Behind the scenes in our trophy-maker’s workshop
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.