About

My lifetime love of glass

I have had a love of glass for as long as I can remember. As a young child growing up I always admired stained glass windows in homes and churches. One of my earliest inspirations was a clown made of glass that my mother had bought in Europe. For many years I collected tiny glass (and glass-looking) animals, their clarity and fragility along with their unusual strength fascinated me. As a very young teenager I remember there was a shop in George Street in Palmerston North that sold glass gift ware and I would spend hours in that shop looking with wonderment at the beautiful pieces of glass. Many of the walls behind the shelves in that shop were mirrored and the glass sparkled and gleamed, coming to life as the light went through it. Whenever I had a gift to buy I went straight to that shop and it was a lovely excuse to browse the shelves of the beautiful glass objects. I still have a set of candle holders that I bought there and have treasured them for many years.I have been curious and creative all my life, trying my hand at many crafts. But I was always searching for "the one" that would totally enrapture me. Finally, I got a chance to try glass art.

In the beginning

All of my adult life I had a desire to work with glass, there were classes available but in those days one had to buy all the tools plus the materials, and on a low income and with small children at home the cost was far beyond my reach.

In 1999 I went to visit my sister for a holiday, she too has tried her hand at many crafts. When I got there she was so excited to show me what she had been doing - glass cutting, copper foiling and etching on glass. Oh my heart skipped and I wasted no time invading her workspace in the garage, asking questions and trying out this new and wonderful thing! The first thing I made was a triangle of glass to hang in a window or tree - 19 years later I still have my beloved triangle.

While I was with my sister I also tried my hand at glass etching. I made my daughter a candle holder with odd shapes of glass foiled together and around a mirrored base. When I got home I saved for my own glass cutter and some copper foil, flux and solder, I was given an old soldering iron and I made Christmas gifts of triangles in different coloured glass. I even managed to string them together so a line of triangles danced in the sun as they hung in verandas and trees of family members homes. Still unable to afford all of the tools to go to a leadlighting class,  I got some books from the library and tried mosaics using pieces of glass, for the moment making shapes to hang and doing mosaic work. I would often go into the leadlight supply shop in Palmerston North and buy little pieces of glass, look longingly at the beautiful windows and suncatchers hanging all around, coloured light dancing in all directions, dreaming of one day doing a class to learn how to make these wonderful things. For the moment at least, these activities  fulfilled my wonder of the beauty of glass, although unbeknownst to me, the best was yet to come!

The journey had begun

In 2002 I was talking to a friend who had done a course years earlier. The tools were collecting dust somewhere in his shed and he offered to loan them to me so I could do the class. I went straight to the leadlight supply shop with the most incredible level of excitement, the next class was due to start in 5 weeks so I enrolled. I counted the days as finally a life-long dream was about to happen. The day before the class was due to start I got a phone call telling me I was the only one who had enrolled in the class so it was being cancelled, it was unknown if any future classes would be held.   I was stunned as weeks of anticipation and excitement suddenly turned to overwhelming disappointment and frustration. 

A copper foiled Butterfly in stained glass.

I now had the basic tools, I was keen to learn and yet, it seemed, there I was stuck. I started looking on the Internet to see what I could find out about lead lighting processes, I went to the library and got every book they had on lead lighting - given that I had a very basic knowledge of copper foiling, I decided to start there. I bought some pieces of glass and after much reading and re-reading, and Internet searching I set to to teach myself. I drew up a pattern I liked and with much determination made a butterfly. This poor thing has been wired together a few times as I knew nothing then of reinforcing joints and the heavy wings made it so unstable.With much delight at my accomplishment, and with a very critical eye, I tried again, this time adding a wire spiral and a bit of reinforcing wire to the wings. I was away, I knew I still had much to learn but I had that wee bit of confidence to keep trying new things, and I did. I cut and foiled and soldered to my hearts content! Each piece I made required a stretching of my skills and often quite a bit of head scratching as I worked out the design challenges thrown up by my growing confidence. One of the lovely things about being self taught is that there is no-one to tell you that you are doing it wrong, or that something is not possible!

Some months later I did manage to do a course on leadlighting and made my first window. The process absorbed me, the possibilities in my creative mind were a seed that had had been sown and was growing day by day. I scoured the Internet for every possible piece of information I could gather, I got the books from the library time and again, reading, learning, constantly feeding this new creative life that had been born. After the course I started making windows for my house, from there people began to ask me to design and make windows for their homes, repair a china cabinet door and make suncatcher gifts. All of this afforded me more and better tools. My workshop grew, my passion grew, and from that growth sprung Aurora Leadlighting which has now grown into Suzi Brown Glass.

The continuing journey

Discovering lead lighting was like finding my soulmate thing to do. I just love working with glass as a medium, the colours and textures and range of combinations is just amazing. In 2003 a back injury put me into a wheelchair. As far as I knew a wheelchair was my future and glass work turned from a hobby to the foundations of a sustainable business as it was something that could be done sitting as well as standing. Over time I have worked my way out of the wheelchair but the passion for glass continues. Since beginning my glass journey I have expanded my skills to encompass kiln based techniques such as casting, fusing, and slumping, and in my latest window, sandblasting. I have discovered a great passion for making lamps, to see the way light travels through glass and the wonderment of turning on a new lamp once it has finished enriches my soul.  I have been experimenting with mixed media, using slices of agate as a feature of my lamps, and creating fused lamp panels have added a new dimension to the craft of lamp making, adding depth and dimension that have to be seen to be believed.