Saturday, 21 November 2015

Michael Hook perfume bottles

Michael Hook operated a production glassware studio called Resolution Glassworks, located in the inner Melbourne suburb of Kensington, from 1984 until 2005. He had trained initially at the Jam Factory in Adelaide in 1980-82, and afterwards worked as a trainee in Nick Mount’s Budgeree Glass (then still located at Budgeree in Victoria) in 1982 and 83.

Unlike those artists who sought professional rewards in exhibitions and prizes, or found employment in a university, his focus as a glassmaker was high-class production wares. In his own words:

I’m not interested in presenting my work as art. What I make is purely craft. (Interview in Craft Victoria, 1986.)

Michael Hook is especially well known for the various styles of perfume bottles he created. Many of these designs are shown below, in roughly chronological order.

Apart from the very earliest specimen on the left, note the elegant translucent single-colour bubbles, complemented by the gentle optical ribbing. Note also the additional interest provided by a twist stopper suggesting a rose blossom.

The first two bottles on the left in this second photo continue the style based on a single-colour bubble, apart from having a clear foot as on a wine glass. They also have shaped stoppers, although somewhat simpler than the elaborate twists seen earlier. These two specimens show considerable difference in size. By contrast, the next two bottles have neither of these leading features. Instead of a single, uniform colour, these have an explosion of closely-toned coloured chips. They also differ in having heavy casing to form the base, instead of the earlier wine-glass foot. In a further difference, the stopper tops are simple spheres.

Single colouring makes a comeback in the leftmost two examples in this next photo, as does the twist stopper, albeit in a slightly muted form. The bases are again formed by a heavy casing in clear, although now the casing stops half way up the bottle. A novelty is the large air bubble deliberately trapped within the clear base. The third example differs from the previous two not only in having a much taller but still incomplete casing, but it adds the decorative features of embedded gold foil and a slightly flattened stopper top. The fourth example is spherical and fully cased, but with more weight towards the bottom to give the appearance of a base.

The first item on the left in this fourth photo is very similar to the last item in the previous case, differing in having a smaller bubble but with correspondingly heavier clear casing below. In the second bottle along the ribs of old reappear, this time on the outside of heavy clear casing, which again surrounds a bubble in a single colour. The elegant stopper top echos the ribs in the casing of the bottle.

The third bottle stretches upward a full 22.5cm to the top of the very tall stopper. The last item is not a bottle at all, but instead a solid glass paperweight. Note the line of controlled bubbles, a feature shared with the preceding tall bottle.

Perfume bottles and paperweights are not the only items made by Michael Hook at Resolution Glassworks in Kensington. Various blown glass vessels such as goblets, vases and bowls were also produced, but these other items seem not to have attained the status of ‘production’ items to the same extent as the perfume bottles.

Several other well-known glass artists worked at Resolution. Anne Hand had overlapped with Michael Hook in trainee slots with Nick Mount at Budgeree. She subsequently helped to set up the studio at Kensington and worked there until her untimely death in 1995. As we noted in the blog item on the ‘tiara’ bowls and vases, Pauline Delaney also worked at the Resolution studio for several years, having known Hook from their shared time at the Jam Factory. Patrick Wong was a long-time assistant to Michael Hook, as well as helping Anne Hand and Pauline Delaney, before becoming an independent artist with his own glassblowing studio in Melbourne.

Michael Hook closed Resolution Glassworks in late 2005 and moved on to other things. He was full time glass design and production advisor to Jenggala Keramic in Bali for three years from 2006-09. In this role he succeeded Richard Morrell, although more in a consulting capacity and based in Melbourne rather than as an on-site production manager.

