Tony Kuepfer's Bottles
30 September 2006 - 21 December 2006
I started collecting New Zealand glass in 1979 but it wasn’t till 1993 that I realised I might find earlier pieces second-hand. I still buy pieces from exhibitions but as a long-time frequenter of junk shops I also greatly enjoy trying to find and identify earlier pieces of glass. TradeMe has opened new opportunities and most of my acquisitions these days are made there. These might be pieces made before I started collecting, or just pieces I couldn’t or didn’t buy when they were new. My collection now ranges from the humble beginnings of Reg Kempton, our first hot glass artist, to the sublime heights of one of Ann Robinson’s cast masterpieces, representing most of those who have made hot glass in New Zealand and many of the cast glass artists.
Tall bottles with thin necks are a distinctive part of the glass art of Tony Kuepfer. My first junk shop purchase was a tall bottle labelled as being by Tony Kuepfer. I had never seen anything like it before. But then I began to see others, until I had quite a few – thirty at last count. Tony says he might have made about 250, so I haven’t quite cornered the market, yet. Because they are so distinctive, I can now spot them a mile away. Tony made these over much of the time he was at Inglewood, at least between 1979 and 1986.
When the 25 year old American glassblower arrived with his Kiwi wife in 1973, there was no tradition of studio hot glass in New Zealand. They went to Taranaki in March 1974 - some friends had mentioned the old church at Inglewood – and set up a studio, gallery and residence. Tony made his first hot glass in NZ in 1975.
At Inglewood, he taught others, laying the foundation for New Zealand's hot glass movement. His studio continued at Inglewood for nearly 15 years, and provided many New Zealanders with their first chance to buy studio glass and to see it being made. Tony was a true pioneer, who inspired, taught and stimulated many later glass artists, and who first began educating New Zealanders to buy glass as art. His influence continued through his teaching in Whanganui, and through his ongoing involvement in glass. Tony still makes glass occasionally. He plans to build a kiln and get started again soon. Maybe there’ll be more tall bottles.