Matthew Curtis and Harriet Schwarzrock's Defining Moments

Matthew Curtis and Harriet Schwarzrock's Defining Moments

You'd never pick it from the street but at the top end of Queanbeyan's Uriarra Road is every glass artist's dream home.

Taking up what was once a grassy backyard is a hot shop - a furnace, a heating chamber and ovens. Three steps up and through stunning wood-panelled double doors is a huge light-filled studio. A living quarters is "tacked on" to the front of the workshop areas, and for 13 years, has been the home of glass artists and husband and wife team Matthew Curtis and Harriet Schwarzrock.

Glass artists husband and wife team, Matt Curtis and Harriet Schwarzrock, in their studio in Queanbeyan.

Glass artists husband and wife team, Matt Curtis and Harriet Schwarzrock, in their studio in Queanbeyan.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

"It was once a biscuit factory," Harriet said of the rare find on the winding and busy route out of Queanbeyan.

"And we think it was also a Carpet Court at one point!"

Feathered by Harriet Schwarzrock.

Feathered by Harriet Schwarzrock.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

Formerly Sydney residents - they met at the opening of a glass exhibition at a gallery in Glebe in the early 1990s - Matt and Harriet moved to Queanbeyan in 2003 for the exact same reason so many other city-dwellers do: more space.

"We heard on the grapevine an artist was selling a property in Queanbeyan.

"It was just a really good fit because we would have been looking for a two car garage in Sydney - probably almost as far as Queanbeyan to the centre of Sydney given what we could afford!"

The new bigger space meant the artists had room for experimentation.

Blue Xylem by Matt Curtis.

Blue Xylem by Matt Curtis.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

"Because the building's so unusual out the back and there's so much space, it really allowed us to do different things with our work - Matt was able to really pursue larger sculptural work that we could never have worked on in the smaller spaces we were renting in Sydney," Harriet said.

Matt's artworks also feature in a casino in Macau, but locally you'll find them on display at the Sabbia Gallery in Sydney's Paddington, or at the National Gallery of Australia. Harriet's works can be found on display and for sale at Canberra Glassworks or at Craft ACT.

Pulse by Harriet Schwarzrock.

Pulse by Harriet Schwarzrock. Credit:Elesa Kurtz

Matt described his artistic style as "more structured and mathematical, exploring the architecture of living objects" while Harriet's was "asymmetrical, with fluid components that are assembled together."

"We both draw on the natural world but my work looks more at how things grow and fit together," Harriet said.

Midnight Sway by Harriet Schwarzrock.

Midnight Sway by Harriet Schwarzrock.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

Both said they had become glass artists "by accident".

"I like working with my hands, I like problem solving, so having a glass-blowing studio caters to those two things," Matt said.

Teal Thorax by Matt Curtis.

Teal Thorax by Matt Curtis.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

"And I'm no good in an office!

"I'd travelled a lot and seen a lot and I wanted to do something creative so when my friend Rob [Wynne, of Manly's Denizen Studio] called me up and said 'I want to build a studio, will you help me?' I knew it would be perfect."

Harriet, the daughter of a ceramicist, said she was fascinated by glass from the moment she saw an artist at work.

"My mum worked with ceramics so I had a bit of experience working with my hands," she said.

"Somebody at my school had done a degree in glass and said 'you should have a look at this' - so it was a little bit accidental but it was so engaging seeing the material in the hot shop.

"It was pretty addictive - it's fascinating when you see people work."

The couple are the starring artists of Canberra Glassworks' new exhibition, Defining Moments, opening on Wednesday. As part of the exhibition, each has been charged with working on an iconic location within Glassworks - Matt will produce a six metre plaster artwork entitled 'Arc' for the foyer, while Harriet will "fill the smoke stack with red" through a hanging piece featuring neon tubing and drawing on the fluidity of the ampersand.

The workshop lights will shine bright and late on Uriarra Road for the next few nights as both artists work to finish their pieces for exhibition. The launch of Defining Moments will coincide with the opening of the 2017 Ausglass Conference, (r)evolve, which will see hundreds of international and Australian glass artists, makers and collectors converge on Canberra for workshops and local exhibitions.

"The Glassworks was just an idea when we first came here in 2003," Matt said.

"It really acts as a focal point for the larger glass community - casters and blowers - where activities, working artists and workshops will come to the Glassworks and that's tremendously important.

"ANU has such a strong program - it's internationally-recognised - so the Glassworks gives that community of people who go through an opportunity to stay in the area."

Harriet described exhibiting in front of the nation's foremost glass artists "a little terrifying."

"But [guest curator] Aimee Frodsham has been amazing and has taken the approach of recognising different styles of work and the different points that have been defining moments for us," she said.

"And she's looking at little hints of our life working together - our little crazy life."

Defining Moments, 26 January to 26 March 2017, Canberra Glassworks, 11 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston ACT. For more information on (r)evolve, the 2017 Ausglass Conference in Canberra next week, visit

Bree Element is the life and entertainment editor at The Canberra Times

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