Canberra’s global star of glass has died

MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE remembers glass artist Klaus Moje: born Hamburg, October 5, 1936; died Canberra, September 24, 2016

Glass artist Klaus Moje.

Glass artist Klaus Moje.

CANBERRA glass is almost synonymous with the name of Klaus Moje.

In 1982, he was was invited by the then director of the Canberra School of Art to establish a course in glass studies, which is still unrivalled in the country. Within five years, the school became known internationally for its work, largely due to Moje’s determination and guidance. His impact in Australia since that time cannot be underestimated.

He arrived with an international reputation as a leading glass artist. His work was – and still is – exhibited all over the world and is in most important international public and private collections. His arrival in Canberra marked a pivotal point in time for the growth of the glass movement in Australia as he brought with him kiln-forming glass techniques and processes. He brought a new level of professionalism and commitment to glass, and he brought an impressive international network of artists working in glass.

Moje’s teaching style was a fusion of Bauhaus methods joined with a broad range of traditional and contemporary teaching philosophies. He gave students exposure to a wide range of techniques and methods of problem solving and the course he established is now considered to be among the top few in the world.

His arrival marked a pivotal point in time for the growth of the glass movement in Australia. His own idiom of kiln-formed mosaic glass, is taught alongside glass blowing, and joined the repertoire of glass-making techniques in Australian studio glass. Many of his former students are now successfully established as practitioners, and a number are at the forefront of the field.

The nature of the Glass Workshop fosters individual potential and creativity. There is a culture of open sharing of ideas and everyone striving for excellence.

In “Australian Studio Glass” (1995), Noris Ioannou writes that “the significance of the establishment of the Canberra Glass Workshop and its education and practical training of glass artists over the past decade, cannot be overstated… the establishment of workshop coincided with the shift in glass activity from functional, limited production work, to emphasise one-off conceptual or ‘glass art’.”

In June, 2000, Moje was awarded the prestigious US Glass Arts Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“This is a significant milestone for one of the world’s foremost artists working in the medium of glass,” the president of Glass Arts Society, John Leighton, said.

“Klaus Moje is the first Australian to receive the award and only the 12th individual.” The citation honoured his exceptional contribution to the field of glass, as well as his influence as an artist, teacher and mentor and the humanistic and philosophical values exemplified by his career.

Moje quickly established a scholarship for third-year students to travel to America to study at the Pilchuck Glass School in the state of Washington. He had been a regular guest lecturer there since 1979 and introduced his students to the dynamic focus of the international studio glass program.

An International Master workshop in kiln-formed glass was held in Canberra in 1988 that became a milestone in Australian glass history.

Extraordinarily, this was the first time such a workshop, which brought master glass practitioners in kiln forming together, had been held worldwide.

Half the artists were invited from overseas, while the other half were local. Master craft-artists shared ideas and techniques with local artists and students in practical workshops and discussions. Personal and working relationships were established. Moje joined two threads of his network and they have remained as a permanent part of the international glass scene

Moje’s early technical education was as a glass cutter and grinder in the family workshop. He obtained his journeyman’s certificate and afterwards attended the glass schools of Rheinbach and Hadamar between 1957 and 1959. He studied a diversity of techniques and practices and qualified as a master glass-grinder and etcher.

During the period 1961 to 1965 he and his then wife worked chiefly on the construction of stained-glass windows, often for prominent Bauhaus-trained artists. These commissions were for churches and included a cycle of thirteen meditational windows.

In 1971, they won the Official Prize for Science and Art for the best single item at the Christmas Fair held by the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, their first prize. The same year they won the Hesse State Award for Applied Art.

From 1969 to 1973, Moje represented the Arbeitsgemeinschaft des Deutschen Kunsthandwerks at the World Crafts Council. Klaus Moje’s ability to get on with people and to fill craft practitioners and collectors with enthusiasm was important, as were his organisational skills – both attributes he used to benefit the Australian glass scene.

Dale Chihuly invited the Mojes to the Pilchuck Glass School to teach their working methods and techniques, beginning a fruitful and lasting relationship with Klaus Moje and the school, and a strong personal friendship with Chihuly. Following this, Moje was invited to teach at numerous schools in Europe and the United States and as a result he received increasing international recognition.

Before coming to Australia, Moje was a major force in the European art-craft scene and since the 1980s he has had a significant role in the American glass movement.

Klaus Moje demonstrated a remarkable generosity of spirit in sitting on numerous advisory committees of national, state and local status. He brought his extensive international network with professional artists and contacts and introduced his students to this dynamic scene through establishing a scholarship to the Pilchuck Glass School.

His determination and commitment saw the establishment of the Canberra Glassworks 11 years ago.

In exploring the technical qualities of glass, including colours, Moje worked closely with a leading glass manufacturer in the US. In 2005, at a lecture at the National Gallery of Australia, a principal of Bullseye Glass, Lani McGregor, acknowledged the contribution he had made to the development of its products.

She told the audience that without Moje’s interest, knowledge and encouragement, the company would not have achieved the international recognition it has for its products and its support of glass artists.

Moje has more recently worked on larger, flat wall panels with abstract patterns and intense colour fields made from a number of elements arranged in a grid.

In 1995 the National Gallery of Victoria organised a major retrospective exhibition that travelled to Sydney, Canberra, several venues in the US and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, Germany.

In acknowledgement of his achievements, Klaus received numerous awards. He received an Australian Creative Fellowship Award for 1995-97, from the Australia Council. He was named “The Canberra Times” artist of the year in 1998 and in 2001 he was selected as one of “The Canberra Times” 75 people who has changed the life of the city. In the same year, he also received an Australia Council Emeritus Award. In 2004 he was honoured with the Urban Glass Lifetime Achievement Award.

In March 2006 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia and in that same year was named a Living Treasurer: Masters of Australian Craft, a program that  celebrated the achievements of influential and iconic figures.

Klaus Moje is survived by his wife, noted ceramicist Brigitte Enders and their two sons, and a son and daughter from his first marriage.

The artistic world of glass has lost one of its most esteemed members: Canberra has lost a major creative force and we are thankful for the beautiful works of art he left for our enjoyment.

 

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