The accidental artist

HE is a world-renowned glass artist producing works that have ended up displayed in international galleries, museums and even part of Elton John's private collection. But Queanbeyan's Matthew Curtis admitted he never really had any intention of becoming a glass artists, he just fell into it.

"I went travelling for a while and when I came back I decided I wanted to work in a creative pursuit. I was trying to decide what creative work I wanted to do," he said.

"It just so happened that an acquaintance was looking for someone to help build a glass blowing studio and that's how I got started.

"I'm rather unusual in that I worked with number of people privately and did sort of an informal apprenticeship."

Since then, Matthew has been a regular exhibitor at Chicago's Sculpture, Objects, Functional Art and Design Expo. His work has been acquired locally and internationally by the likes of the De Young Museum, USA; The Ernsting Stifting Museum, Germany; National Gallery of Australia and even by Sir Elton John.

"[Sir Elton John] was in Sydney for a concert a few years ago. My gallery director went to see him and brought along a few images and he purchased a piece. He's now got three pieces," Matthew, 49, said.

"When the work gets acquired by a prominent collection, it's always very thrilling, indeed."

The father of two boys (Oscar, 13 and Hugo, 10) describes his style as "minimal", "structured" and "ordered". He is inspired by the "biological and organic architecture of plants".

It is a common theme that runs through his work and is evident in his contribution to 'The Tree' exhibition currently showing at the Canberra Glassworks.

"The work is called Xylem and is a reference to part of a plant structure, the cross-section of the stem. It's the internal plumping of a plant basically," he said.

"I like looking at structures in the world around us, whether that is in architecture or plant structures and extracting from that vessels or sculptural objects."

Matthew and his wife and fellow glass artist Harriet Schwarzrock both work from their Queanbeyan-based studio.

It's a partnership that works well on a personal and professional level as glass blowing often requires teams of two or three people to carry out the work.

"Having a partner who understands the process means you can rely on each other for some support," Matthew said.

"My work is quite minimal and tends to be structured and a bit more ordered. Harriet's work has a beautiful flowing and fluid quality. We work together very well, I'm inspired by Harriet's work and I guess we complement each other well."

And while their approaches to the medium are quite different, a mutual respect and understanding between the two is evident.

"It's a complex relationship in a way because there are always pressures between making money and making work and finding that right balance. Harriet's very supportive of my work and I am supportive of hers," Matthew said.

"We're not competing directly; I don't see us in that light. I'm happy for her successes, probably more so than my own."

Matthew Curtis's work 'Xylem' can be viewed at the Canberra Glassworks until May 8.

Related stories: Through the looking glass (part 1) 

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