Tuesday, 9 July 2019

An Early Kwerky Kuepfer

A friend who scours the second-hand shops found this quite remarkable sculpture by glass artist Tony Kuepfer in the Hospice Shop in New Plymouth. It reminds me of the 'Mr Potato Head' toys of the 1950s (and more recently).

It is clearly signed and dated AWK (Tony Kuepfer's initials) '76 NZ, which makes it an early piece of Tony's work. 

Tony has confirmed that it pre-dates the visit in March 1977 by English gaffer Fred Daden (see my November 2016 Blog about that visit and the wonderful film made in Tony's studio http://newzealandglass.blogspot.co.nz/2016/11/fred-daden-and-tony-kuepfer-at.html). 

Before Fred came, Tony was not well able to get his glass pieces sufficiently thin, and he could only form 'feet', for goblets or for sculptures, by dropping a gather of glass onto the marver [a flat iron plate], flattening it quickly, then picking it up on a rod to attach it to the object.  This piece demonstrates that clearly - it is thick and heavy, and the foot was not made in the way Fred showed Tony how to do, as seen in the March 1977 film.

Tony has commented: "I sort of do remember making this along with one or two other strange critters. Not much more to say other than having a bit of fun and seeing how far you could push your rudimentary skills at the time. I remember earning some critical comments from people like Don Driver about producing this California Flash. Didn’t sit well with the craft community then as the Bernard Leach strict school of fine craft was order of the day. Guess I sort of rebelled against that attitude." Don Driver (1930 - 2011) was one of New Zealand's leading artists of the day, based in New Plymouth.

I bloggged about another 'Kwerky Kuepfer' in 2012 (https://newzealandglass.blogspot.com/2012/01/easter-egg-head-by-tony-kuepfer.html), but here it is again:

Tony called this an 'Easter Egg-Head'. It is better made than 'Mr Potato Head', less heavy and with better modelled features, but it shares the use of silver chloride colouration to depict the hair (and ears in the earlier piece).

I just love this jug, which also has a sculptural quality. It is not dated, but Tony has suggested it was probably made "post Fred Daden visiting me in March '77... as I had to re-learn how to work glass". That is clearly still a work in progress, since the glass is very thick and heavy, but to me that adds to its charm.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Glass from Rarotonga

There is a web based Glass Message Board people use to exchange information, ask questions, and seek help with identifications related to glass; it can be found at https://www.glassmessages.com/.  Not many of the users have interests in glass from my part of the world, so I'm an infrequent visitor, but a question caught my eye today. Jane, from Goulburn, NSW, Australia, asked: 

"I've attached pics of the item - 14cm tall pink jug.  And also of the signature on the base.  It is Australian and I think it is dated 98.  I've searched many different combinations of the name but nothing came up.  Can anyone assist?   Thank you."

Well, I didn't recognise the jug, but the marks on the base gave me a clue at once as to what it was.

The word at the top is 'Raro', and at the bottom is C.Is. To the right, as Jane said, is 98. At first I couldn't make out what was in the centre, but when I asked her Jane sent me a clearer image, which showed me the initials were KM.

That told me that this jug was made in Rarotonga in 1998 by New Zealand pioneer glass artist Keith Mahy. 

I have written about Keith a few times (see for example
http://newzealandglass.blogspot.co.nz/2014/12/more-mahy-mahi.html). In June 2013, I wrote about Keith's death (http://newzealandglass.blogspot.co.nz/2013/06/keith-mahy-one-of-pioneers.html), and explored some of his early work on 18 October 2014
(http://newzealandglass.blogspot.co.nz/2014/10/are-these-early-pieces-by-keith-mahy.html). In my June 2013 blog I said, perhaps a little cryptically: "In 1997, Keith and others developed the Beachcomber Glass Studio in Rarotonga, followed in 1999 by a training course there for young potential Rarotongan glass artists."

Jane's jug is a product of that Beachcomber Glass Studio. Those involved were Keith Mahy; his partner Shona Firman, a glass caster of considerable skill, with whom he had established Burning Issues studio and gallery in Whangarei; and Garry Nash, another pioneer New Zealand glass artist. The New Zealanders took the necessary equipment and materials to Avarua, the capital of the Cook Islands, and set up the Beach Comber Gallery. They set out to teach glassblowing to Rarotongan locals, to form the basis of a new craft industry; glass was a completely new medium for Rarotonga. As well as teaching new skills, the studio would provide a source of income from selling glass to visitors to the islands.

