Peripheral Vision: Ausglass Conference 2011…

31 01 2011

The Gang made the pilgrimage to Sydney on the weekend before last for the Ausglass 2011 Conference, and what an interesting time we had of it. Megsie had been invited to speak and we rather suspect that there was a blood sport angle at play, which was fair enough given the conference thematic (critical discourse, engaging in questions beyond the focal point of studio glass, yadda yadda) – and we’re always up for it in any case.

Megsie delivered her usual no-held-punches view of the potentially dire straits that Australian Glass finds itself in and, as we all expected, the dogs were quick to bark. More importantly, however, it set the conference attendees off on a running discussion/debate that lasted the remainder of the day (and, in fact, all the way past the final-party stumps.) So, Mission Accomplished, n’est pas?

What the knicker-wetters don’t seem to appreciate is that the whole point of a conference is to provide a robust platform that proactively encourages diverse points of view. What we usually get are the standard worn-out establishment blandishments and an unending series of self-congratulatory cant. It’s got to stop. All power to the Conference Chair, Andrew Lavery, for recognising this and having a go at breaking the mould. It’s gunna be a tough nut to crack, but ya gotta start somewhere.

The biggest disappointment of the Conference was the number of people who weren’t there. We’d been really looking forward to catching up with all our fave bods. Ah well, never mind – we met some lovely new peeps and had long raves with the New Zealand mob, so all was not lost.

Lots of people asked for a transcript of Megsie’s speech and we are happy to send it (email us at but we’ve decided not to post it on the bloggo because it’s really a pastiche of all the things we’ve been banging on for years about and there’s no need for the faithful to have to hear it all again.

The other point we would like to make is that given the constraints of the half hour time limit (incorporating a PowerPoint slide-fest) the speech was necessarily generalized and consequently rather black and white. In reality the topography of this discourse is a nuanced complex of rolling shades of grey. 

Megsie’s speech was merely an opening shot across the bows. A call to arms, if you like, or a hello, is anybody out there? kind of thing. Unless the Australian glass movement becomes genuinely inclusive of its broader membership, and breaks free from the conservative/limiting control of the marketeers (gallerists) and the culture of self-preservation from the Establishment, it is in serious danger of disappearing up its own arse.

Come on peeps, it’s time for some serious CPR in the sector. It’s not the business of artists to bore people to death. Reinvigoration, that’s what’s needed. It’s time to spread the love a little bit further than the beiged-out court favourites.

One of the highlights of the weekend was running into Robyn Campbell (and Phil) on the ferry – they weren’t in Sydney for the conference at all, and Megsie had one of those hideous moments of forgetting Robyn’s name; not who she was, just a nanna moment name-wise…

Anyhoo, Robyn gave the Gang our very first casting workshop and remains a formative influence. So the strange cosmic coincidence of crossing paths actually lent a certain poignancy to the weekend.

We flew in Saturday arvo and out early Monday morning, so only caught one exhibition opening; at Gaffa Gallery, where we didn’t take many photos of work and didn’t manage to snaffle a room list…so apologies to the artists for the lack of credits. (If anyone fancies sending through details we’d be ever grateful.)

More happy snaps here.

[BTW; for those of you who keep whining about Glass Central Canberra hiding cowardly behind a veil of anonymity we refer you to The Kelly Files page, which has been in place since the blog’s inception. Over the last four years we’ve had reports of repeated snipings along these lines – always from the Court, of course – and so to those of you involved, all we can say is, ‘what a Wally you are’. n(Ed)]

Be patient my pretties…

27 01 2011

So much to bring you…no time to actually do it. Megsie got back from the Ausglass Conference and walked straight into a very torrid week. And now, tomorrow, we’re off to Wagga Wagga.

