Be­hind the scenes in our tro­phy-maker’s work­shop

NZ House & Garden - - INTERIOR OF THE YEAR 2018 -

You’ll of­ten find glass artist Emma Cam­den whizzing around Whanganui on her roller skates. That’s if she’s not show­ing off her moves on the in­door skate ramp her part­ner, fel­low glass artist David Mur­ray, built for her 50th birth­day. The cou­ple’s spa­cious home, a con­verted Ma­sonic Lodge in Whanganui, has room for both a skate ramp and the cou­ple’s glass work­shop, which fills the lower floor.

Skat­ing is Emma’s way of keep­ing in shape for the in­tensely phys­i­cal busi­ness of cre­at­ing cast glass works. Many of her works weigh 30-40kg, and she’s stand­ing all day, some­times in top-to­toe pro­tec­tive gear. “It’s cold and wet and unattrac­tive at times,” she says. “But when you’re stand­ing with a glass of bub­bly at an ex­hi­bi­tion open­ing, it’s all worth­while.”

Emma cre­ated this year’s In­te­rior of the Year tro­phies, which fea­ture her trade­mark sharp an­gles. Stairs were ap­pro­pri­ate, she says, sym­bol­is­ing “gain­ing mo­men­tum and get­ting bet­ter”.

There’s some­thing mag­i­cal about glass, says Emma. “I love the translu­cence of glass, the light, how the ma­te­rial comes alive.”

UK-trained Emma spe­cialised in stained glass at univer­sity, but has made her name in cast glass, which starts with a wax mould. “Any­thing I can make in wax I can make in glass.”

Molten glass slowly drips into the fin­ished mould in her on-site kiln over 24 hours and then cools in the kiln for five days to two months, de­pend­ing on the size of the piece. A re­cent power cut spelled dis­as­ter as the kiln cooled too quickly, ru­in­ing the work.

Cast glass looks craggy and rough when it’s bro­ken out of the mould and is fin­ished by grind­ing with di­a­mond tools, sand­blast­ing and acid etch­ing. “It’s quite stress­ful,” says Emma. “A tiny knock can put a crack in it and you’re back to square one.”

Emma’s works are avail­able from Master­works in Auck­land, Avid Gallery in Welling­ton, The Cen­tral Art Gallery in Christchurch and Gallery Thirty Three in Wanaka.

THIS PAGE (clock­wise from top) The tro­phies Emma Cam­den cre­ated for NZ House & Gar­den’s In­te­rior of the Year awards. Emma sits out­side her fam­ily’s home, a for­mer Ma­sonic Lodge in Whanganui (NZ House & Gar­den, Jan­uary 2002). The process starts with a wax mould; Wil­son the cat in­spects a work in progress. Emma low­ers the kiln over the mould.

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