ALL ABOUT ME
I'm passionate about most forms of art, including dance and music, but the visual arts and specifically painted and fired, leaded glass is my obsession (Its known as 'stained glass' in English, distinct from simply 'leadlight'). It's what I spend most of my time making. However as you will see in these web pages I also make works on paper and continue a long preoccupation with assemblage, debris-art and mixed-media, sometimes venturing into what can only be called sculpture. This ABOUT page will give you some insight into who I am and where I've come from
For more news and views, comments on Sydney's art exhibitions, politics, my work practice and life in general, look under BLOG in the menu at the top of the page.
And for an in-depth look at my working life you may find Wayne Pearson's interview of interest. This is the transcript of an interview which Wayne conducted as part of his Master of Arts at Sydney College of the Arts. The comments and photographs formed the basis of a series of very fine portraits (on glass) of noted glass artists, including myself.
In the making of a stained glass window there is a lot of 'wastage' of glass. I save as much as I possibly can for use in other windows but storage becomes a huge problem and as the pieces get smaller and smaller they are no longer of use to me. Nor can they be 'recycled' in the same way plastic or cardboard can be.
So rather than send all these tiny pieces of coloured glass to landfill, I'm more than happy to pass them on to someone who can use them for mosaic or some other creative endeavour. Just call me on 02.92800492 or email me jhamiltonATstainedglass.com.au to arrange a pick up time. I also keep boxes of larger offcuts for sale at $10-$15 per box (more or less) Call me! (It would help if you brought your own box)
This is my Red Bubble website. Red Bubble is an international online artist community and a print-on-demand website where all images are available as greeting cards, prints of various sizes and even calendars. There is a catalogue of images there of my works in glass and other media and also photographs of things I find interesting and which others may also.
All the Red Bubble products are of excellent quality, well packaged and posted promptly anywhere in the world. They're also very reasonably priced.
And for Christmas, a two day 20% sale! Use this code: joy-JHamilton
(ends midnight Dec.12th)
A Personal History
In 1974 I graduated from the National Art School, Randwick College of T.A.F.E. with the Interior Design Diploma (Credit). It was a 4x year full time course at that stage and a gruelling one at that. But many of the tutors, including Lesley Penny, Roy Lewis, Nicholas Munster and Ken Reinhardt, among others, were truly inspiring pushing us all beyond what we imagined we were capable of.
People have said to me over the years they can see a "Randwick School" influence in my work and I can now see what they mean; not only in aesthetic terms but in the finish of an artwork- the attention to detail and fine craftsmanship that was drilled into us still comes through and is something I do subscribe to.
The foundation year was common to each of the three strands of Industrial, Interior and Graphic Design and it was the strength of the graphic design training that landed me a job at Taronga Zoo.
My first job out of College was the position of Staff Artist for Taronga Zoo, near Mosman on Sydney Harbour. It was a beautiful location in which to work and I thought that I was very lucky indeed. Most of my time was spent illustrating birds, fish and animals for identification labels, for education or for publicity. Naturally the illustrations were required to be as accurate as possible and the resource material was readily at hand so I made a point of getting out into the grounds as often as possible.
At one stage there were three graduates from Randwick College on staff: Louise Pinnock and Barbara Tap had joined the team.
Lettering and signage also formed a large part of the job description: this was graphic art in the days when 'cut and paste' meant exactly that! It was very hands-on and excellent for honing my painting skills. Eventually the Art Dept. did acquire a process camera but not until after I had moved on and not without much lobbying from Marina Bishop and Stanley, my replacement.
After 3yrs there the job was losing its excitement and I felt the need for something more challenging and which offered more of a future. We placed an ad in the Sydney Morning Herald for an artist to join the team and while checking that to see how it ran I noticed an adjacent advert looking for an artist to train in glass: I decided to take along my portfolio and give it a try. An interesting comment from Daryl Clements, PRO at that time: "It's like the fizz has gone out of the lemonade!" I would miss the community of the Zoo but it was an opportunity too good to pass up.
The Studio of Stephen Moor
I received my training as a glass painter under Stephen Moor, at his Strathfield studio from 1979-82. His cutter, a semi-retired glazier named Clarie, taught me to cut glass (old school: no tungsten wheels, no grinders!) and Stephen instructed me in all the aspects of designing for a window, preparing a cartoon, translating that to a cutline, selecting glass, painting and firing. He was somewhat impressed with my graphic skills, remarking one day "At last! someone who can letter as good as I can!" (We restored a LOT of painted inscriptions).
Religious windows were our staple. I learnt a great deal about liturgical arts under Stephen and my early years as a junior Sunday School teacher at Georges Hall Baptist Church stood me in good stead.(At 14or 15 I set myself the task of reading the Bible from cover to cover!) Occasionally the studio received a domestic or a commercial commission and over time I gradually took on more responsibility, eventually taking a commission through to completion from Stephen's scale drawings.
However it wasn't until after I left Stephen Moor's studio mid-1982 that I learnt to lead up a window. All the construction, puttying and all the site work was carried out by the leadlighters next door, Bolton Glass. So thanks to a few quick lessons from my friend Steve Lancaster at Bolton's, I managed to stay ahead of my students at The Cottage.
The Cottage, Mosman
On leaving The Studio of Stephen Moor I took a teaching job at The Cottage, a community adult education centre in Hale Rd Mosman under the direction of Pam Kidney. I had been recommended for the job by Warren Langley, who was teaching there at the time. The Cottage was pivotal in my career and I learnt a great deal while teaching: both about the craft and about myself.
