Klaus Moje, founder of Australian National University Glass Workshop in Canberra, dies
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Klaus Moje, founder of Australian National University Glass Workshop in Canberra, dies

He introduced the world of glass to Canberra and, in the process, introduced Canberra to the world.

Artist Klaus Moje, who founded the Glass Workshop at the Australian National University School of Art, has died at the age of 79 after a few months of ill health.

Canberra Glassworks founder Klaus Moje with general manager Beverly Growden as artist Sophia Emmett works in the hotshop.

Canberra Glassworks founder Klaus Moje with general manager Beverly Growden as artist Sophia Emmett works in the hotshop.Credit:Jeffrey Chan

Considered a giant in the world glass art scene and the "grandfather" of Australian studio glass, Moje pioneered a fused glass technique using specially developed glass rods.

Invited to set up a glass program at ANU in 1982, he created a workshop program unlike any others at the time, focused on fusing and coldworking techniques, rather than just glassblowing.

Klaus Moje, Untitled, 2010. Fused and cold worked glass.

Klaus Moje, Untitled, 2010. Fused and cold worked glass.Credit:Rob Little

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It was a program that emphasised technical skill as much as conceptual thinking, and today, the ANU's Glass Workshop is considered a leading glass centre.

Current head of workshop Richard Whitely said Moje began Canberra's glass art trajectory "on a very different page to what had existed, particularly in North America, until that time."

"He really empowered the individual student to develop their own voice rather than just mimic other people's processes," he said.

Moje was also instrumental in setting up the Canberra Glassworks in the former Kingston Powerhouse in 2007, following a concerted campaign for a workshop and gallery for the capital's emerging glass artists.

Klaus Moje, Untitled, 2015. Fused and cold worked glass.
Photo: Rob Little

Klaus Moje, Untitled, 2015. Fused and cold worked glass. Photo: Rob LittleCredit:Rob Little

Today, it's an institution that has attracted an increasingly dazzling array of new and established glass artists from Australia and around the world.

On the occasion of the Glassworks' seventh anniversary two years ago, Moje said the institution had become far bigger than could ever have been imagined.

"It was an overwhelming project but it's got international interest in the Glassworks, which is fantastic," he said.

"Here we are now with an institution where everyone can come and see glass art, do glass art and the art prospers. We still have the feeling that we are only at the beginning of what we can achieve."

He said the Glassworks had helped make Canberra a tourist drawcard and destination for artists.

"The prospect of the next few years is quite fascinating. We have opened a door to the indigenous community, we have opened the door to international artists involved in our work, so the sun is shining onto us," he said.

Moje also maintained a prolific practice throughout his career, exhibiting in group and solo exhibitions all over the world.

He retired from teaching more than two decades ago, and had been living and working on the south coast until his illness.

He was appointed an honorary Officer of the Order of Australia in 2006 for his service to visual arts.

Arts curator Nola Anderson said Moje would remain in the memories of countless Canberrans who had learned from him.

"There are so many students who would remember his mentoring," she said.

"You only have to look at how many people were exhibited in the Glassworks from ANU to see how many Canberra connections he had."

Born in Germany in 1936 to a family of glass workers, he studied glass art Rheinbach and Hadamr, and began his artistic career creating carved and polished glass sculptures, before discovering fused glass techniques that would come to define his work.

His works are held in hundreds of private collections, and in more than 60 public collections both in Australia and internationally, including the National Gallery of Australia, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.