What is Michael Hook doing now? Since early 2012, he has been an undergraduate student in architecture at Victoria University in Melbourne.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Pauline Delaney – Tiara bowls and vases

Pauline Delaney (b. 1959, UK) is a leading figure in Australian Glass. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in ceramics with a major in glass at the Caulfield Institute of Technology (now Monash University, Caulfield) 1978-81, she was a trainee at the Jam Factory in Adelaide 1982-85. Since then she has been based in Melbourne, working first from Michael Hook’s new Resolution Glass studio in Kensington. Later she was supervisor of the hot glass access workshop in the Meat Market Craft Centre in North Melbourne for a decade from 1988 to 1997. Her recent practice is in lampworking rather than blowing hot furnace glass, where she makes glass beads of advanced design and runs classes in the popular craft of bead making.

An early distinction in Pauline Delaney’s career was the acquisition of one of her works by the Corning Museum of Glass in the USA.  The item was made in Adelaide, towards the end of her time at the Jam Factory, and glorifies in the name of ‘Neurot Tiara’:

Pauline Delaney 1985 “Neurot Tiara”, 18.5cm high

Note the simplicity of the piece. A classically shaped bowl, blown to shape in a single transparent colour, is crowned at the rim by a ruffled ‘tiara’ in clear crimped glass. This celebrated object is the forerunner of a series of tiara vessels in many sizes and colours, which became signature pieces in the next phase of Pauline Delaney’s glassblowing career.

Here is a selection of Delaney’s tiara vessels in various sizes and colours. Note how the basic shape is maintained as the vessel is scaled up and down, with the taller ones more like a vase than a bowl. Note also how the various forms of the clear glass headpiece sometimes resemble a tiara, with only a section that is raised above the headband, while at other times the whole band is raised in what might be more accurately called a crown than a tiara.

Pauline Delaney 1991, 17.5cm high
Pauline Delaney 1990, 13cm high
Pauline Delaney undated, 18.5cm high
Pauline Delaney undated, 14.5 high

The variation of sizes in these vessels may be seen most clearly in the following photo from a magazine advertisement in 1987 showing two vases and a bowl all in the one colour.

Pauline Delaney 1987 (photo David Petersen)

Imitation, it is said, is the sincerest form of flattery. Perhaps the next highest form of praise is replication – meaning the original work is reproduced not simply to recreate the original outcome, but also as a research tool intended to discover (or rediscover) elements of the original creative practice. Such was the purpose of another Jam Factory-trained hot glass artist, B. Jane Cowie, in a project to explore the history and practice of studio glass making in South Australia. Cowie’s approach involved reproducing iconic original works of Jam Factory artists ranging from Stanislav Melis to Tom Moore, including this item in the style of Pauline Delaney:

B. Jane Cowie 2003 (Photo: Michael Haines)

In reference to the earlier works in her replication experiments, which included this tiara bowl (remade in the colours of the Corning Museum treasure), Jane Cowie says:

The re-making experience of these pieces was different, as care and effort were the focus as the inflation of the glass was controlled and calm. [The image above] shows that the pieces were created by making an even, smooth, round bubble with even colour and a controlled decorative element.

A variation on the theme of the tiara vase or bowl is the following item, in which the usual transparent single colour vessel is adorned with the clear crimped headpiece. This vase by Pauline Delaney is spherical, rather than the open bowl shape of the others:

Pauline Delaney undated, 12.5cm high

It is always difficult to trace the origin of ideas, especially among artists who are subject to a similar range of influences. So we do not know who is flattering whom, but the following item is signed “J Walsh 1990” and hence comes from another ex-Jam Factory trainee:

John Walsh 1990, 11.5cm high

Pauline Delaney has created much more than the tiara vases and bowls. Among her notable outputs are other bowls in classic shapes, with different treatments of trailed decoration in contrasting colours. She also made many perfume bottles in small permutations of a basic shape and decorative style that is easily recognisable as hers. There is one such item in our earlier article about perfume bottles, and no doubt there will be further consideration of Pauline Delaney's work in future issues of this Australian Glass magazine.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Rob Knottenbelt’s early production ware

Studio glass is a funny business. The term suggests the artist or craftsperson working alone or with minimal assistance in a small and largely self-contained facility, hence ‘studio’. There was once a debate in the parallel world of studio ceramics whether that practice is an art or a craft. Such debates are, of course, pointless, because the same tools and techniques can be harnessed in either direction. Whether the output is art or craft is a question of intent and that, dear reader, is largely a matter of economics.