When it finally does come, there’ll be a gush of it. Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with this solemn promise: you will have your cake and eat it too…

Tour de Force: the artists…

18 01 2011

Whacko – the national tour of Tour de Force: in case of emergency break glass is about to get underway. It’s being installed at Wagga Wagga as we speak and will be up from the 21st Jan – 13th March (and officially opened on the 28th Jan by Megsie) before moving on to The Jam. So we thought we’d celebrate by posting the fabulous List of Players

Growing up in Parkes, NSW, Deb Jones recounts that her sister was the reader and she was the maker, and that’s the way it still is. Her 20’s were spent between art school and travel, and she graduated from the Canberra School of Art in 1992. She moved to the JamFactory in Adelaide in 1993 to do her glassblowing traineeship, and it has subsequently become her home. In 1995 Deb and a group of friends opened a glass studio called Blue Pony, and more recently (2007) she has established a new studio, Gate 8, with Jessica Loughlin. Her time is currently divided between Gate 8 and the JamFactory glass studio, which she runs on a team basis with Tom Moore and Nick Mount. She enjoys drawing, making design work, artwork or, for that matter, anything – for Deb, the cup’s half full regardless of the circumstances.

Jacqueline Gropp grew up in a house sheltered by a weeping willow in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne where she explored aspects of the world through the material of transparent glass including: night stars through the lens of a telescope; the many eyes of a spider temporarily trapped in a converted Vegemite jar; too many bad 70’s comedies through the television screen; and pink bubbling concoctions contained within test tubes of her brother’s chemistry set. Intrigued by Muranese glass, she came into contact with the material’s molten form through glass blowing lessons before undertaking a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Australian National University (ANU) School of Art, Canberra, where she graduated with First Class honours in 1997. Awards including the ANU Peter and Lena Karmel Anniversary Award for Art, Thomas Foundation Pilchuck Professional Scholarship and Australia Council Visual Arts/Craft Fund Development Grant allowed her to travel to New Zealand, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands and USA where she was able to exhibit, study and undertake research into the history of scientific glass apparatus and become enamoured with the depiction of glass in western painting and the films of Andrei Tarkovsky. She currently lives and works in Canberra where she sporadically creates works for public scrutiny.

Timothy Horn‘s work focuses on the meeting point between the natural and constructed worlds. Much of his work has drawn extensively from the sphere of decorative arts, concerned with the inherent/assigned gendering of objects. More recent work attempts to locate the area of slippage between the organic and artificial. Often working at an ambitious scale, he chooses to work with materials for their inherent physical and metaphorical qualities. Inspired by 19th-century zoologist Ernst Haeckel’s engravings of jellyfish, he began an ongoing series of large works made of transparent rubber, that culminated in his first solo exhibition in New York, Villa Medusa in 2006. More recently the fabled “Amber Room” belonging to Catherine the Great of Russia, considered “the eighth wonder of the world”, inspired a crystallized rock sugar encrusted carriage for Horn’s exhibition Bitter Suite at the de Young Museum in San Francisco in 2008. Horn’s work has featured recently in exhibitions at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, GoMA, Brisbane, and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. A Samstag Fellowship took Horn to study in Boston in 2002. He has lived in New Mexico since 2006. It is a region and landscape, which has greatly influenced his work.

Neil Roberts trained as a glassblower at the JamFactory in Adelaide in the late 1970’s, followed by a stint at the Orrefors Glass School in Sweden in 1981 and the New York Experimental Glass Workshop (Urban Glass) a year later. On his return to Australia he was invited by Klaus Moje to join him as associate lecturer at the fledgling Canberra School of Arts Glass Workshop. Roberts had a broad arts practice that straddled disciplines and media, and a natural curiosity and empathy for materials that inevitably eventually drew him away from a dedicated glass focus. He was the recipient of numerous awards including Australia Council residencies in New York (1989) and Manila (1991), the inaugural ACT Creative Arts Fellowship for Visual Arts (1995) and the Canberra Arts Patrons Organization Fellowship (2000). Working primarily with glass, neon and collected objects, he was a sculptor of growing reputation at the time of his accidental death in 2002. The extraordinary spirit of his practice remains evident in his extant public art commissions and the large body of collected works held both in private and public hands.

Ian Mowbray has been working in glass for nigh on three decades. He originally rented space in the Jam Factory with partner Vicki Torr in 1981, followed by the establishment of Moto Glass in 1989. Since moving to Melbourne in 2000 and setting up a new studio (World Glass), Mowbray has been working exclusively with kiln formed glass. Only too aware that glass is already extraordinarily beautiful in its raw state, Mowbray resists the easy path of coasting on the obvious material properties and investigates instead the darker potential offered by the medium. His main focus lies in the personal political: the torments and desires inherent in daily domestica. He is represented by Diane Tanzer Gallery.

