THE GORDON FAMILY DECADES OF BREATHING
LIFE INTO ART
Born in Norway in 1961 to glass artists Alasdair and Rish Gordon, Eileen was inspired to work with glass. After completing a broad glassmaking education in the UK, which she coupled with subsequent work experience and further study, Eileen joined her family and emigrated to Australia. The early 80’s was a progressive era for the Studio Movement and glass experimentation in Australia, and Eileen spent a further three years studying at the Jam Factory Craft & Design in Adelaide. She went on to help establish the Tasmanian Glassblowers where she met Grant, who was managing a farm nearby. After gaining more experience overseas, Eileen returned to Australia. In 1990, Eileen and Grant set up the Gordon Studio Glassblowers in Numurkah, Victoria. The studio is now at home in Red Hill, in the heart of the Mornington Peninsula. Eileen’s pieces reflect her understanding of the difficult medium; they are skilfully crafted and yet deceptively simple. They show her love of nature and elegant forms, allowing light to give life to colour.
Born in Australia in 1959, Grant started out working on the land. He earned an understanding and respect for the cycles of life and the rhythm of the seasons, fascinated by how plants and animals fit into the environment by evolving and surviving without the assistance of mankind. While farming, Grant met Eileen Gordon and saw glassblowing for the first time. In his words, “I Fell into a Burning Ring of Fire”. In 1994 after droughts and floods, Grant moved from farming to full time glassblowing. With Eileen’s patient training, he slowly learnt the complex skills. Grant then joined the loving Gordon family of glass artists and developed the skills to be able to express his ideas. Grant loves the physical and mental challenge of working with molten glass, and the thrill of creating works that show who he is and where he has been.
Kevin Gordon creates complex glass vessels that exemplify his technical command of traditional glass-making processes; overlaid colour-blown glass is decorated through engraving, sandblasting and lathe cutting through layers of colour, then brought back to a high polish through hand and fire polishing. This approach exploits colour and light transmitting properties of glass to great effect. Some parts are translucent, others capture the light and the faceted sides refract light – creating a montage of visual impressions through the play of light and colour. Kevin comes from a family of glass engravers, who immigrated to Australia in 1980, and from whom he learned traditional techniques. With the development of his own techniques and processes, he has moved his work into his own contemporary approach to glass.
Cameron Gordon is a traditional realist artist. He is one of the few sign writers still working by hand. At the age of 18, Cameron started collaborating with Alasdair (his father) in Perth, Western Australia whilst studying commercial art and signwriting. There he established his own sign writing business and ten years later, he went to London to work on gilding public house signage and pictorial swing board signs. Cameron has a broad spectrum of skills across murals, stained glass, mosaics and sculpture. He has sandblasted feature art glass windows with Alasdair – such as the Orchid Hotel in Perth – and he worked on Milligan’s in Perth and Rosie O’Grady’s in Fremantle with his brother Kevin. Cameron is enormously proud of the family; in particular his parents who showed great courage in relocating a family of four kids to Western Australia on a shoestring. Today, he lives with his son Jasper in Fremantle.
Grant and Eileen’s eldest son Hamish is currently in Adelaide undergoing a two-year associate program at the JAM Factory. The course provides high-level skills and business training for artists and craftspeople and is also home to one of the strongest glass communities within Australia, offering many opportunities working alongside some of Australia’s leading artists. Prior to getting into the JAM Factory, Hamish trained at Gordon Studio Glassblowers working mostly as an assistant and creating his own works on the side when he could. Having grown up in the hot shop, he had always been in awe of his parents, uncles and grandparents, but it wasn’t until after he returned from a year long trip across South America that the spark was truly ignited. This has already provided many opportunities across the globe; learning and working in turkey and the USA among others, to keep him chasing his passion for exploring, may it be through travel or the material of glass itself.
Grant and Eileen’s youngest son Calum loves two things: glassblowing and snowboarding. When he is not experimenting on his own projects, Calum is assisting his parents in the Red Hill Studio as he feels his way into the world of glass. Calum was 19 years old when he started working in the studio and loves to create different coloured drinking glasses alongside experimental work with vases and platters. With a naturally creative mind and an ability to think inquisitively and innovatively, he has an exciting future expressing ideas with glass. It was a Tom Moore course that confirmed Calum’s intrigue and passion for the artform.
Born in the north of England in 1935, Rish was educated at Kenya High School in Nairobi before enrolling in the Edinburgh College of Art where she met Alasdair. After graduating she worked as a freelance engraver with Whitefriars Glass in London before joining Alasdair at Hadelands Glassworks in Norway in 1958. While raising four children – Susan, Eileen, Cameron & Kevin – Rish produced freelance watercolour paintings of the Norwegian flora and fauna. But during her early years in Kenya, Rish developed a keen interest in African wildlife and considerable abilities in watercolour and eventually she chose to go back to the medium of glass engraving as a vehicle for these visions. Over the years she has refined a sandblasting etching technique which is very much her own. Rish exhibits nationally and abroad, and has been commissioned for engraved presentation pieces for HRH Prince Philip, Bill Clinton and for Prime Minister Bob Hawke. She is also represented in the National Gallery, Canberra.
Eileen’s father Alasdair Gordon met Patricia ‘Rish’ Roddan at the Edinburgh College of Art – in 1954 – when she made a cheeky remark in Swahili about a rooster he designed for a French restaurant menu. He was 23 years old and a serendipitous path led him to specialise in glass engraving. The young couple moved to Norway to pursue this fascinating artform with Hadelands Glassworks, where Alasdair gained practical experience and researched new techniques such as sandblasting as a sculptural medium. Alasdair and Rish married in 1958 and established an engraving workshop in Bergen. Fifteen years later they returned to Scotland and opened a studio working mostly on commission, including gifts for presentation to the Norwegian Royal Family. In 1979, Alasdair fell in love with Western Australia and the family emigrated soon after, establishing the original Gordon Studio in Fremantle. In 2007 Alasdair and Rish were both nominated by FORM Australia as Living Treasures. Towards the twilights years of his career, Alasdair focused tirelessly on wheel-engraved cameo subjects, hoping that his work would help to sustain interest in the ancient artform. He has exhibited nationally and overseas, held engraving workshops, and his commissioned work includes many pieces for presentation to Royalty, public and corporate bodies. Alasdair peacefully passed away on the Mornington Peninsula in January 2019, proud as ever of the family’s achievements. While his artwork can still be enjoyed at The Gordon Studio Gallery in Red Hill, it is not for sale.
Address: 290 Red Hill Road
cnr. Dunns Creek Road
Red Hill VIC 3937 Australia
Phone: +61 3 5989 7073