The artist has always straddled two paths: one in the direction of making an impression, and the other toward making a living. Some have had it lucky with a rich sponsor to foot the bills while the artist brings forth their artistic vision, while others have found security in employment by the Church (or its modern equivalent, the university). The alternative is to make something saleable, and use the proceeds to subsidise other more risky ventures.

So it is no surprise that the independent glass artist who has a hankering to impress with her art will have at the same time a line of business where she make things that people actually want. Indeed, it was one of the founding principles of the Jam Factory glass workshop that trainees should make items for sale to help defray the cost of their training. Many established glass artists will distinguish their ‘exhibition’ works for show from the ‘production’ ware to pay the bills.

The artistic creations of Rob Knottenbelt are well documented, not least in three major articles in the glossy journal Craft Arts International in 1989, 1992 and 2005. During much of the period of his major artistic output, from 1984 until 2002 or so, he also produced a line of sturdy wares carrying the mark of his Britannia Creek Glass studio in Wesburn, Victoria.

But what of the time after Knottenbelt’s graduation from the Jam Factory in 1977 and before the move to Victoria in 1983? His résumé describes his activity as follows:

After an initial 18 months at the Jam Factory he built 2 hot shops as part of artist cooperatives in Adelaide before moving to Victoria in 1983.

What was Knottenbelt making in this period?

The point of reference for what follows in this essay is the first item, which was shown and sold in the graduating class exhibition at the Jam Factory in late 1977. It is small, a little over 11 cm high by about 10.5cm square, but rather chunky at 870g in weight. It is inscribed on the base with the artist’s name and the year 1977.

Note several distinctive features of this piece. The general square shape of the lower part was common currency at the Jam Factory at the time, but the strong curve inward and then the flare out to the rim are unusual. The vaseline colour of the slightly uneven trailed lip is another feature to observe. The swirling brownish trails of silver chloride, undoubtedly the influence of Sam Herman, also appear on works by the other trainees at the time (Peter Goss, John Walsh, Tom Persson). However, the more general colouring by a white flocculent wash that clusters around tiny random bubbles is more distinctive of Knottenbelt’s work.

Compare now the previous item with the following one, which is quite small, only about 7.5cm high by 10cm diameter. Note the narrow waist with a strong flare to the lip, the Vaseline trailed-on lip which is slightly uneven and, especially, the flocculent wash clustered on tiny random bubbles. That adds up to strong evidence of a common maker with the first item shown above.

Two other features can be seen on this second item that were not evident on the first. One, which will play a key role in what follows, is the obvious maker’s mark of a scratched arrow pointing radially outwards. The other, perhaps less important, is what appears to be a four-leaf-clover shape to the pontil scar.

What is missing on item #2 but obvious on the reference piece is the swirling silver chloride trails. Here is a pair with copious trails and clearly from the same series. They have the same general shape characteristics, the vaseline trailed lip, the scratched arrow on the base (in the NE quadrant of the second photo) and the four-leaf pontil scar.

Two more items from the same stable are shown below. The bowl shares the distinctive shape characteristics seen already with the others, while the elongated bottle with its button rim adopts a shape that was something of an international favourite in the 1970s. These two are clearly siblings of each other and, apart from the shape of the pontil scar, they are clearly by the same maker as the others shown above. They appear to be a little more refined than some of the others, so perhaps these were made a little later.

I hope by now, dear reader, you are at one with me on the unity of all these pieces, which clearly points to them being production ware of Rob Knottenbelt from the early days in 1978-83 when the influence of his Jam Factory training was strong.

Now regard the next little bowl, which also shares many of these characteristics. The tight waist and strong flare to the rim are somewhat muted compared to the other bowls, and the swirling trails are less Sam Herman in influence. However, the general shape is still there, as is the trailed vaseline lip, although here it is more neatly applied than on some others. And there is the same maker’s mark of the scratched arrow pointing radially out.

