Monday, 30 November 2015

John Croucher's Hot Lips Trilogy

John Croucher was an important influence on the development of glass in Auckland and New Zealand. After some experimentation and with the support of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council John set up Sunbeam Glassworks in Jervois Road in 1976. Formed as a loose co-op of several craft-workers, glass production included hot glass, flat glass and flame working. In 1981 two new glass-blowers became partners with John Croucher at Sunbeam. Ann Robinson was a student at Elam in 1980, and while there met Australian Garry Nash.  After Ann graduated from Elam, she and Garry joined John Croucher at Sunbeam in 1981. They developed the new Sunbeam studio in McKelvie Street in Ponsonby. This was a highly successful partnership, and the Sunbeam artists brought wide exposure to this new art form. 

Photo: Krzysztof Pfeiffer, from Pacific Glass '83.
John Croucher at Sunbeam, 1982 Photo: Mark Wilson

One of the Sunbeam pieces that made quite an impact was John Croucher's Hot Lips Trilogy, made in 1982. John has told me that the inspiration for the design came about purely spontaneously while he was trying to make welded lip vessels.  Hot Lips Trilogy was one of John Croucher's entries in Pacific Glass ’83, the first major exhibition of glass in New Zealand. The exhibition opened at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth to coincide with the second NZSAG Conference, held at Inglewood, before touring the country in 1983–84. 

The 1982 trilogy from Pacific Glass '83 was acquired by the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt in 1983 (1983/25/1, 1-3.  The pieces are 33cm, 28.5cm and 13.5cm h).

A very similar trilogy, made in 1983, was acquired by the Powerhouse Museum in  Sydney in 1984; only a monochrome record photo is currently available.
Photo: Powerhouse Museum A10096 from 

Still another Hot Lips Trilogy in grey and red was acquired by Auckland War Memorial Museum in 1986 (G.428, 1986.9). Its date of making is not recorded, but was probably 1985. 

The writing of this blog is stimulated by my own recent purchase from TradeMe of a small Hot Lips vase, the second in my collection, shown below on the left.

SP collection, red piece 
signed J Croucher 83. 29cm h
SP collection, unsigned 11.5cm h 

Although it is not signed, the style is very distinctive.  In a email, John Croucher confirmed this as a piece he had made, saying  'Yep that's one of the very early hot lips series -probably about 1982?'

The larger piece on the right I have mentioned in a blog previously (, but I'm happy to include it again now I have two.  I'm one vase shy of a trilogy, but still looking! 

John Croucher's original partner at Sunbeam was James Walker, who sadly died in 2011. (I wrote about his death in my blog on 9 April 2011 James bequeathed two Hot Lips vases to Hawke's Bay Museums Trust. Although not signed or dated, these are much more decorated than the original forms.  It would be interesting to see how many variants there are.   


Hot Lips Vases, John Croucher (b.1948), from the estate of Mr James Walker, Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2011/14/2 (front and reverse) and 2011/14/3 (below)

26.5cm high

14.5cm high

This piece in my own collection is another variant, combining Hot Lips with the optical mould formed opaque glass with black wavy lines that both he and Ann Robinson used at Sunbeam.  Although not signed, this recent TradeMe acquisition is also clearly a Hot Lips piece

SP collection, unsigned 31cm high

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