This paperweight was made in Avarua by Apii Rangi in 1999. It is signed 'Apii Rangi Rarotonga. C.I.S. 1999'. Apii was one of those 'young potential Rarotongan glass artists' who participated in the training scheme. 

This paperweight was made in Rarotonga by New Zealand glass artist Garry Nash. It is signed G.N. Rarotonga Cook Islands 1998.

Sadly, Beach Comber gallery and its glass training scheme was short lived, and nothing now survives, apart from pieces like these that were made there. Garry tells me that after a while Apii Rangi left and started working for himself making pearl jewellery.

Footnote: Since I published this, another pioneer of New Zealand glass, Peter Raos, has commented: "The genesis of glass in Rarotonga came from a discussion I had with the Government at the time about recycling some of the waste glass that was piling up around the island. The idea was to transform it into items that could be sold back to the tourists reducing the waste. The model that was eventually tried was never going to be sustainable. A missed opportunity I think."

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Meeting Richard Clements

One of the benefits of attending a conference, like CoLab 2019 Whanganui (see http://newzealandglass.blogspot.com/2019/02/colab-2019-conference-whanganui-was.html), is the opportunity to meet artists whose glass you own but whom you have never met. One of the real pleasures in Whanganui was to meet Tasmanian flame worker Richard Clements. Although we had never met, I felt as if Richard has been 'living' in my house for over twenty years.

Richard Clements: 'Animal of Unknown Origin', 1998
I first bought a piece of Richard's in 1989, when I attended a museum conference in Hobart - I bought this small oil lamp at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

Richard Clements: Oil lamp 1989

On a visit to Melbourne in 1998, I went to see The Meat Market, an 1874 heritage building operated as an exhibition venue by the Crafts Association of Victoria (now part of Creative Victoria). I was immediately attracted by Richard's 'trophy head' of an 'Animal of Unknown Origin'. He has made quite a series of these over the years, but he tells me he found some customer resistance to the idea of a trophy head, so he stopped mounting them on a board. Mine is an early one, complete with headboard. I love its colourful quirky nature.

In May 2013, this small scent bottle, missing its stopper,  was listed as a paperweight on the NZ auction site TradeMe.

It resembles the 1989 oil lamp, and the TradeMe listing helpfully noted that it had a R maker's mark. This is a reference to Richard's distinctive impressed mark, RC, where the R is enclosed by the C  

That mark is also present on the base of the 1989 oil lamp, and on the neck of the 'unknown animal'.

In August 2010, another TradeMe listing caught my eye. The vendor said:

"Truly stunning piece of hand blown glass by Tasmanian glass blower Richard Clements purchased in early 1990's. A true collector’s piece. No stamp or signature on the item, however his work is very well recognised."

Not in fact made by Richard Clements
The vendor seemed so certain that I took this at face value, and happily added another 'Clements' to my collection. However, the downside of meeting an artist is that he can say 'I didn't make that'. Which is what Richard said when I showed him a photo of this unmarked yellow lamp. 

Bother! If not Clements, then who made it? When I asked an Australian collector with whom I have exchanged information over the years, he suggested it looked like the work of Tina Cooper (http://www.tinacooper.com/). Having looked at her website and also listings on Australian eBay, I am sure he is right. Tina's Queensland studio was at Eumundi when she made this, though she has since moved to Palmwoods.

It just goes to show you can't always believe what a TradeMe vendor says.

Richard Clements was born in England, and served his apprenticeship to become a scientific glassblower, making the complicated glass equipment that research laboratories need. In 1970 he migrated to Sydney, and continued scientific glass-making there, but felt the need to broaden his horizons. With two colleagues who were also looking for something a little different, he formed a new business called Argyle Glass down at the Rocks in 1972. The trio set up a studio and started blowing glass in front of the public. It proved to be a very popular attraction, with people crowding in to watch the process. I recall visiting Argyle Glass during a trip to Sydney in 1974 - who knows, I may well have seen Richard then.