But what of that general colour? It is a little hard to see from these photos, so a closer look is needed. This bowl now resides in a collection that is conveniently available online, where the item in question is shown in a high resolution photo. Note the familiar flocculent wash around tiny random bubbles in this enlargement of the detail.

(source of original image)

The collector who now owns this little bowl reports his attempts to find the maker as follows:

This piece is most likely made by Robert Knottenbelt and signed with a simple arrow mark although I am still waiting a call from Robert to confirm this. Robert has contacted me and he can not be sure if it is one of his pieces however has said that it could well be an early piece of his production work using silver chloride and enamels done in about the 1980’s. (source of quotation)

Although the artist himself cannot be sure, our evidence clearly points to these items marked with the arrow as being early production ware of Rob Knottenbelt, from the period 1978-83.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

More feast for the admirers of Peter Goss

The earlier article about Peter Goss on this blog has been, by a wide margin, the most popular post we have made. It seems there are many admirers of his work, both those of long standing and those who have discovered his work from our article. To reward those admirers and others, here are more examples from across the glass making career of Peter Goss.

The first is a trio of bottles from 12 to 18cm high, all basically trapezoidal in lower section, although some are more rounded than others. They are all inscribed JFW1 and signed with initials PG. These are Jam Factory output from 1975 or so, in the early days of the plan to use production items to support the workshop and training activities. The numeral 1 in the code JFW1 indicates the first item made of that design. The fact that they are all JFW1 – not JFW2 or 37 or whatever – is a testament to those heady days of experimentation and discovery.

Peter Goss 1975, Jam Factory production, tallest 18cm

For his first year in Queensland, Peter Goss blew glass in a small studio at a tourist attraction on the Sunshine Coast called the House of Bottles. The bowl in the next photo is dated 1979 and clearly carries a strong influence of Sam Herman in its flowing silver chloride trails.

Peter Goss 1979, 8.5cm

After setting up his Paraison Studio Glass facility at Tewantin in 1981, Goss was able to stretch himself more artistically. One feature of his work at this time was the use of hardwood formers inside an open mould to shape the lower part of the items with a rough and random texture. Typically, the textured sections were given a dark colouring to imitate closely the trunk of a tree. It is interesting to speculate on the influence of the designers at Iittala and Whitefriars who famously used bark-lined moulds, although in neither case did they seek a naturally coloured appearance as tree bark.

Peter Goss 1984, 12.5cm
Peter Goss 1982, 16cm

Peter Goss describes the tricky operation of blowing a bubble of molten glass into a mould in a one-person operation without assistance (a restriction not imposed on the industrial glassblowers):

The wooden former for this piece was hinged on one side, and the pre-burnt former was clipped into a mould boy. I then brought the second gather of hot glass on my blow pipe to the mould boy (you stand on the mould boy and operate the closing and opening of it with your right foot) and lowered glass in to the closed former, then blew down the blow pipe to take on the burnt out shape. Once formed the mould was opened and the piece was then transferred to a puntee.

We noted previously the influence of Sam Herman from the Jam Factory. In that earlier post we mentioned also the influence of Stan Melis, who had been co-opted to the Jam Factory to bring his Slovakian industrial glass-making skills to the production side of the hot glass studio. Melis's own series of sea creatures is likely an inspiration for the next item.

Peter Goss 1987, 18.5cm long

The bottle shown below is a departure from the usual decoration associated with Peter Goss of coloured spots and midriff trails. From a series entitles "Spectrum", it explores the effects of light transmission through vessels that are only gently coloured but where a varying thickness of clear glass casing acts a random lens.

Peter Goss 1987 "Spectrum No 175", 11cm

The next item is instantly recognisable as the work of Peter Goss, because it has all of the familiar characteristics: the lower form in a simple geometric geometric shape, together with the coloured spots and extensive trails. It is also marked as the product of the new studio he operated from 1988 called Sunrise Studio Glass, after relocating to rural acreage on Sunrise Road, Timbeerwah. His old neighbours in the increasingly suburban Tewantin were surely pleased with the reduction in noise.

