Movement in the murk…

12 08 2013

Omigod, we hear you gasp – there’s still life out in them thar hills…

What can we say? It’s been the winter of our discontent. But wethinks Foo may be just starting to peek over the parapet.

So much to catch up on and a few happenin’s missed, but we’ll cobble together a flying retrospective (…soonish!)

Meanwhile perhaps we should kick off where we left off; Stephen Skillitzi, who has just had an open studio event (which you’ve missed, alas.)


Stephen Skillitzi

Stephen Skillitzi glass

Stephen Skillitzi glass


Seems like a fitting launching point…especially given that it’s also Ranamok this Wednesday night. Puts ya right in the mood, eh?

The Gang won’t be able to make it to the gala Aussie/Noozelland studio glass  event this year, sad to say – Megsie has change-over at the BVRG, and will be hard at it hanging eX de Medici and Haeli Van Veen in Skun, which opens this coming Friday (16th Aug)…


eX de Medici packing up the photographic work destined for the BVRG

eX packing up the photographic work destined for the BVRG

The hunk files…

22 03 2012

The Gang received a very cute email from Stephen Skillitzi, letting us know that he had a residency coming up later in the year at the Glassworks – and he tossed in a few glam shots, of which this is our hands-down fave…



…on his way to England in 1967. Incontrovertible proof that those blowers have always been hotties…


The Pied Piper from Adelaide…

14 04 2009
Just in from Stephen…
…destined for Gallery M (Marion) glass show…24-4-09  to 17-5-09
“Ah, rats!!! Not another plague of glass floor sculptures being piped from that infested Skillitzi studio into some hapless gallery. Why can’t we pension him off??”


[Before anyone starts complaining, the above is a direct quote – sent in by Stephen himself. n(Ed)] 

Australian Glass pioneers: the paper…

22 03 2009

A wander down memory lane with Stephen Skillitzi.



Stephen with Elaine Miles and her percussion show…




…and the set up of his 1975 glass exhibition (opened by the legendary Don Dunstan) in the same space…



[That Playhouse Gallery has stood the test of time well – amazing really. n(Ed)]

While the Gang was in Adelaide we had the opportunity to have a natter with Stephen Skillitzi about things of a glassy nature and bemoaned the fact that we’d missed the Aussglass Conference in Hobart this year (Megsie,  in the throes of her new job, had been up to her neck in gallery renovations with the next hang and opening bearing down on her – so getting away simply wasn’t an option.) Anyhoo Stephen, after giving us a quick rundown on the conference, kindly offered to send through the paper he gave – and he’s included a number of snaps of early performances (check ’em out at the end of the tract.). It’s rather long, but it’s worth taking the time to read…and there are more pics at the end…


Australian Glass Pioneers ….S.Skillitzi   16-1-09




…Some might say: ”Don’t we glass workers have bona-fide historians without a personal ‘ax to grind’ and who are above career-long ‘empire building’ like some latter-day Ghengis Kahn. Incidentally, I observed no Studio Glass in Outer Mongolia, the ‘last frontier’ to resist international Glass incursions. “Surely they, those reliable historians, can give us the unbiased truth. So why does this panel dealing with this historical topic consist of 4 practitioners only and no pure academics or theorists?” 

A simple answer is: we need to hear from those practitioners who have done the hard yards by planting the actual ‘glass seeds’ and seeing to their sprouting above ground before they were visible to those historians who got involved later on. Indeed we pioneers can mentally relive in 3D what those historians attempt to do via inferior 2D research. Sadly, I have observed often the neglect of open and useful dialogue between authors and practitioners before and after publication. 

That perhaps belligerent perspective is what motivated the Danish pioneer glass artist Finn Lynggaard to regain control by compiling in 1988 his practitioner-written book on the development of International Studio Glass. In my opinion Finn correctly highlighted Harvey Littleton’s famous 1962 glass blowing workshop which was the major spark for the modern Glass Movement. For me the irritation by both Lynggaard and Littleton with some under-informed historians is justified. 

But for serious history students of contemporary Australian glass the survey texts by the authoritative Dr. Noris Ioannou and Grace Cochrane are hard to beat. We should respectfully reread them!   Another more individualized source of glass history is the so-called “Eminent Persons Program”, archived by the Canberra National Library. To balance the contributions of Nick Mount and myself, some more old-timers in Ausglass should have their histories preserved there.

