Ray Ansin Art Glass

Three Rose Gardens in Glass by Ray Ansin
Above: Rose Gardens in Glass, Ray Ansin

Ray Ansin was one of the first New Zealand glassblowers to produce art glass, way back in the mid-1960s. By 1969 he was sufficiently well-known to be attracting commissions, and his most notable commission from this period was a novelty glass coffee-set. This set was remarkable in that it could only be used left-handedly. If you tried to drink from the mugs using your right hand, a hole to the left of the handle made this impossible! Added to this, the coffee pot also worked backwards - you had to hold the spout and pour via the handle.

In 1969 Ray had built his first glass tank, at Ngaio, Wellington. He was encouraged by a local potter, Keith Morton who had just returned from the USA and had been inspired by the growing studio glass movement in the States. Together they experimented with making glass using a tank, having a great deal of fun without much productivity. Ray preferred lamp working techniques. He first began exhibiting dimensional sculptures in glass in Wellington in the early 1970s. In 1976 he held an exhibition named "A parcel of Paintings" in Wellington (he is a painter as well as a glass artist). At this exhibition he displayed a series of glass spheres with solid glass spines radiating up to 200mm from the central ball. These must have looked amazing, because there were small coloured light bulbs inside each sphere which made the spines glow at their tips, and the whole system was connected to a musical presentation such that each lamp flashed or glowed in response to the music.

Known for his rustic inventiveness Ray once resorted to using a kerosene blow torch at the Regent Theatre in Greymouth to melt and blow glass christmas balls at a public demonstration (1979). Among Ray's other notable exhibition pieces was "Time bomb in a bottle" shown at the Academy of Fine Arts, and "Bottle bottle bottled..." which is shown below and was highly commended in the prestigious Phillips Studio Glass Show in 1985.

Bottled Bottles by Ray Ansin
Above: "Bottle bottle bottled ..." by Ray Ansin, 1985

This amazing glass creation has 14 bottles each blown inside each other. There are no joins and every bottle is loose and moves. It was one of an edition of five.

In the early 1980s Tony Kupfer arrived on the scene in New Zealand from the USA, and the studio glass ball started rolling in this country. Since 1995 Ray has been making superb millifiore beads like the ones shown on this page. Today he has a studio overlooking Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand.

Beads by Ray Ansin
Above: "Gardens in Glass" beads by Ray Ansin

Ray originally trained as a chemist and his first job was as an analyst in the milk industry. He became a glassblower almost by accident. Whilst attending a course in Lower Hutt where Jim Judd was teaching the glassblowing module of the course, Jim fell ill and Ray was asked to supervise the remaining four days of the course. Some eight months later Jim Judd was going abroad for six months and he asked Ray to fill in during his absence as scientific glassblower with the Institute of Nuclear Sciences. And so Ray Ansin became a glassblower.

Bead by Ray Ansin
Above: "Garden of Daisies in Glass" by Ray Ansin

A career change later found Ray working on historical research projects for the Historic Places Trust; and yet another career change took him to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries starting as a Technical Officer but rapidly promoted into the scientist gradings. Throughout his complex career, Ray has worked as an artist and carried out private research. His career changes were interspersed with periods when Ray worked full time on his art. But his art is not just in glass. It includes painting, pottery, jade carving as well as millefiori glass. And he has been recognised and awarded in each of these fields; indeed one of his jade pieces is shown in Russell J. Becks book "Mana Pounamu New Zealand Jade" which was published in 2002.

Spring Flower Gardens in Glass
Above: "Spring Flower Gardens in Glass" by Ray Ansin

Using colored glass imported from around the world, Ray melts and shapes the glass to form petals and staymens. These pieces are melted together to form a flower and then drawn into a long thin cane. This cane is then cut into many small sections known as "millefiori" or "thousand flowers". Each tiny flower is corporated into a glowing red hot bead. Layer upon layer is built up of colour detail between coatings of clear crystal. Some of Ray Ansin's paperweight-beads have over 14 separate layers.

References and Further Reading

1: Mana Pounamu New Zealand Jade by J. Becks, published 2002. This book includes an example of Ray Ansin's jade carving.

2: The Art & Soul of Glass Beads by Susan Ray and Richard Pearce, published April 2003.

3: Flameworking: Creating Glass Beads, Sculptures & Functional Objects by Elizabeth Mears, published April 2003.

4: Pounamu: maori Jade of New Zealand by Roger Neich published 1997.

The items below are for sale right now on eBay - we thought you would like to see these examples.

Ray Ansin is one of the artists featured in the author's book about New Zealand Glass. This book covers both extensive historical information and current glass artists in New Zealand, with some superb photographs and explanatory text.

New Zealand Glass book
INFORMATION about New Zealand Glass !
Including many original catalog pictures and dozens of photographs.
NOW available - this is the first paperback edition of the book
and it covers many contemporary New Zealand glass artists as well as
the history of glass in New Zealand, Crown Crystal Glass and New Zealand bottles.

Price US$29.90 plus pp.

Bagley glass

INFORMATION about Bagley Glass!

The first edition of this book sold out in a few months. The 2nd Edition is now available and has received a rave response - more information, more and better pictures, new items identified as Bagley for the first time, a helpful index, and more compehensive coverage; - and even better news - the price is lower! This book is a truly comprehensive guide to help you identify Bagley Glass. Click on the picture for more details.
2nd Edition book US$33.90 plus pp.

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