Since graduating from the Wanganui Polytechnic (now Ucol Wanganui) Diploma in Glass and Production, Katie Brown has been blowing glass everywhere! In her final year at Wanganui Katie met Josh Simpson, an internationally renowned glassblower who offered her the opportunity that all young glassblowers dream of undertaking. At the end of 1999, Katie left New Zealand bound for Massachusetts, USA, where she found herself assisting in a 'state of the art' glassblowing facility and working with an experienced team of glassmakers and glass designers. This introduction to full-scale production work involved the many and varied techniques of hot glass manipulation which served to increase her passion for hot glass.
Inspired by her international experiences, Katie has returned to New Zealand to set up her own hot glass kiln and studio. In the last several months she has developed a series of works that include blown glass lights, jewellery and vessels. These pieces combine traditional techniques with Katie's unique design skills and exhibit both solid strength and intelligent design. Through her use of colour and cold glass techniques such as sand-blasting, the work exhibits a sense of 'delicate yet deliberate' structure. Katie Brown is inspired by the natural world and delights in resolving this world within all the various glass techniques she has mastered and like her world-class tutors she is still experimenting and stretching the envelope.
I have always been fascinated by glass... a substance at once hard, brittle and fragile, yet capable of amazing flexibility and functionality. The way it can, as a prism split light, and yet as fibre-optic cable take that same light and keep it intact as it travels around the earth allowing us to communicate at unimaginable speeds. And when we walk along a beach, we are surrounded by it and hardly ever realise it's the same stuff. Totally astounding.
I recently had the opportunity to watch Katie in action at the studios of Ucol Wanganui, while playing taxi for a photography student friend of mine who was doing a photo assignment and chose Katie as her subject. I was astounded at Katie's abilities.
The room was extremely, uncomfortably hot, which I suppose could be considered normal, in a room that has 2 blast furnaces, 2 hotboxes and a hell of a lot of sun beaming in through the massive windows.
Skillfully assisted by Kerry, Katie crafted a number of amazing bowls and lamps, plus some starfish and other assorted small items, right in front of us. From a glowing glob of molten glass about 9cm around the middle, to a bowl fully 30cm across in about 45 minutes, it was amazing to watch how she shaped the glass as though it were putty.
I saw a number of Katie's artworks at a exhibition at a local Art Gallery and was amazed at her diverse range of styles and designs. My personal favourites would have to be her unusual lamps which look somewhat like a frozen teardrop, with strings of fine glass wrapped around them. I was very gratified to see, at another recent showing of Katie's work, that she tried a suggestion of mine, which was to try out using different coloured glass strings, instead of keeping them all clear or frosted, but otherwise uncoloured.
Overall, if you can get your hands on some of Katie's work, you'll be impressed by it, and proud to own it. The price is a little out of my budget, but I feel it well worth it if you can afford it.
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