Speaking personally, it seems my Glass got progressively better in reverse ratio to the ongoing unkind aging process I experienced. Pioneers by definition make mistakes, such as my sometimes lousy furnace designs, so those that follow need not repeat them. For example, my first solo show of clay with glass, at Sydney’s Grace Brothers store when aged only 18, was in January 1966. That was just before decimal currency started. I snobbishly overpriced my student items in guineas and half guineas because I saw mature artists doing just that. Of course a guinea was one pound and one shilling. In hindsight I’m thankful nothing sold. My point is that all us gray-headed pioneers have histories of individually-experienced steep learning curves and the taking of naive risks before we ‘learned the ropes’. 

An ancient proverb states : “As the sapling is bent, so the tree grows”.  I hereby pay a belated tribute to the Glass ‘old-timers’, the often underrated pioneers, who shaped our Glass tree by their risk-taking examples.  

I and only two others, namely Brian Hirst and Richard Clements, have been to all 15 Ausglass conferences. We three can confirm that about half the names on this list have never been mentioned at a conference before.  Incidentally in 1970 I observed Clements doing pyrex lampwork glass at Sydney’s Argyle Art Centre, using skills developed in England.

The narrow criteria for inclusion in my likely-incomplete pre-Ausglass list of in-Australia glass-artists are as follows:  “Those who had a full-time Glass career, or who had a solo glass exhibition, or who had completed a major glass commission in living memory before Ausglass started in December 1978”.  

These 38 Australians can be likened to ‘glass dinosaurs’, or ‘vitrified tribal elders’, or ‘father/mother figureheads’, — (whatever label you prefer)   they all occupied the glass scene before Ausglass was formed a mere 30 years ago. The 38 names alphabetically are: ……..

Douglas Annand, Les Blakebrough, Bill Boysen,  Maureen Cahill,  Richard Clements,,  Peter Dockerty,  Anne Dybka, John Elsegood, Mike Esson, Leonard French, Bill Gleeson, Peter Goss, Paul Hayworth,  Sam Herman, Helmut Hiebl, Regina Jaugietis, Gerry King, Rob Knottenbelt, Les Kossatz, Warren Langley,  Dick Marquis, Stan Melis, Peter Minson, Stephen Moore, Nick Mount, Dennis O’Conner, Tom Persson, Cedar Prest, Con Rhee, David Saunders, Julio Santos, Stephen Skillitzi, Ron Street, John Walsh, Jimmy Whitman, Don Wreford, David Wright, Klaus Zimmer.  

It’s important to note that six of those names were better known in other art spheres than Glass. Five or more have died but nineteen are still active glass practitioners, including a dozen Ausglass members. 

Others not on this list, but actively engaged in glass-related activities in various ways by December ‘78, quickly outshone many included in this ‘old-timers’ list. Those others include Jan Aspinall, Gizelle Courtney, Peter Crisp, Marc Elliot, Shar Feil, Marc Grunseit, Jeff Hamilton, Tony Hanning, Brian Hirst, Ede Horton, Kirstie Rhea, Neil Roberts, Graham Stone. But to the dozens of ‘rising stars’ I say: “Don’t get too impatient with us gray-headed ‘old-timers’. We are well aware of the stiff competition and dedication you present us. We dinosaurs will go extinct or get pensioned off someday, thus leaving the field wide open for all your fresh talent.

Beyond the scope of this analysis are non-contemporary stained glass workers, and mature, influential Glass artists, such as Moje and Proctor and Varga, who arrived after 1978. 

When in China recently I observed the Beijing Olympics’ mindset with its intense national rivalry.  I see a parallel to our Glass career-long competition for sales and status, but without me ignoring our altruistic desire for the betterment of the wider Glass fraternity, evident from the very beginning in the 1960’s. Because I see that parallel perhaps I have become a little more cynically ‘cuckoo’ than most. 

Ausglass was at first designated “People in Glass”, P.I.G. or “PIGs”, for a very short time, thankfully. “Ausglass” is a much more ‘kosher’ title!  

So at this juncture, on behalf of this very loosely associated group of pioneering glass artists, I “welcome”  Ausglass to the already-existing Australian Glass scene. Never forget, we ruggedly independent 38 glassworkers on that list were alive ‘n kicking glass ‘footballs’ around our studio workshops first!  

To use a telling analogy: In 1788 the first white settlers of Sydney-town arrogantly assumed Australia was uncivilized, therefore ‘up for grabs’ without needing any formal treaty with quote: ‘those primitive savages.’  In hindsight the ‘whitefellas’ were generally wrong, arrogant and exploitive of land and natives!   

