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Featured Artist
Paperweight Collectors Association Inc.



FEATURED ARTIST THIS MONTH:
MICHAEL JAMES HUNTER

Editor: Angela Bowey

Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Marilyn Monroe (click picture to enlarge)

Michael Hunter's fascination with cane-work has led to some outstanding works of art within his canes. The paperweight above has a portrait of Marilyn Monroe in the centre cane — a very good portrait too. Michael loves birds, so they often appear as themes in his paperweights. This paperweight has an owl depicted in the central cane, again a portrait rather than a silhouette.

Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Owl (click picture to enlarge)

This owl is one of Michael's favourite birds. To make such a portrait in hot glass and then draw it out into a cane with a consistent image all the way through requires a very high level of skill. One of Michael's comments that we should bear in mind is "Because cane working involves discipline the challenge is to make each piece with meticulous precision and execute control in every movement."

Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Marilyn Monroe
(click picture to enlarge)
Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Owl
(click picture to enlarge)

Most picture canes found in paperweights are silhouettes, not portraits. To make a silhouette cane of say, an animal, usually involves a mold shaped like the animal which is used to produce a dark glass shape, this is surrounded by a contrasting coloured glass and the resulting cylinder shape is pulled out into a cane. To make a portrait like those in Michael Hunter's paperweights is a far more skilful and complex task. In 2006, he gave a presentation at Wheaton Arts Paperweight Fest on the making of his Murrine clown face canes, another of his portrait canes but made entirely at the furnace (made differently to the Marilyn & Owl canes).

Michael's exceptional skills derive from his training and research over many years. His career has crossed many boundaries in the glass world. Through his own research and experimentation Michael has built on the knowledge of other Maestros and from his training at the leading glassworks in the UK. His original training with Wedgwood Glass gave him one of the best groundings in glass working and design. Since those days Michael has moved from art glass factory production to the world of studio art glass and has sought out the best to observe their skills. He has taken part in masterclass presentations given by maestros Richard Marquis and Pino Signoretto. And he in turn has given demonstrations and presentations at leading venues: Wheaton Arts Millville USA, Broadfield House Glass Museum, Stourbridge UK, Tacoma Museum of Glass WA, and others.

What does all this mean in terms of the quality of Michael's work? We have seen how much importance he places on avoiding any unintentional features in his glass. His skill level is superb to achieve this mastery. Then there is the glass itself, which is lead crystal (24%) obtained from the Dartington Crystal factory and shows the brilliance and clarity that only comes from lead crystal. And then there are the designs — classic French and Venetian techniques used in ways that are unique to Michael. He doesn't confine himself to paperweights — his art glass candlesticks, bowls, figurines and sculptures stand in their own right as award-winning creations. The three examples shown here demonstrate this.

These candlesticks are based on a concept Michael saw in the Throne Room of the Game of Thrones (a television drama). Each candlestick is 7" high.

 
Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Candlesticks
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Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Venetian Patchwork Technique
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These vessels use a Venetian patchwork technique. Each of these measures 16" tall and 6" wide (approx.) and each patch is comprised of Michael's canes combined to form a piece that is fused together with other patches and then blown and shaped. In February this year the Saatchi Gallery in London is hosting an exhibition of Michael's patchwork designs.



Michael's love of birds is evident in this delightful blackbird comprised entirely of Michael's canes and created using the Venetian technique known as zanfirico, where a row of canes laid side by side is melted together to form a sheet and then shaped to the design. The original name for zanfirico is vetro a retortoili which was invented in Venice in 1527. These birds are 7" long.

 
Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Duck
(click picture to enlarge)

The picture below shows an owl face paperweight made up from Michael's canes:

Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Owl (click picture to enlarge)

Fortunately for us, Michael loves creating paperweights, and he does it so very, very well. Part of the secret is the lead crystal glass he uses. Part is how he makes his own "pucks" of lead crystal ready for use in his paperweights (ensuring perfect glass every time). But by far the greatest part is the ingenuity and meticulous care that Michael applies to his weights. Some of his lizard paperweights, like the one he created for exhibition at the Bergstrom Mahler Museum of Glass, have scales made up from over 150 clown face canes in rows.

Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Lizard Union Jack 1
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Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Lizard Union Jack 2
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These two examples show Michael's lizards made up of clown faces. They meaure 4" high and 4.5" wide. Through experimentation over many years. Michael has taught himself the skills of cane work, and has advanced the art to new levels. These two close up pictures show the incredible detail in these lizards.

Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Lizard Union Jack Close-Up
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Paperweight by Michael Hunter: Lizard Union Jack Close-Up
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Through all this, Michael has been supported by his wife Sue, whose management skills in particular have helped to keep their business "Twists Glass" succeeding when others have struggled. Twists Glass was nominated for many awards since it was opened in 1998. In 2010 they won the Scottish Arts Council award for Professional Development; and the year before that they were winners of the BCTF Award for Excellence (2009). Michael's work has been exhibited in many countries and many prestigious venues such as the Bergstrom Mahler Museum; the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; Wheaton Arts, Millville; the Murano hotel, Tacoma WA; and the Broadfield House Glass Museum in Stourbridge, UK.

Michael James Hunter
Michael James Hunter
(click picture to enlarge)

Michael's work can be seen in numerous public and private collections and museums. At present there is a display of Michael's work in Art Elder's exhibition at the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Art, Houston TX. You can also see his glass displayed on a range of specialist glass websites as well as his own www.michaeljameshunter.co.uk. Michael's studio, Twists Glass in Selkirk Scotland, welcomes visitors. You can contact Michael by email at michael@michaelhunter.orangehome.co.uk or telephone the studio at (+44) 175 023195.



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