Tuesday 8 November 2016

Capturing Light - a wonderful book on New Zealand Stained Glass

This blog is not supposed to be exclusively, or even mostly, about stained glass. However, for one reason or another, stained glass windows have been the subject of quite a few posts over the past year. There have been good reasons for that, as current events or just where my fancy has led me have made stained glass the subject. Just when I was planning to get back to my more usual subjects, a magnificent book has been published about New Zealand stained glass windows that simply has to be mentioned. Blown and cast glass must wait.

Brian Miller has just published a beautifully illustrated and most informative account of the work of his uncle Roy Miller (1915 - 1981), and the family firm that became Miller Studios in Dunedin in 1958.  Roy started working with his father Oswell as a signwriter after leaving primary school in the days when paint was mixed each morning from powder. Roy Miller spent his life working at Miller Studios, mainly executing stained glass windows for churches. He began his work on windows in the late 1940s and continued until his death in 1981. After Roy's death the Miller Studio glass department was run by Paul Hutchins, assisted by Rose Tamplin, until it closed in 1988.

Roy Miller completed over 330 church windows in some 130 churches spread throughout New Zealand. 
Christ with St Peter (detail), St Peter's, Wallingford, Hawkes Bay, 1962, made by Roy Miller, designed by Kenneth Bunton. Brian Miller photo.
Between 2010 and 2016, Brian researched, located and photographed these wonderful works, as well as researching the lives of the designers who produced the artwork for Roy and the artists in early Dunedin who influenced him. The result is both a beautiful visual record of these windows and a fascinating account of the work of their designers and makers.

Left: St Monica, St Luke's, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay, 1968, made by Roy Miller, designed by Kenneth Bunton. Brian Miller photo.
Right: Maiden at Night with Flowers, St John's, Westport, 1957, made by Roy Miller, designed by Fred Ellis. Brian Miller photo.

Fred Ellis was born and trained in England, but spent most of his life teaching art in New Zealand. He was Roy’s principal designer from about 1948 until 1961, designing over 50 church windows for Miller Studios. 

Englishman Kenneth Bunton was Roy Miller’s principal designer from 1961 until the early 1970s and together they produced over 140 windows in about 60 churches throughout New Zealand. Ken never came to New Zealand, doing all his work from England. 
'Oh All Ye Works of the Lord', St John's, Trentham, 1976, made by Roy Miller, designed by Beverley Shore Bennett. Brian Miller photo.
Born in Wellington, Beverley Shore Bennett trained in art in London for several years, then designed around 300 church windows in about 100 churches in New Zealand. She produced designs for Miller Studios from 1969 until the studio closed in 1988.

As well as these principal Miller Studios designers, many others involved with stained glass in New Zealand are referenced.  The photographs, biographies and historical and technical information make this book essential for anyone interested in glass in New Zealand. More than that, though, the design and layout of the book has been very carefully thought through. Several indexes make simple using what could have been a very complex reference work.  There is a list of every window made by Miller Studios, organised geographically, so it's possible to see which windows there are in your own locality, or one you might be visiting. This list identifies the designer and maker of each window, the church and its denomination in which the window is, and the page(s) of the book that refer to it. There's an index of churches, a general index and a chronology of Roy Miller's life and career. There's a description of the way the windows were made, a section on conservation and restoration, and an assessment of the state of the art today. The book has 272 pages, with 354 colour images and 18 monochrome photos.

The bottom line is: if you're interested in New Zealand glass, then you need this book! It is available online direct from the publisher for $69.99, post free in New Zealand, www.lifelogs.co.nz, or contact Lifelogs Ltd, PO Box 39, Dunedin NZ 9054 email mail@lifelogs.co.nz.

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