MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE remembers glass artist Klaus Moje: born Hamburg, October 5, 1936; died Canberra, September 24, 2016
CANBERRA glass is almost synonymous with the name of Klaus
In 1982, he was was invited by the then director of the
Canberra School of Art to establish a course in glass studies, which is still
unrivalled in the country. Within five years, the school became known
internationally for its work, largely due to Moje’s determination and guidance.
His impact in Australia since that time cannot be underestimated.
He arrived with an international reputation as a leading
glass artist. His work was – and still is – exhibited all over the world and is
in most important international public and private collections. His arrival in
Canberra marked a pivotal point in time for the growth of the glass movement in
Australia as he brought with him kiln-forming glass techniques and processes.
He brought a new level of professionalism and commitment to glass, and he
brought an impressive international network of artists working in glass.
Moje’s teaching style was a fusion of Bauhaus methods joined
with a broad range of traditional and contemporary teaching philosophies. He
gave students exposure to a wide range of techniques and methods of problem
solving and the course he established is now considered to be among the top few
in the world.
His arrival marked a pivotal point in time for the growth of
the glass movement in Australia. His own idiom of kiln-formed mosaic glass, is
taught alongside glass blowing, and joined the repertoire of glass-making
techniques in Australian studio glass. Many of his former students are now
successfully established as practitioners, and a number are at the forefront of
The nature of the Glass Workshop fosters individual
potential and creativity. There is a culture of open sharing of ideas and
everyone striving for excellence.
In “Australian Studio Glass” (1995), Noris Ioannou writes
that “the significance of the establishment of the Canberra Glass Workshop and
its education and practical training of glass artists over the past decade,
cannot be overstated… the establishment of workshop coincided with the shift in
glass activity from functional, limited production work, to emphasise one-off
conceptual or ‘glass art’.”
In June, 2000, Moje was awarded the prestigious US Glass
Arts Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“This is a significant milestone for one of the world’s
foremost artists working in the medium of glass,” the president of Glass Arts
Society, John Leighton, said.
“Klaus Moje is the first Australian to receive the award and
only the 12th individual.” The citation honoured his exceptional contribution
to the field of glass, as well as his influence as an artist, teacher and
mentor and the humanistic and philosophical values exemplified by his career.
Moje quickly established a scholarship for third-year
students to travel to America to study at the Pilchuck Glass School in the
state of Washington. He had been a regular guest lecturer there since 1979 and
introduced his students to the dynamic focus of the international studio glass
An International Master workshop in kiln-formed glass was
held in Canberra in 1988 that became a milestone in Australian glass history.
Extraordinarily, this was the first time such a workshop,
which brought master glass practitioners in kiln forming together, had been
Half the artists were invited from overseas, while the other
half were local. Master craft-artists shared ideas and techniques with local
artists and students in practical workshops and discussions. Personal and
working relationships were established. Moje joined two threads of his network
and they have remained as a permanent part of the international glass scene
Moje’s early technical education was as a glass cutter and
grinder in the family workshop. He obtained his journeyman’s certificate and afterwards
attended the glass schools of Rheinbach and Hadamar between 1957 and 1959. He
studied a diversity of techniques and practices and qualified as a master
glass-grinder and etcher.
During the period 1961 to 1965 he and his then wife worked
chiefly on the construction of stained-glass windows, often for prominent
Bauhaus-trained artists. These commissions were for churches and included a
cycle of thirteen meditational windows.
In 1971, they won the Official Prize for Science and Art for
the best single item at the Christmas Fair held by the Museum für Kunst und
Gewerbe, their first prize. The same year they won the Hesse State Award for
From 1969 to 1973, Moje represented the Arbeitsgemeinschaft
des Deutschen Kunsthandwerks at the World Crafts Council. Klaus Moje’s ability
to get on with people and to fill craft practitioners and collectors with
enthusiasm was important, as were his organisational skills – both attributes
he used to benefit the Australian glass scene.
Dale Chihuly invited the Mojes to the Pilchuck Glass School
to teach their working methods and techniques, beginning a fruitful and lasting
relationship with Klaus Moje and the school, and a strong personal friendship
with Chihuly. Following this, Moje was invited to teach at numerous schools in
Europe and the United States and as a result he received increasing
Before coming to Australia, Moje was a major force in the
European art-craft scene and since the 1980s he has had a significant role in the
American glass movement.
Klaus Moje demonstrated a remarkable generosity of spirit in
sitting on numerous advisory committees of national, state and local status. He
brought his extensive international network with professional artists and
contacts and introduced his students to this dynamic scene through establishing
a scholarship to the Pilchuck Glass School.
His determination and commitment saw the establishment of
the Canberra Glassworks 11 years ago.
In exploring the technical qualities of glass, including
colours, Moje worked closely with a leading glass manufacturer in the US. In
2005, at a lecture at the National Gallery of Australia, a principal of
Bullseye Glass, Lani McGregor, acknowledged the contribution he had made to
the development of its products.
She told the audience that without Moje’s interest,
knowledge and encouragement, the company would not have achieved the
international recognition it has for its products and its support of glass
Moje has more recently worked on larger, flat wall panels
with abstract patterns and intense colour fields made from a number of elements
arranged in a grid.
In 1995 the National Gallery of Victoria organised a major
retrospective exhibition that travelled to Sydney, Canberra, several venues in
the US and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, Germany.
In acknowledgement of his achievements, Klaus received
numerous awards. He received an Australian Creative Fellowship Award for
1995-97, from the Australia Council. He was named “The Canberra Times” artist
of the year in 1998 and in 2001 he was selected as one of “The Canberra Times”
75 people who has changed the life of the city. In the same year, he also
received an Australia Council Emeritus Award. In 2004 he was honoured with the
Urban Glass Lifetime Achievement Award.
In March 2006 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia
and in that same year was named a Living Treasurer: Masters of Australian
Craft, a program that celebrated the
achievements of influential and iconic figures.
Klaus Moje is survived by his wife, noted ceramicist
Brigitte Enders and their two sons, and a son and daughter from his first marriage.
The artistic world of glass has lost one of its most
esteemed members: Canberra has lost a major creative force and we are thankful
for the beautiful works of art he left for our enjoyment.
This obituary was first published at citynews.com.au on September 25 2016.