Artist Emma Camden turns slabs of glass into luminous artworks

by Mary de Ruyter / 04 July, 2018

Emma Camden and son Miro, who’s a steampunk fan, with some of her glass artworks (from left): “Ann’s Houses”, “Stairs” and “Flyer”. Photo/Ken Downie.

Keeping up with Whanganui glass artist Emma Camden.

It’s a rare moment when you’ll catch Emma Camden standing still. More likely, she’s throwing herself into the physical process of casting glass or the rough and tumble of roller derby, or roller-skating across Whanganui’s bridges with kelpie Vincent running behind.

Happily, there’s room to move at home with partner and fellow glass artist David Murray, daughter Lola (a talented painter) and son Miro (a steampunk enthusiast). They live in a converted Freemasons lodge: downstairs a studio, upstairs an apartment, and a meeting hall that currently houses a skate ramp.

Camden, who was born in England, has been creating luminous, angular works since the early 1990s. She has exhibited around the world, and her pieces are in the collections of Auckland Museum, the Dowse Art Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, and galleries in Brisbane and Denmark.

Emma Camden’s “Stairs”, exhibited in The Central art gallery, Christchurch.

Working with glass made by Gaffer Glass in Auckland, she varies its colour thickness to create the appearance of density and lightness. “The works are heavy in weight, but some parts you can make thin and light, and other parts you can allow the eye to go right into it.”

Camden’s striking pieces riff on subjects such as architecture, history, home and death. In a few glowing pieces from the Passage series, it looks as if she’s actually captured fire.

Creating such beautiful works is full of “nasty, laborious” stages: hefting a 30kg slab of glass around inside a sandblaster cabinet, or grinding down a piece with a water-fed sander over four to five days.

“Tomorrow, I’m lifting a piece into a vat of hydrochloric acid, to put a sheen on the glass,” she says. “I’m wearing plastic clothing, welly boots and a respirator.”

Roller derby with the West Coast Bombers league keeps her fit; her skating name is Crystal Crush-Her. With Murray and another friend, Camden also co-owns Tree Gallery on Taupō Quay, where she was showing work as part of an Artist Open Studios series in March.

The gallery specialises in ceramics but glass will always be Camden’s first love. “Every time you look at a piece in another light, it changes in its character,” she says. “Glass is a magical medium to work with.” 

This was published in the April 2018 issue of North & South.

Latest

Jennifer Curtin: The feminist political scientist mixing rugby with politics
96422 2018-09-18 00:00:00Z Profiles

Jennifer Curtin: The feminist political scientist …

by Clare de Lore

Australian-New Zealander Jennifer Curtin says the lopsided nature of the Bledisloe Cup pales in comparison to the slump in transtasman relations.

Read more
Don McGlashan is out of the attic and taking flight
96439 2018-09-18 00:00:00Z Music

Don McGlashan is out of the attic and taking fligh…

by James Belfield

Don McGlashan is taking some old unloved songs on his New Zealand tour.

Read more
Are We There Yet? is the exhibition marking 125 years of women's suffrage in NZ
95961 2018-09-18 00:00:00Z Arts

Are We There Yet? is the exhibition marking 125 ye…

by Linda Herrick

The exhibition at Auckland Museum shows there is still ground to make up.

Read more
Mr Wiki: Mike Dickison is NZ's first Wikipedian at large
96030 2018-09-18 00:00:00Z Tech

Mr Wiki: Mike Dickison is NZ's first Wikipedian at…

by Elisabeth Easther

The entomologist will work on outreach programmes and recruiting editors to improve the sparse coverage of New Zealand topics.

Read more
Contemporary new cafe, Browne St, opens in Avondale
96454 2018-09-17 15:08:36Z Auckland Eats

Contemporary new cafe, Browne St, opens in Avondal…

by Alex Blackwood

New cafe, Browne St, combines Avondale's heritage with a modern fit-out.

Read more
The women's suffrage movement wasn't only a fight for the right to vote
96444 2018-09-17 12:23:48Z History

The women's suffrage movement wasn't only a fight …

by Sally Blundell

Suffrage was a stepping stone to other major social reforms for women.

Read more
Euthanasia: Australia is on the move
96401 2018-09-17 09:51:18Z Social issues

Euthanasia: Australia is on the move

by Graham Adams

Anyone keen to see assisted dying laws passed in New Zealand will be heartened by the increasing momentum of campaigns across the Tasman.

Read more
Broadcaster Heather du Plessis-Allan stands by her Pacific 'leeches' claim
96392 2018-09-17 06:30:40Z Social issues

Broadcaster Heather du Plessis-Allan stands by her…

by Colin Peacock

How some New Zealanders regard their Pacific neighbours was laid bare last week with comments from a radio host that she 'doubled down' on.

Read more