“GLASS MAKING IS THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE – THERE IS NO END.”
Michael James Hunter, born 1958 in Norfolk, England is a master glassmaker with four decades experience. He earned his station in classical fashion, beginning at the age of 16, with a traditional apprenticeship as member of a team of artisans in the service of Wedgwood Glass. From there he ascended from the most basic tasks in the hot house to the rank of master blower. Michael feels that he received some of the best training in the United Kingdom available at the time, and is enthusiastic about a background which has provided him with a skill set almost unique in the UK; those abilities have allowed him to successfully make the cross-over into working in contemporary studio glass. “What is exciting about glass is I never stop learning; the more techniques I master the more creative and challenging designing becomes. It just continues to intensify the passion I have for this medium.”In 1986 Michael moved to Wales and to the employ of the Welsh Royal Crystal Company, where he was made a master and chaired a team. In 1989, Michael moved his family to Selkirk, Scotland to work for the Lindean Mill Glass Studio as a production master, working in the Swedish style of design and execution. Michael founded his own shop, Twists Glass Studio, in 1998 with his wife and studio mate, Susan. Within a few months he made national headlines when he collaborated with Asprey, the iconic British luxury brand, designing and executing elegant candleholders with delicate filigree twists for the company’s New York store.Michael’s first publicly acknowledged demonstration occurred in 1999 at the Broadfield House Glass Museum, in West Midlands, England. He was honoured in 2002 with the title, Scottish Artisan of the Year, by Balvenie, the premium Scotch whiskey brand. Since then, he has won multiple design awards for best collectable and best design to be sold in a museum or a gallery in the UK. Michael Hunter has exhibited his work extensively throughout the UK in solo and group exhibitions, including the Guild Hall London and the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). Twice he earned the honor of being chosen among the Distinguished Final Three of the British Glass Technology Award.In 2006, Michael presented his working techniques at the Wheaton Arts Paperweight Fest, Millville, New Jersey, on casting his Murrine “Beano” comic face canes. During the summer of 2006, he acquired a spot and a coveted bursary to study in a master class taught by Richard Marquis at Northlands Creative Glass Centre in Scotland. Since studying with Marquis, Michael feels that the pastorale technique, to which he was introduced, has advanced his efforts to be more innovative and has helped him with both critical enquiry and technical process. Michael’s demonstration, "What is a Paperweight?" at Wheaton in 2008 utilized the pastorale technique, examining the very boundaries of the medium. There Michael first produced a blown zanfirico Union Jack, and then flame-worked a lizard onto the peak of the weight, the lizard torso containing more than 250 tiny murrine face canes representing individual scales—these scales having been pre-formed on the pastorale plate prior to the demonstration. Another work, specifically titled "What is a Paperweight" has the British & American flags combined with two lizards at its peak, and is in the permanent collection of the renowned Bergstrom Mahler Museum. In 2010, Michael and Susan returned to the United States. At that year’s Wheaton Arts auction, which followed their demonstration, their donated glasswork raised close to $1,000.00. A trip to the Glass Art Society Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, was followed by another visit to Wheaton Village with Michael participating in a course offered by Pino Signoretto. Afterward, Michael remarked,"Watching Pino work was the high point of the year; it was as if time slowed down for the Maestro."Michael and Sue continue to live and work in Selkirk, traveling for exhibitions and demonstrations as their schedules allow. Michael’s working techniques also include quite complex cane work, all of which the artist taught himself through endless experimentation dating from 1981, when he first began to learn the complexities of the 18th Century English drinking glass stems. He says, "I am possibly the first person to commercially produce this type of stemware since the Victorian era". As a result of his patient trial-and- error methodology, he has become extremely proficient in both Venetian blown and French paperweight cane-making techniques, skills that he combines to produce a style all his own. Michael continues to explore the intimate relationship he shares with glass, and often tells collectors,"It takes about three lifetimes to master glass as the more you know the less you know."