When Whanganui glass maker Greg Swinburne isn’t making his own cold worked pieces, he enjoys putting his skills as a polisher to work for some of the River City’s leading practitioners.

Greg says having the right diamond tools and other accessories is a crucial part of his quest for the perfect finish to large works by leading Whanganui glass artists including Emma Camden, David Murray and Katie Brown.

When he needed diamond grinding wheels to add texture to his works, which were mainly based on line and form, he turned to the internet. And after tracking down a range of mainly diamond tools and equipment for the glass sector he began his own importing and distribution business, GS Traders.

He’s now importing and distributing a wide range of tools and accessories and is constantly on the lookout for new product lines. Diamond products currently available include handpads, sandpaper, sawblades, flexible pads, point sets, bands, grinding wheels and saws and he also imports flatbed grinder disks, grits and polishes and sandblasting guns.

Greg has also developed his own felt polishing pad and says early results in terms of efficiency and quality of finish are encouraging.

His interest in glass making developed during study at Northland Polytechnic, where he gained a Diploma in Applied Arts (Sculpture). When the Northland glass programme ceased he moved back to his home town, Whanganui, and continued with the city’s UCOL programme, focusing on glass blowing and exploring line and form. His current work still uses some of the skills he developed during ten years decorative sandblasting.

“I see myself using a rather self-limited sculptural language, not unlike Picasso’s Blue Period or Yvonne Rust in Northland limiting herself to three colours for a period,” says Greg.

He had five pieces included in Cut, an exhibition last September at Christchurch’s Form Gallery, and was also included in the 2008 Waikato Annual Glass Sculpture Exhibition RE:FRACTION. Galleries that stock his work include Whanganui’s Chronicle Glass gallery, Form in Christchurch, Tamarillo in Wellington, Statements in Napier and Burning Issues
in Whangarei.

Greg says the city’s glass community offers a supportive environment. “It’s great to be able to sit down and have a good conversation about glass and to work on sorting out any technical problems.”

When he’s not developing his own ideas and techniques, Greg says he aims through his importing business to help other artists set up their studios with basic, reasonable quality equipment at reasonable prices – “taking care of the technical issues so they can concentrate on the creative side”.

“It’s about helping artists and craftspeople to become successful in their chosen medium and to provide them with the tools they need to express their ideas or manufacture works without having to be concerned about the process.”

But nothing quite compares with the buzz he gets from taking a large piece, raw from the kiln, and achieving the kind of finish that makes it worthy of a place in leading international exhibitions and collections.

And after four years working on Emma Camden’s sought-after pieces, he has won Emma’s praise as “one of the best polishers in the business”.

- By Carol Webb