Helen Walsh (b. 1930) has been involved in designing and making glass since the early 1970s, and was at the forefront of the craft resurgence that followed soon after. Like many of those who were fascinated with glass at the time but had nowhere to learn the basic techniques, Helen devised her own learning by asking questions and experimenting with glass.
She asked the glazier who came to fix her broken window ‘how to make leadlight’ and was told that you ‘put the lead around a piece of glass’, which – to say the least – rather undersold the skill and precision required, and no mention was made of solder! Not to be daunted, Helen instigated ‘Araldite parties’, asking friends to help by holding the glass pieces against an existing window for the requisite 5 minutes until the epoxy went ‘off’. Needless to say, as arms tired, there were some quite disastrous (and hilarious) results.
Soon after this period of experimentation, Helen found E.L. Yencken & Co. in Gaffney Street, Coburg (Vic.) and, more importantly, Charlie Marshall, who was head of the lead light department. In Helen’s words, ‘he was a brilliant worker and I used to spend ages with him every time I went to Yenckens. I hung around and asked “WHY WHY” and he spent hours telling me why and how. So I owe a lot to him.’ And, to extend her skills, Helen attended Klaus Zimmer’s glass-painting classes at Caulfield (now Monash University) where she met and learned from Basil Barber, a visiting English master glass-painter. They got along famously and while travelling in the UK Helen stayed at his dilapidated mansion near London. She still has his gift of two 100+year-old pieces of glass as a memento of the visit and their friendship.
Fig. 1: Swing tag from ‘The Lead Balloon’, 1970s.
Working with a group of women at that time, she intended to set up a co-operative studio but ultimately opened The Lead Balloon at 108 Bridport Street, Albert Park in conjunction with the graphic artist Elana Zdane. The main focus of her business was designing, making and installing domestic leadlight, as well as restoring the Victorian and Edwardian stained glass and leadlight that abounds in the bayside suburb areas around Albert Park and South Melbourne. However, she also fulfilled commercial and church commissions. Two significant works were the major four panel ‘Fairies’ commission she created for Gill’s Grendon Nursery in Hampton (Vic.) in the 1980s in collaboration with Jenny Pyke of Regeneration, and the window she crafted to the design of stained glass artist Klaus Zimmer – his first church commission – for St. Louis de Montford Church, Aspendale (Vic.) in 1973.
Teaching has been a part of Helen’s career – in her Albert Park studio, at the Council for Adult Education, filling in for Derek Pearse, and running courses at Monash. Through her teaching she introduced many others to the art and craft of glass, including Graham Stone and Nick and Eva Georgiadis. A significant outreach to a younger (as well as older) generation was through her appearances on the Channel 7 (HSV7 in those days) educational program, This Week has Seven Days, with Shirley Shackleton. She is a founding member of Melbourne Artists in Glass.
Since leaving the Albert Park business in the late 1970s, Helen has continued to kiln form glass, with wall hangings, plates, bowls and platters becoming the canvas for her glass painting. She often uses float glass, a legacy from the time when coloured glass was in short supply and draws on her extensive travels, as well as photographic images from sources such as National Geographic. Helen explained that she ‘wanted to preserve and own [the photographs]’ and painting her interpretations on glass captured them for all time.
Fig. 2: Boys Fishing 1961, 500 x 500 x 8 mm float glass. Inspiration for this work was a National Geographic photograph, taken in the Cook Islands. ‘So entranced was I that am sure they were speaking to me as I reproduced them.’
In 2013 she was the featured artist at the Festival of Glass held annually at Drysdale (Vic.). Naturally, Helen’s has created leadlights that suit her Inter-War period home and she surrounds herself with unusual and quirky works of art, including a superbly drawn cartoon by Basil Barber. Outside her Yarraville studio a hand-crafted glass fountain gently flows to provide background music to the day’s work.
Few details are known about F.G. Anderson and the editor would be pleased to receive information that could be added to this entry.
F.G. Anderson was a resident of Essendon when he designed a window as a memorial to his mother, Mrs. L. J. Anderson, which was installed in the Forrest Street Methodist Church, Bendigo. She had been an active church worker and teacher in the Sunday school. The window was unveiled and dedicated by the Rev. T.H. Indian on Sunday 15 June 1941.
Reference: The Argus, 16 June 1941, p.2.
b. 1950, Lysekil Sweden
Immigrated with his father, Per Ivar Akerblom, to Australia post-Second World War. Arrived at Maribyrnong Migrant Hostel in Melbourne on a Sunday and used the local ‘Pink Pages’ telephone directory to find suitable employment. He began working at E.L. Yencken & Co. immediately, watching the experienced hands at first, before moving to cutting blocks of glass – 66 sheets in a block. His father worked for the window manufacturer, Stegbar and later Peter joined him there, cutting glass for house lots.
