Make a visit to Keith Grinter in Whangarei and you will be greeted with a delightful fascinating experience of extreme heat, cheerful banter and fast moving creativity!
It was a pleasure to make the trip north and spend a few hours watching him create his distinctive vases from shards and feel the energy of a working glass blowing studio. The glass blowing process is intense, not just in the temperature sense but also the fast pace and physical nature of blowing the molten glass to create the desired shape and size.
Glassblowing is a glass-forming technique that involves inflating molten glass into a bubble (or parison) with the aid of a blowpipe (or blow tube). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glassblowing.
Keith has a distinctive glass blowing style which is identifiable by the 'pick-up technique'. I watched him break shards of glass, place thin glass wires on heated surfaces and get himself sorted before the blowing even began...every piece had its place....waiting to be 'picked-up' later in the process.
Dipping the blowpipe into a crucible of molten glass from inside the furnace, gathering enough to create with...the blowing process begins. Keith works the amber molten glass...moving around the studio like a dance, going from the furnace to reheat and back to the bench top to roll and blow. When ready he rolls the glass blob onto the shards and wires forming spontaneous patterns, lines and surface design.
He begins to blow, creating a bubble like piece at the end of the pipe. It is important to work fast but still with precision so as not to loose the creation at this stage. Keith forever turns the pipe making sure the molten glass doesn't droop. He continues to blow the work with his breathe to the desired size. Wooden paddles, wads of wet telephone books, large tweezers and oversized scissors are all used to form the final shape of the artwork.
The final step to the process is to transfer the piece to another rod (so it is now stuck via the base). Once attached Keith works on cleaning up the lip of the vase. He gives the rod an ever so frightful tap and the vase falls off onto a soft surface. He carefully transfers it to the annealer. Inside the annealer the vase cools slowly over a period of days stopping it from cracking or shattering.
It was an absolute privilege to visit Keith and watch this process as it is to represent him here at Kina.
We currently have a large collection of his vases on display via the store and online. One of my favourites is the glass tumblers...they come in all colours of the rainbow and grace our window at the moment....be sure to take a look if you are close by New Plymouth.
Text: Luella Raj
Photography: Katie O'Neill Foto