Richard worked at Argyle Glass eight hours a day, seven days a week for the first six months. After three years, Richard took a well earned holiday in Tasmania. There he discovered a little piece of paradise in Franklin, on Tasmania's southeast coast. He decided to sell his share of Argyle Glass, and relocate to Franklin, where he still lives and works today.

At CoLab 2019 in Whanganui, Ausglass awarded Richard Clements Honorary Lifetime Membership, in recognition of his long involvement in glass in Australia. Congratulations, Richard.

Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall presents his Honorary Lifetime Membership of Ausglass to Richard Clements 

Friday, 22 February 2019

CoLab 2019 Conference Whanganui was a Great Event

For only the second time in their history, the national glass art organisations of Australia and New Zealand have combined to hold a major international conference. Ausglass, the principal body for the promotion of contemporary glass in Australia, and the New Zealand Society of Glass Artists met for a wonderful weekend of glass in Whanganui, followed by a series of workshops. The first joint conference was held at Inglewood in Taranaki in April 1983 - see http://newzealandglass.blogspot.com/2012/08/nz-society-artists-in-glass-conference.html.

CoLab 2019 was a much larger occasion, with over 220 participants from NZSAG and Ausglass, as well as international guest speakers from Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, UK and USA. The theme was Collaboration, expressed in a number of ways. The event itself was a collaboration between the two national glass organisations, and several speakers or groups of speakers spoke about they way in which collaboration with other artists was a feature of their glass practice.

To celebrate the theme of Collaboration, the chandelier masters Crystal Chain Gang (Leanne Williams and Jim Dennison)  - with lots of help! - made a collaborative chandelier for The CoLab Conference. NZSAG and Ausglass Members were collaborative partners in this exciting project, making myriad elements to create a dynamic, illuminated and unique collective work of art glass. The finished piece was on exhibition at the Sarjeant Gallery over the course of the conference. The project could not have been realised without the generous support of NZSAG, Ausglass, The Sarjeant Gallery and New Zealand Glassworks.

These are some of those who collaborated in making the CoLab Chandelier.

The Sarjeant Gallery hosted the NZSAG / Ausglass Members' Exhibition, always a conference highlight, and a number of well deserved prizes were awarded, with Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall making the presentations, under the watchful eye of the Presidents of the two organisations.

Carmen Simmonds (NZSAG, left) and Kate Nixon (Ausglass) reading out the prize winners' names.
Mayor Hamish with Anne Robinson (above left),  Sue Hawker (above right), Lee Howes (centre), Keith Grinter (below left) and Richard Clements (below right).

As a way of engaging the Whanganui public, but also because it was fun, a team of glassblowers went back to (nearly) the beginnings of glass-making, re-creating on the Castlecliff foreshore a wood fired Roman style glass furnace. 

Sui Jackson from Australia led a team in building an adobe furnace; a simple, wood fired construction that could be built quickly and cheaply from locally sourced materials. Throughout the afternoon public demonstrations from local and international glass blowers showed just what could be done when working in this primitive style, sometimes using a 2 piece mould made from pumice found on the beach.

Photo: Geoffery Bunker

Photo: Geoffery Bunker
Photo: Geoffery Bunker

CoLab 2019 was a highly successful event, full of learning, fun, new and renewed friendships, and of course, lots of collaboration. It would not have been possible without the support of some generous sponsors:

Government sponsors

Logo cnz  full

Image result for australia council for the arts logo

Civic Sponsors
Whanganui & Partners

Air Chathams

David Jones Motors
Wanganui Chronicle Newspaper
NZ Glassworks

Black Door Gallery
Canberra Glassworks
Progress Castlecliff
Cristalica Studio Glass

Kurt Merker GmbH
CDK Stone NZ Ltd
Nick Mount Glass

Artists prizes
Gaffer Glass
Suzanne Milham
Grinter Glass
Shinagawa Refractories Australasia NZ Ltd
Glass Art in New Zealand (GAINZ)

Jan McLean Designs Ltd
Annette Cave
Peter Nolan
Venter and Hull Chartered Accountants
Country Lane & Fifty-Five
Trade site
His Glassworks
GS Traders
Nick Mount Glass
Melt 45
Zircar Refractory Composites, Inc. Mold Mix 6

Glass Art in New Zealand (GAINZ)

... as well as those who preferred their generosity to remain anonymous