“In 1979 I was a 22-year-old, fresh out of art school when I first came to Devonport. I moved into the old Duder’s Store building on King Edward Parade (most recently Art by the Sea) with a bunch of other artists. Back then there was no internet and only one phone for the whole building. We wired up a bell and a button, so it was one ring for the glassblower and two rings for the potter. That’s how we communicated in those days and it worked fine. Mike Pritchard and Tommy Gunn had great ideas about starting a collective to house their food co-op, they held the lease and we had half the building. And so “The Works” was born. I soon got sick of the daily trek from Mt Eden, so I got a flat here and work and life became one. Those were good times.
That turned out to be New Zealand’s first craft collective, and we ran it for 11 years until 1990 with the furnace running seven days. There were no craft shops or galleries anywhere then, so we sold direct to the public and they came and watched us blowing. It was like entertainment for them. On weekdays we’d shut the door around midday and walk into the village for lunch – we’d occasionally get sidetracked at the Masonic Hotel across the street when other creative types visited.
The first glass we blew was recycled from the dump. It was pretty bad and bubbly, but at least I was learning on the job. We decided we needed some better quality glass, so we wrote to a German company , Kugler and they sent us a formula. And it all went from there really until the building was sold and everyone had to move out.
Skip forward to 2003 and I opened my gallery on Queens Parade. You could say from King Edward Parade to Queens Parade, but back in the village again for sure.
Devonport is a great place and people are always discovering it and until COVID we have had a steady stream of visitors. People still want to get out and about and I’m always happy to meet my customers.
We still do sales in person as we do online. You’re not talking to a gallery assistant when you come here, you’re talking to the guy who made it. I think that counts for a lot.
When it comes to glass, compound canes are my thing. Those are the tiny rods of glass with colour you see – I make mine with several colours and each one can take up to two weeks to make. Cane working can be traced back to Egyptian times – it predates glass blowing. It took me ten years to learn how to make canes properly – it’s a very meticulous and tedious technique. I make them work like a painted image in the glass. The first Monet paperweight I made had 50 flowers – it’s that fascination with nature thing.
Flowers are essentially symbolic of life. Nature’s not limited to human parameters, it allows the most delicate flower to bloom and reproduce in a wide range of circumstances. Over my 42 years in this work, I keep coming back to the theme of life and how we reconcile our place in nature.
People often ask me where I get the inspiration for my work. “I just look up, I tell them. “
Handmade art glass paperweights and vessels
- I make garden inspired art glass objects
- Using ancient glass techniques in a new way