When Elizabeth McClure first arrived in New Zealand, she was still just in her twenties. She had a post graduate degree in Glass Design from the Edinburgh College of Art and was fresh from three years teaching glass and working in design in Japan. Within a year of being here, she’d toured the country teaching glass techniques in every main city and was working at Sunbeam Glass in Ponsonby with some of the best glass artists in the southern hemisphere at that point in time: Ann Robinson, John Croucher and Gary Nash.
Over the next years, Elizabeth was instrumental in developing the glass programme at the Canberra School of Art, where, as President of Ausglass. she convened their first ever international conference. But she’s mostly been in NZ ever since. Her lovely Scots accent is still there, though she’s pretty much an honorary Kiwi now. She’s won many prestigious awards over the years, and is known for her broad range of work – from small and exquisite perfume bottles to large-scale architectural work.
A couple of years ago she moved from her home in Westmere to Matheson Bay. "The artist community in this area has been so welcoming and inclusive. It's been a great move into a new chapter in my career," she says. She’s now working out of a studio at Morris & James Pottery. Surrounded by other artists working with dangerous machinery and white-hot kilns, she’s in her happy place.
After a coffee at the gorgeous new Brick & Vines café at Morris & James, Elizabeth takes me through to her studio to see some new work. She’s blown a range of fat round vessels with several different coloured layers of glass; these are her ‘blanks’. Now, as with most of her glass, the real work begins.
First she sandblasts the surface, then applies laser-cut masking in rounded shapes (created for her by local designer Mark Lewington), then brushes on the glass enamels. The piece is fired and the process is repeated again and again. The effect is very similar to the image which inspired it – the dappled shadows of leaves she noticed one day on her lounge-room wall.
Ongoing work also includes the cut-glass effects that she’s well-known for – blanks are incised, engraved and blasted with stone, diamond and sand to create highly considered patterns. Some are dotted with incredible precision, some criss-crossed with meticulous lines – this exposure of their layers of colour create beautiful depth.
Elizabeth has many more irons in the fire, however. “I’ve just got back from a teaching tour at three different universities in Tokyo,” she says, “and they’ve invited me back next year, too. I caught up with some of my students from years ago – I’d love to get some of them over here. I’m also curating a new display space for Morris & James… and Vicky Fanning and I are putting together a new glass show at the Vivian Gallery next year. 2017 is going to be busy!”
Elizabeth’s work can be found at: www.thevivian.co.nz | www.fhegalleries.com Contact : e.mcclure.glass @gmail.com