
Signed MH 86 8.5cm high

Signed M. Hill 86 19cm high

Signed M. Hill 86 12 cm h

Signed M Hill 86 14cm high

Signed MH 86 21cm high