Peter Goss 1988, 13.5cm

It is impossible to live by the sea without feeling its influence. The next item bears the inscription "Shell form No 18", although we are not sure why. Perhaps it is the pearly lustre of the interior, more than the encircling golden trails?

Peter Goss 1989 "Shell form No 18", 13.5cm diameter (max)

As the final morsel in this extended tribute to the glass art of Peter Goss, we show one of the last items he made in glass. It is larger than most and still bears the price sticker for $108 from the original gallery sale in 1991.

Peter Goss 1991, 18.5cm diameter (max)

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Making his mark – The changing sign of Colin Heaney

The story of Colin Heaney’s glass making is well known. Born in Canada, growing up in California, he came to Australia attracted by the golden beaches and surf breaks. His approach in 1982 to a new interest in glass making was characteristic – he bought the gear and hired an expert from the US to set it up and give him some initial instruction. From then on he taught himself.

Located in Byron Bay, famous for its lighthouse, laid back lifestyle and surf culture, Heaney’s glass studio became the largest such operation in the country. It is said that 15 people were employed there at one stage. Through the 1980s and 1990s, almost everyone who was anyone in Australian (and New Zealand) studio glass worked there at one time or another.

Our interest today is not in the objects made by Colin Heaney, but instead in the way they are marked with the maker’s name or business name. The familiar signature is “C. Heaney” with a flourish so that the lower part of the C protrudes to become the cross member of the H and then extends wildly beyond. The rest of the signature is a lower parallel line, with barely a squiggle to describe the letters, until the final flourish of an enormous drop for the letter “y”.

In the earlier days of this "artistic" signature, there was more definition in the handwriting, as the following examples show. It is even possible to check the spelling in the second one (from 1988).

It is remarkable that Colin Heaney has dated all of these items as well as signing them. As we will see, he didn’t always do that in the very early days. By contrast, other glass artists who may once have dated their works have ceased to do so. As one practitioner explained it, some potential customers object to “old” works from a year or two previous and want to see “new” works from the current year. That was enough for him to cease the practice of dating his work. Apparently that was not Heaney’s experience.

For a period in the late 1980s and early 90s, much of the production output of Heaney’s studio was signed “CBHG”, standing for Cape Byron Hot Glass – not as sometimes guessed “Colin B Heaney Glass”! This form of studio mark serves several purposes. Often it distinguishes a lower form of production wares, with the artist’s own signature being reserved for more exalted exhibition pieces. More likely in this case, the practice acknowledges that the items may in fact be made by others, with the artist being the designer but not actually handling the work. Here are some examples (marked in different writer’s hands).

In addition to the engraved marks, either the personal signature or the studio mark, many items from Heaney’s studio had a small round gold coloured sticker attached. Here are a few examples, including one that sports a second larger sticker as well as the gold button and the familiar signature.

So, what of the early days? There are five years of Colin Heaney’s career 1983-1987 not illustrated in the images above. The shape of his natural handwriting can be seen in the example from 1988 in the fourth photo from the top, and in the earlier years it had even more of a schoolboy innocence to it. As we noted above, he often didn’t include the year with his signature on early works. Less surprising is the rougher engraving of the name, attributable to the rudimentary tools afforded by a beginner’s budget. Here are two such examples, showing all of these attributes:

Next is an unusual specimen and an exception to Heaney's customary form of signature on glass. It must be admitted that it suffers from the roughest of engraving tools being used on a rough iridized surface, but undoubtedly it is signed “Colin Heaney” with his name in full. The year appears to be 1987.

Colin Heaney ceased making glass in 2008 and sold the studio to Matthew Farrell. Since then, he has been designing silk scarves, bed linen and bikinis. Along with these new creative endeavours, his signature has been reinvented, as this example shows.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Peter Crisp – Glass, baked in the oven

The Hume Highway is the main thoroughfare joining Sydney to Melbourne and many places along the way. Between 1814 and 1825, the explorer Hamilton Hume lead many expeditions along this route and into the surrounding countryside. Among Hume’s great discoveries was the grazing country of the Yass Plain, where he settled after his exploration days were done and where he became a pioneer of the district’s great industry – superfine wool from merino sheep.

