- Eddie McKay
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.
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!
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.