Published by New Zealand Glass
Tuesday, 5 April 2011
James Walker 1948 - 2011
One of the pioneers of glass in New Zealand has
died in Wairoa.
James Walker graduated in commerce from the University of
Michigan in 1971, then went to travel the world. He first came to New Zealand in
1974 to join his brother on a boat. He worked selling water beds in Auckland,
and would go to Australia periodically to renew his tourist visa (he eventually
James was interested in glass. He saw Dennis Prior
selling leadlight lampshades at Cook St market. At John Barleycorn Gallery he
saw some of John Croucher's early experiments in glass, made while John and Eric
Ineson were working at Claude Neon. James first met John Croucher on the day in
January 1976 that John signed the lease on the Sunbeam Glass studio in Jervois
James became a partner in Sunbeam (pictured at
right in 2005). Lots of different types of glass were being made by a range of
artists. James became increasingly focused on architectural glass, and after the
first NZSAG community seminar in Hawkes Bay, where he taught a class in glass
etching, James decided to quit Sunbeam and pursue a career in architectural
glass. He did well, working a lot with architect Ian Athfield, until things went
pear shaped in the 1987 stock market crash.
James participated in the
NZSAG run workshops by overseas artists including Ed Carpenter, and also met
German artists Ludwig Shaffrath and Johannes Schreiter in Melbourne - he worked
as teaching assistant for Schreiter, and both Germans were to be significant
Attendance at Pilchuck in 1989 lead to contacts with Czech
artists Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova, and from 1992 James lived
and worked in the Czech Republic working in a range of media, but especially
creating sculptures in cast glass.
James returned to New Zealand in 2004, and settled
in Wairoa. In 2007 he was the William Hodges Fellow at the Southland Museum and
Art Gallery in Invercargill, where he continued work he had developed in the
Czech Republic, including a fascination with the diagonal yellow stripes used as
warning symbols in Czechoslovakia. He is pictured at left with 'VenusMaximus'.
Sadly, James developed mesothelioma, attributed to his working with asbestos
in his early glass days in Auckland. He died in the Hastings Hospice on April
5th surrounded by family and friends.
I first made contact with James
after he returned to New Zealand in 2004, when he visited me and viewed my
collection. He was generous with information in a long interview I had with him,
and he continued to keep in touch by email, readily answering questions about
glass history and offering information. As Grace Cochrane, Evelyn Dunstan and I
were working on our texts for New Zealand Glass Art, James was immensely
helpful in providing information, comment and corrections.
will be sadly missed.
Posted by Stuart at
I had the pleasure of knowing James from junior high
school and high school in Chattanooga, Tennessee at Northside and City High
School, respectfully. I believe the last time I saw him was at our 40th class
reunion in September, 2001. It was the Saturday following 9/11. James had
arrived in the US before the attack so wasn't grounded by the grounding of
planes. I doubt very seriously if James had a clue who I was, but I remember him
well. It was wonderful to find out he was known as a master in his field of
trade. As a high school kid, I would have predicted James would have become a
lawyer or a college professor. It is something to discover the reality of how
one achieved the level of recognition he achieved. We who knew him were the