After you pass the town of Yass going south through the rolling hills of this pasture country, you will see a large sign announcing ‘The Crisp Galleries’ and inviting a visit. If that seems a trifle incongruous, the truth is even stranger. For 35 years, Peter Crisp has been both a wool grazier and a glass artist with a significant international reputation.

Peter Crisp, ‘royal bluebells’, each 12.5cm dia

The method of this glass artist is not the flamboyant performance of the hot-glass blower, nor the industrious concentration of the lampworker over an open flame. Instead, using a primary raw material that is basically window glass, together with coloured enamels and precious metals, Peter Crisp makes decorative and useful items by fusing and slumping the glass in an enclosed kiln heated by electricity. The basic techniques of this form of glass working are as old as the earliest days of ancient Egyptian glass, although nowadays they are aided by modern industrial technology.

The blue platter in the first photos below is large, with a diameter of 57cm. Note how the colours are fused between layers of what was once flat glass but which is now slumped into the shape of a shallow bowl. The central layer is composed of dozens of square tiles of the same material, with the black colour marking the lines between. The size alone of this item requires an industrial scale kiln.

Peter Crisp 2000, 57cm diameter

What sets this artist apart from the weekend warrior who is fusing and slumping glass in kilns at the adult education classes – apart from the scale of both the individual items and the production operation – are Peter Crisp’s artistic talent and his decades of hard-won experience in working the materials. There is also his experimental bravado, which has pioneered the way for many with lesser talents to follow. The little blue amphora below is much copied, although the originals are still immediately recognisable.

Peter Crisp 2000, 10cm diameter

This delicate object is made by placing circular glass sheets, with coloured enamel powder between, on a mould that has two levels. The upper part has a hole in the middle and supports the outer part of the material. When the glass is heated it melts to the extent that the middle part dribbles down to a lower level and pools to form a foot. The supported outer part stays behind but slumps to the surface shape of the upper mould.

Here is another piece, made on the same principles but much larger and more ambitious in complexity. There is much skill and experience in judging exactly the right temperature cycle and timing to achieve these effects without ruining the result.

Peter Crisp 1992, 31cm high

Next is the most elegant of them all, slumped into a very elongated vase shape, with various cut and fused small pieces to form the base, and decorated with sprinkles of 22ct gold and little dots of colour formed by melting glass beads.

Peter Crisp 1993, 19cm high

Other fused and slumped vessels made by Peter Crisp include a range of multi-layer bowls in various shapes and sizes, such as this one. Note again the decorative effect of including little tiles of glass as an intermediate layer.

Peter Crisp 1996, 21.5cm diameter

Peter Crisp is also known for his tableware decorated with screen-printed patterns, 22ct gold and semi-precious gems. The little shallow bowls with the royal bluebell design (Wahlenbergia gloriosa) at the top of this article are the simplest of such items. A more complex piece of a similar size is shown below. The glass beads have grown into jeweled hemispheres of jade and lapis luzuli embedded in the glass.

Peter Crisp, 12.5cm diameter

A proper piece of tableware is the dinner plate shown below in the design “Barneys”. There have been many such designs of gold encrusted dinner plates, side plates and bowls in Peter Crisp’s portfolio.

Peter Crisp 1994, 30cm diameter

The Crisp Galleries has a website where there is much for the visitor to explore. Two items that mark highlights of the artist’s career are the winning entry in a competition for drinkware to advertise Bombay Sapphire gin and the presentation dinner set commissioned for the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. Among the many other treasures on the website, don't miss the frothy concoctions in pate de verre.

Next time you are belting down the Hume, spare a thought for the old explorer Hamilton as you go past Yass, and make sure you allow time to visit the Crisp Galleries.