Swedish glass­blow­ers set up stu­dio

Central Otago Mirror - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - JILL HERON

If it were not for the ef­fi­ciency of our New Zealand em­bassy staff of the early 80s, Swedish glass artists Marie Sim­berg-Hoglund and Ola Hoglund would prob­a­bly have been Aus­tralia’s gain rather than ours.

The renowned artists re­cently moved to Cromwell where they are set­ting up their glass­blow­ing stu­dio, adding a cer­tain lus­tre to the Cen­tral Otago arts scene.

Ola’s fa­ther Erik was a cel­e­brated glass artist, re­spon­si­ble in part for Swedish glass art be­com­ing recog­nised world­wide. Ola, who knew from a young age that he too would live by the craft, wished to move far enough away from his fa­mous fa­ther to make his own name.

He and Marie, who met in high school, set off and first found them­selves in Swazi­land set­ting up a stu­dio as part of an aid project. Cast­ing about for a more per­ma­nent base they wrote to both the New Zealand and Aus­tralian em­bassies.

‘‘We couldn’t seem to get any in­for­ma­tion out of Aus­tralia but the New Zealand Em­bassy was so help­ful, they sent us all the in­for­ma­tion and pic­tures of houses stacked on the hills in Welling­ton and the lovely old street in Arrowtown,’’ Marie said.

The charm­ing cot­tages of Arrowtown caught Marie’s eye and were never for­got­ten. When the cou­ple even­tu­ally ar­rived in New Zealand, Hok­i­tika was their first home, then Nel­son. Rais­ing two boys – who are now both glass artists – the cou­ple’s busi­ness savvy flour­ished along with their skill in craft­ing ex­quis­ite pieces of art. They have owned stu­dios and gal­leries in var­i­ous coun­tries – most re­cently In­dia and Aus­tralia – and ex­hib­ited lit­er­ally all over the world, gain­ing a con­sid­er­able fol­low­ing.

Cus­tomers have in­clude Bill Clin­ton and the Amer­i­cas Cup and Syd­ney Olympic gov­ern­ing bod­ies and in­di­vid­ual pieces can fetch over $15,000. In Nel­son, as their staff num­bers swelled to around 40 and the boys ma­tured, Ola and Marie be­gan mi­grat­ing each win­ter to a glass­blow­ing stu­dio they built in North Queens­land.

This past win­ter was their last at their well-loved trop­i­cal rain for­est haven which has had such an in­flu­ence on their work.

‘‘Our con­tainer has just ar­rived in Dunedin with all the glass­mak­ing equip­ment and tools in­clud­ing the 15 ton glass­melt­ing fur­nace. It has been sad, we have said goodbye to all our friends and cus­tomers there of 16 years but com­ing to Cromwell has been such a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and we are very ex­cited.’’

Bring­ing the stu­dio from Aus­tralia was nec­es­sary to set up in Cen­tral Otago, Marie says, as the glass busi­ness is as ex­pen­sive as it is chal­leng­ing. Equip­ment costs a small for­tune – Ola’s fur­nace is worth $100,000 alone -and some of the sand re­quired to make their glass has to come from Europe.

The glass-blow­ing process is no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult and no one piece can ever be repli­cated. Marie equates it to be­ing a clas­si­cal mu­si­cian – reg­u­lar prac­tice is es­sen­tial. With­out it the pieces would lack the high tech­ni­cal stan­dard and so­phis­ti­ca­tion that has made the Hoglund’s work so sought after.

The glass is made from sil­ica sand, some very clear which has had the iron re­moved by mag­nets, some slightly green like win­dow glass, which comes from Mt Somers in Can­ter­bury.

Peo­ple of­ten as­sumed the cou­ple bought ready­made glass in great blobs to start the process, not real­is­ing that they make it them­selves.

‘‘We melt a mix of sand, lime and sodium car­bon­ate in the fur­nace at 1380 degC for a min­i­mum of 12 hours.’’

Marie Sim­berg-Hoglund has set up a glass­blow­ing stu­dio in Cromwell with her hus­band Ola Hoglund.

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