Similarly, this ‘glass land’ of ours was not “TERRA NULLIUS”, (that is unoccupied or unexplored) before the 1978 ‘first fleet’ Ausglass conference arrived, also in Sydney.  So let’s not be ignorant or arrogant about our origins, like the 1788 First Fleet was! 

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Klaus Moje’s “Living Treasures” travelling show rolls into Adelaide

18 09 2007



Nope, don’t be confused – the above is not a Moje!!! It’s a detail of one of Stephen Skillitzi’s pieces showing in the foyer of the Jam Factory’s gallery space. Which on the face of it is a very odd entré into the Klaus Moje: Living Treasures, Masters of Australian Craft exhibition…but then again perhaps not.

At first the Gang was a little dumbstruck at the seemingly discordant curatorial ‘coupling’…but on reflection we realised that it was actually strangely fitting. Stephen Skillitzi was one of a staunch, scattered group of pioneering artists practicing studio glass in Australia during the decade prior to Moje’s arrival from Germany in 1982. And Moje’s first opportunity to formally meet and greet the Australian glass fraternity en masse, and eyeball their work, happened to be at the Adelaide Ausglass Conference in early 1983. He himself showed two of his New Horison series pieces there – the first work he’d made and exhibited with Bullseye glass – and the work stood in the same stark contrast with Australian studio glass at the time as it does with the Skillitzi pieces today. So it’s kind of a strange groundhog-day time-warp, throwing up precisely the same issues and considerations apropos technique, skill and aesthetics that have dogged the studio glass movement since its inception.

The Gang thought long and hard about describing Stephen’s work – as in whether we ought to even go there. Because we’re not in the business of playing the style police, per se, and one man’s trash is another man’s treasure after all. We did a quick flick around Google and came across a gem of a take on Skillitzi in the T’arts Collective – ‘The results range from the hallucinagenic to the indigestible…’ A fair cop we reckoned.

His work is a kind of a melange of many things including Slim Barrie (as in the glued fairy stone technique, but without the sweet naivety), the de la Torre Brothers (as in the touch of decultivated madness, but without the intellectual underpinning) and Nudibranch (as in the kitsch souvenir shop/garden centre utter fugliness.) It’s a practice that is firmly planted in the fay-1970s, something Skillitzi himself is clearly into (literally, if the wizard’s cloak is anything to go by – the Gang was in its prime in the ’70s, so we recognise the symptoms…) Anyhoo, we’ve included snaps of his show in the day’s mugshot parade, so give them the once over and make of them what you will…he is obviously an artist who likes to deliberately poke a stick at, and provoke, the aesthetic hounds (and for that alone we have to confess that we naturally admire him.)

Meanwhile most of the day itself was swallowed up trying to put a decent post together by remote control – which didn’t work terribly well, as it happens. So if anybody did catch the muddled and hopelessly scrambled visuals on that last post we do apologise, and entreat you to revisit it again. We’ve set it right at last (hadn’t realised how bad it was until we got back home to Canberra. Mea Culpa.)

Anyhoo the Gang made it back into town with just enough time join the Mob (Debster, Netty, Tom, Tim, Louie, et al) at the pub for a couple of relaxing ales before everyone headed back into the Jam for the opening. And it was a very pleasant evening all round – those Jam Factory folk are such gracious hosts, they even presented flowers. Charmingly gallant, we thought. Post exhibition we all trundled off to dinner at the Jerusalem cafe (where we forgot to take snaps ‘cos we were too busy talking-eating-drinking-and-generally-enjoying-ourselves.) Nonetheless, we did keep a firm eye on the clock because we had a serious assignation elsewhere…

…at the Semaphore Worker’s Club, where we finally caught up with the lovely Joe. And what a treat it was. We’d been looking forward to it all day, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s in a big old house (bought by the comrades decades ago) overlooking the beach and it operates on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons for members and friends only. Not a sycophantic tosser or wanker in sight. Absolute Heaven. To quote Shane Jacobson, it felt as good as a pig in a pig!  A live band, a crowd of super friendly natives, and so laid back and roomy – and they finish each session with a standing rendition of L’Internationale. Too bloody good. We loved it.

Check it all out here.

We’ll post Adelaide: Act Three in a couple of days, once we’ve eeked enough time to process the last images…