Akerblom started making leadlight windows in his spare time and Akerblom Snr. opened Leadlight and Art at North Road, Ormond where both men worked before Akerblom Snr. founded Armadale Stained Glass with Bruce Jones in 1974, then based in High Street, Armadale. Akerblom Snr. retired and Norman Beilby joined the firm. Akerblom, Beilby and Jones worked together for eight or nine years.
Akerblom ‘retired’ in 1986 and was working as a builder when he answered an advertisement for a leadlight craftsman at Caulfield Leadlight. He entered a short-term partnership with Warren Scanlan which lasted for the next 15 years, until Warren retired. The firm became Caulfield Leadlight Pty. Ltd. in 2002 and continues to operate under this name, although it is now based in the Berwick/Narre Warren area of Melbourne.
Last updated 10/o2/09
BEH19 Jan 2011
b. 1865 [U.K.] d. 1922 Melbourne, Vic.
George Henry Dancey was cartoonist, mural and stained glass designer, apprenticed to a leading London ecclesiatical designers, Clayton & Bell from the age of 13. He is rumoured to have worked on the windows for St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Melbourne, before leaving London for the colony due to ill-health, arriving in 1891. By 1894 he was employed as a political cartoonist at the Melbourne Punch, and chief cartoonist from 1998, a position he held (except for further periods of ill-health) until 1919. His skillful comments on the issues of the moment show his wit was equal to his artistic talents, with notable examples during the First World War. In 1916 he and Charles Nuttall held a major exhibition of their cartoons which travelled to London after a successful showing in Melbourne.
He was able to utilise his extensive skills as a artist and cartoon maker for windows and murals at Brooks, Robinson & Co., Melbourne, probably on a freelance basis. His most successful collaboration was with Brooks, Robinson’s resident stained glass artist, William Wheildon (1873-1941) who joined the firm in 1905 and became his close colleague and friend; Wheildon preparing the initial scale drawing and Dancey making the full-sized cartoon. They produced many of the firm’s most successful windows of the early twentieth century.
Dancey’s cartoons were so prized by the firm that they were stored carefully and re-used on numerous occasions until the 1960s when the firm closed. His cartoons reveal his obsession with drapery, believed to have been ignited by the Classical style of Sir Frederick Layton RA. Among his most successful cartoons was the Light of the World, his ‘Leighton-like’ draping of Christ’s robe distinctly different from Holman Hunt’s original that was Brooks, Robinson’s most popular subject of the first half of the twentieth century. It was only surpassed in the latter years of the firm by Dancey’s Good Shepherd.
Dancey’s designs for stained glass and murals usually appeared under the name of Brooks, Robinson & Co. however, his signature did appear on some of his murals, including the Hector Algenon Tause memorial (1916) at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Mentone (Vic.) and St. Michael Honour Roll at Christ Church Anglican, St. Kilda (Vic.) (1921). A few of his beautifully drawn cartoons survive in private collections.
He was an exhibiting member of the Victorian Artists’ Society c.1901-1910; Councillor VAS 1905.
Reaper and Sower, St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Woodend, Vic.
The Life of Christ, Our Lady of the Rosary, Kyneton, Vic. 1911
St. George, Christ Church, Murchison, Vic. 1915
Transfiguration of Christ, St. John’s Anglican Church, Toorak Vic. 1921
McCulloch, The Encyclopedia of Australian Art, 3rd ed. 1994, p.22; Fred John’s Annual of 1914; Age, 26 December 1922; Argus, 26 December 1922; Australian, 30 December 1922; Joan Kerr, ‘George Henry Dancey’, http://www.daaao.org.au/main/read/2014
b. 1924 Richmond Vic.
It was not until 1980 that Vic Burns became a student of Klaus Zimmer’s at Caulfield Institute of Technology. His first commission was eight stained glass windows for a (unamed) Thornbury church which began a 26-year career making 123 windows for 32 churches, chapels and schools. He has always worked in a home-based studio without assistants using leadlight, stained glass and dalle de verre methods of construction.
In 1986 Burns designed a stained glass window of ‘The Nativity at Uluru’ to be the cover of The Advocate Press. It received the Religious Press Association award for the Most Original Design of 1986.
Portrait of Graham Arthur (Capt. 1961), Hawthorn Football Club, Waverley, Vic. 1990
Christ Child with the Elders in the Temple, St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, Camberwell, Vic. 1993
Christ; Madonna (dalle de verre), Jesuit College Chapel, Kew, Vic. 1993
Mary McKillop and Caroline Chisholm; Portrait of Rev. Fr. Pedro Arrupe, St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Richmond, Vic. 1994, 1996
41 dalle de verre windows, St. Peter’s Chanel Catholic Church, Deer Park, Vic. 1997-2006
Christ’s Supper at Emmaus, St. Columb’s Anglican Church, Hawthorn, Vic. 2000
Stained glass window, Kilbreda College, Mentone, Vic. 2002
A Missionary Journey, Convent, Highgate, Perth, WA. 2002
Single dalle de verre window, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Malvern, Vic. 2006
Retired in 2008
Last updated 10/9/2009