Glass engraver Claire Bell of Masterton. PHOTO/GERALD FORD
By Gerald Ford
New Wairarapa resident Claire Bell is cutting new tracks in the art field with her work in the rare field of glass engraving.
Claire recently moved to Masterton from Auckland, and has brought with her a distinctive brand of art.
She is currently working on a series of animal pieces, like the sheep pictured above.
Claire was born in the UK and was interested in art from an early age.
For her A level qualifications, “I had to approach a completely different medium”, and she chose leadlighting.
After some instruction in glass cutting from her father, she was left to her own devices and “I stayed in the garage until I knew how to do it”.
Moving to New Zealand at aged 18, Claire studied painting and printmaking at the Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland, but she continued with leadlight pieces during her holidays.
Afterward she worked at Nash Glass in Auckland. She applied for a job as front of house, but ended up learning glass blowing, and was also able to incorporate her drawing skills in glass etching, both in a major collaborative project and her own work.
“I wanted to incorporate my drawing skills with the glass because one is so different from the other,” she said.
Claire was awarded a Creative New Zealand grant which enabled her to attend a three-week course in Frauenau, Germany, at the Bild-Werk studio founded by glass pioneer Erwin Eisch.
Claire was also able to follow in the footsteps of New Zealand glass artist John Hutton, famous for window engravings of saints and angels at Coventry Cathedral in the United Kingdom.
“We had almost bought a couple of glass panels of his (when I was) a kid.”
Claire was able to meet the late Hutton’s former apprentice, Jennifer Conway, and Hutton’s widow and daughter, with whom she stays in touch.
“They had rescued the panels I had seen as a child.”
According to Claire, there are few people who have taken up the skills Hutton learned in working with glass.
“There’s me, him and Jenny.”
At the end of June, Claire set up her studio near Masterton and she is now applying for public sculpture work and looking to get her work into more exhibitions. Her work can be found online at www.clairebell.glass.