ARTIST SERIES INTERVIEW | LAVA GLASS
After meeting in art school, artist Christine Robb and Lynden Over, an award-winning master glass artist, worked together to bring the creative vision that is Lava Glass to life. The New Zealand duo has been creating and collaborating together since 2002, when they transformed an empty space into a one-of-a-kind world-class gallery, award-winning cafe, and even a garden that has gained national significance down under.
From trying to capture the essence of the New Zealand landscape in glass to becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral certified glassblowing studio, staying connected to the dynamic environment around them has always been a throughline in their work at Lava Glass.
To get to know them better, we caught up with Christine and Lynden early one morning (their time) and talked all things art, New Zealand, and how they have become role models for the next generation of artists to be more sustainable than ever before.
Wagner: What inspired you to work with glass? What do you love about it?
Lava Glass: Glass is a really exciting medium to work with, it’s got an amazing fluidity to it, and I find it really exciting because you’re basically playing with color and light and doing that with a hot, molten sauce. Christine and I have been working together on our designs for over twenty years, but it takes years, if not decades to get a handle on how to manipulate the material. You’re always learning something new when working with glass.
Wagner: For those of us who haven’t been lucky enough to experience the New Zealand landscape yet, can you describe it a little bit?
Lava Glass: The landscape here is rugged and ever-changing. You can drive from one side to the other and in that space, you’ll see the ocean, mountains, rolling hills, plains, and lakes — it’s just so diverse in such a small space. We’re constantly inspired. The lighting also creates a unique color palette, and we really like to work with colors. Putting the colors of the New Zealand landscape onto our glass pieces has been our life’s journey and we love working with the new flora and fauna which all have their own colors. So we really try to manipulate some of the colors in the glass to represent New Zealand.
Wagner: Is there a certain place or part of the landscape that really inspires you and your work?
Lava Glass: We live in Taupo, New Zealand, near a place called the Central Plateau and it’s got the biggest lake in the southern hemisphere. It’s very volcanic, so there are huge mountains and geothermal streams — I mean, who couldn’t be inspired by living here? It’s pretty wonderful. We live in an artist’s palette.
Wagner: Is skiing or outdoor adventure a large part of your lifestyle?
Lava Glass: Yes, we’re about an hour and a half from the ski fields, which is actually an active volcano. We’re not super skiers, ha. We often do one of the big walks through the national forests and love to be outside in the natural environment.
Wagner: Tell us a little bit about being the world’s first carbon-neutral certified glass blowing studio? What was the motivation and what did that process look like for you?
Lava Glass: Looking after the environment we love so much was the key factor in us going carbon neutral. Going through the whole certification process wasn’t just about turning off the furnace. There is a lot more to it once you get started, like the packaging we use is now paper instead of plastic bubble wrap; all our rubbish is calculated and offset. It’s been an amazing journey and it will be forever. One of our new projects has been planting trees. We’ve planted over 30 hectares of native trees to form a big corridor of native flora and fauna. So, it hasn’t just been about turning the studio carbon-neutral, but how we can make art totally sustainable for generations — just like glass is a generational piece of art.
Wagner: How does it feel to have your artwork on a pair of skis and how did you choose the graphics?
Lava Glass: Fantastic! We looked for the contrast between the snow and the colors. The Antipodean Winter topsheet reflects our own ski fields because they are above treelines and don’t have trees, just rocks and snow. The Tongariro topsheet is the river that flows beside the ski field and into a big lake; Fiery Mountain represents our fiery mountains, the volcanoes; Huka Falls are the huge falls created by the Tongariro that flow out to the sea. So, they all have meaning.
- Words by Katherine Englishman