While the practice of Nicholas Folland generally highlights an anxiety for potential failure in everyday activity, the primary work considers this notion through a relationship between the controlled space of domestic dwelling, and the unpredictable chaos of the natural environment. By forcing everyday appliances to a point of excess, and by colliding their practical application with their inherent reference to naturally occurring forces, there is an attempt to highlight a fragile relationship to the world, and to shift our perceived sense of stability and security within the home.

 Nicholas Folland is a restless artist who is currently holidaying in his birthplace, Adelaide. He is a Samstag Scholar who studied within the research program at the Piet Zwart Institute Rotterdam and the University of Barcelona, completing a Masters Degree at The University of Sydney in 2009. He has lived and worked in Australia and Europe, and examples of his practice are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia and the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, as well as University and Regional Galleries and private collections internationally.

 Trish Roan grew up in Melbourne, and moved to Canberra to study glass at the ANU School of Art, finishing with Honours in 2006. Since then she has been working as a glassblowing assistant for several artists, as well as working in her own studio at ANCA (Australian National Capital Artists). She has exhibited her work in various locations in Canberra, as well as in Denmark as part of the ‘Young Glass 2007’ exhibition. Trish  undertook a research residency at the Sydney College of the Arts in 2009 and has recently returned from a 2010 exchange/residency in Canada. Her practice lies somewhere in the margins of crude science and everyday miracles. For now, she lives and works in Canberra.


Tom Moore uses traditional and innovative glass techniques to breathe life into his eccentric hybrid specimens. Though Tom’s inventive creatures are mostly friendly, he addresses darker issues such as nature vs. industry in his dreamscape dioramas. For the last 10 years Tom has been the production manager at the JamFactory Craft and Design Center in Australia, where he makes varied commissioned items, and trains graduates in glass production and exhibition work. Tom exhibits his glass in elaborate mixed media environments and was featured in a show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney this past Fall. Tom’s work has received a number of awards and is in many notable collections. 

Tour de Force: in case of emergency break glass is coming your way – catch it at a venue near you.


Around the traps…

18 01 2011

Had a lovely chat with Geoff Farquhar-Still today (BVRG biz) and thought you might like to wander around his new website

We’re into his work, big time, so it’s great to hear he’s picking up lotsa spanky commissions.

Glass spotto, not…

15 01 2011

Megsie, who judged the adult art section of the Candelo Show today, was in for a greater treat than she could possibly have anticipated. The following are the three (only) entries in the ‘Sculpture: any medium’ class…

What can we tells ya?

Next stop: Bagan…

14 01 2011

The Gang flew to Bagan to join The Road to Mandalay, the gorgey old 1960’s German cruiser that’s been lovingly refurbished by Orient Express, and is currently managed by…Sammy Jo. Darlings, too good!!

After a quick G&T and a scrumptious lunch…

…we were off on a round of novitiate ceremonies, pagodas…

…markets, and more kid spotting than you can poke a teak stick at.

Such was our variant entertainment for the next day or so before setting sail for Mandalay.

More snaps here.

First Stop: Rangoon…

11 01 2011

We won’t give a blow by blow – just post a heap of snaps, in vague order,  for you to surf if you fancy. Obviously the biggest drawcard in Rangoon was the Schwezigon Pagoda, which was nothing short of…yes, Nige…truly awesome. Even the streetlights were luscious…

…and some of the sights unbelievably bizarre…

We spent three nights, including Xmas, with Iain (when he wasn’t working) before joining the Road to Mandalay, and had a fabulous time touring Rangoon with the guide (Khin) and driver organised by Sammy Jo.

And it was all surprisingly relaxed, bar the heavy restrictions on any photography of an even vaguely political nature  (army or police, yadda, yadda.) People talked openly and glowingly of the Lady – and the first thing we did was drive by her house (no snaps, obviously.) 

From the outset we were swinging  from the sublime…

…to the wonderfully ridiculous…

…and the undeniably cute…

It was all fantastically exotic and intriguing and the Burmese people are amazingly sweet and gracious. And extraordinarily enterprising.

First batch of snaps here.