It was a place where one could expand one's ideas: they were about developing the tutor as much as developing the student. One particularly memorable weekend was a skills exchange between tutors where we each became students, learning completely new craft techniques and media from colleagues working at the top of their field, such as Audrey Simpson (fibre)
I had students from all walks of life, from politicians to plumbers, even a retired Headmistress. The artist Frank Hinder, who had become a friend around that time, joined my leadlight class for a term: a humbling and enriching experience. Frank was a truly great Australian artist and a wonderful human being, completely unaffected by fame.
The Cottage hosted regular exhibitions of teachers' and students' work and I struck up lasting friendships with two other teachers: Tanja Cunninghame (visual arts for young people), who later moved to Glenn Innes, and Owen Thompson (watercolour) who moved to Hazelbrook. I taught Colour and Design there as well as Leadlighting and on the encouragement of Beth Mazengarb and Bunty George, members of Altrusa, I eventually started running classes at my new shop in Lane Cove.
During these years I was living with my wife and two children at Riverview. It seemed a natural evolution to establish my business there, converting the garage to a studio. I registered the name Hamilton Design and in October 1982 launched my career with a solo exhibition "Pictures at an Exhibition" in that house. A mix of drawings, paintings and stained glass, it was a successful show with lots of people attending over the 10 day period and a total of 7x works sold, which I found encouraging.
As the business grew it became clear very quickly that my career was developing and I needed more space and also more exposure: a more commercial working environment. So we took the difficult step of selling that beautiful house on Tambourine Bay and acquiring a shop on Burns Bay Road: a small but established art gallery, the Ross Davis Studio. For the first 5yrs we lived above the shop, expanding the building as we went along. Hamilton Design became Hamilton Design Glass.
Running a retail business was a fascinating, at times frustrating and time-consuming but ultimately rewarding experience. My wife Rosie was very hands on, assisting in many aspects of the day to day running of the business. It soon morphed from strictly my studio to a gallery: the Hamilton Design Glass Gallery.
The careers of many glass artists were launched through the Gallery and we became a fixture on the cultural circuit: "a little bit of Paddington in Lane Cove.". The Gallery was the first in Sydney to sell the work of Peter Goss (QLD), Sallie Portnoy (USA/Sydney), Jill McGuiness (USA/Sydney), Patrick de Sumo(France/USA) and Gene Polt (W.A.). The watercolourist Owen Thompson had his first solo exhibition at our Gallery, as did glass artist Shirley Gibson, who filled the shop windows with draped fabric and woven lead, leaving the locals scratching their heads and wondering "what goes on in there??". We took on The Australian Craft Show from its inception, exhibiting a stable of artists and growing in reputation over the years. Regulars could be certain they would find something unique and very special, often stopping by on the way to a wedding to select a gift! (The Gallery giftwrapping was instantly recognisable).
Everything has its time of course and with my divorce the Lane Cove property was sold and I moved into a warehouse directly beneath the Anzac Bridge, down the road from the Fish Markets.
There was a small coterie of artists working there and I found it a fascinating environment. The property boasted the oldest wharf on Sydney Harbour with Hank and Annie's yacht a constant work in progress. The studio space, formerly leased by Cherry Philips and Maureen Cahill, I shared with Chilean-born glass artist Monica Valenzuala, a mature-aged graduate of Sydney College of the Arts and sadly recently deceased.
It was a beautiful spot: we were right on the water's edge and could watch pelicans and other seabirds anytime of the day.
But as the Sydney Olympics approached my landlord decided he wanted to convert my studio space into accommodation for visiting relatives and build a barbecue by the water. So once more I was on the move. And that brought me to Elizabeth Street, Central.
I was reluctant to take studio space on the first floor of a warehouse but good alternatives were just not offering at the time. The available space was well-lit, had high ceilings and was positioned adjacent to a goods lift which opened onto a loading dock in Kippax Street. It was a great location and seemed to be a pretty funky space. The reality proved somewhat different, with the goods lift working only about half the time! And over the past decade and a half vehicle access/parking has become more and more difficult.
Knot Gallery , in studio 107, was a hub of creativity and took the lead in Sydney's underground art scene from 2001-2005. Knot was established by a small group of visionary artists in the building including Keh Ng, Michelle McCosker, Chris Hancock AKA MonkFly, Matt Venables AKA Mercedes Malone and Alasdair Nichol, who acted as director. The core of Knot Gallery artists is now operating in Redfern as 107 Projects. G &A Gallery was located on the 2nd floor during 2005-06 and quickly established an enormous reputation for leading the conceptual art movement before closing rather abruptly. For several years 505 was famous for its Monday night jazz, with such luminaries as Inga Liljestrom, Chris Abrahams and many internationals passing thru Sydney performing to a full house. The club has since relocated to Cleveland St retaining the name 505, it's former suite number in Hibernian. Cameron and Kerry have recently re-established a theatre in the building, the Old 505.
Suite 104, next door to me, is a rehearsing studio where the likes of Ghoul, Bear Hug , Seekea and most recently The Preatures have worked out. On the other side of me, one of the more interesting neighbours for the past few years has been contemporary art mega-star Ben Frost . Ben eventually moved on and Studio 103B is now occupied by the very talented performance artist Yiorgos Zafiriou. Dance 101 on the first floor was run by the gorgeous Rosano Martinez and Maya Sheridan for several years and hugely popular. They have since relocated to the World Bar in Kings Cross. People and businesses come and go... so far I've clocked up 16 years at these premises.