The Dance with Glass
Where it all started
When I was six years old watching someone working with hot glass sparked an interest that would linger for life. I was totally captivated and in order to draw me away long after my siblings and cousins had left to play, Mum quietly whispered “maybe one day when you are a big girl you could do that too”.
Having finished school I went to University, initially working in the horticultural industry, and subsequently as secondary school science teacher, but in the back of my mind the lure of glass remained. In my free time and school holidays I dabbled in fusing, casting and flameworking for close on a decade until 2003 when I decided that the time had come to take a leap of faith and become a glass blower. My mother’s prediction finally came true when I enrolled at Whanganui Ucol for their three year Diploma in Glass Design and Production.
Flameworking skills came in handy at Art School where in order to fund my dream I had a live in position at Godwin House, the senior girls boarding residence at Whanganui Collegiate. As part of the after school activities I set up a workshop with eight torches and ran seven beadmaking sessions a week for the students.
During my final year at Whanganui I won a fees scholarship to attend The Glass Term at Pukeberg Design School in Sweden, a satellite of the University of Kalmar. This was part of the European Erasmus Exchange Programme and the class also had a small number of international students like me. So began my second and much more exciting OE.
Pukeberg Glasbruk was across the road from the Design School and every morning before class I went and assisted the gaffers for two hours. I enjoyed and greatly benefitted from it, but my prime aim was to show them what I was capable of, with the object of an apprenticeship once the one semester Glass Programme had finished.
As I had hoped, Pukeberg Glasbruk took me on and I spent the next 18 months assisting Micke Johanssen and Gunne Brandsted making production work for the glassworks shop as well as realizing independent artists ideas in glass and other activities such as prototyping for Ikea. Doors continued to open and my planned five months in Sweden progressively expanded into a five year glass adventure.
I then moved to Riksglasskolan Orrefors, the National Glass School of Sweden where I studied advanced glassblowing techniques whilst working part-time teaching my fellow students flameworking. Later I took a full time position as a tutor in their Cold Shop, evidence of which can be seen in my love for attention to detail and signature optical polish. During the long summer vacations I was employed at the historic Orrefors Glassworks as part of the blow-your-own-bowl team for holiday visitors.
Living in Europe afforded many amazing glass experiences only possible in countries where there has been long history of glass making. I found it almost incomprehensible that in the area where I lived, they were blowing glass thirty years before Captain Cook landed in New Zealand. I took annual visits to Murano in Italy and also explored the glass in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany and England and came home with a wonderfully wide appreciation of both current practices and that which had gone before.
Towards the end of 2011 I returned to my roots and since then have been a full-time glass designer/maker. My work is influenced by the local environment but is also linked to the great heritage of blown glass that I experienced through my time overseas. To blow glass I hire the hot shop in Whangarei adjacent to Burning Issues Gallery and near the Hundertwasser Art Centre. At home in Auckland I have a well-appointed studio and cold shop with several kilns where I do my cold finishing and create cast-glass pieces. Until Covid, every couple of years I returned to Europe to catch up with friends and colleagues and re-ignite my inspiration from their glass traditions.
Since coming home I have directed some of my creativity to glass casting in which New Zealand has an international reputation. However rather than casting the usual large scale lost wax sculptural works I decided to make small highly refined pieces which require special techniques. The research and development work has been very satisfying and the two glass forms complement each other well. Glass casting in my own workshop was particularly valuable when I was prevented from going to Whangarei due to the Auckland Lockdowns.