Gifted Northland artist Kathy Shaw-Urlich mourned

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Kathy Shaw-Urlich 1954-2016.
Kathy Shaw-Urlich. Photo / Robert Urlich
Kathy Shaw-Urlich. Photo / Robert Urlich

Northland's renowned Māori stained glass artist Kathy Shaw-Urlich has died peacefully after a long battle with cancer.

Kathy was born in England, but as the daughter of an RAF pilot and a former Miss Northland she affiliated to Ngāti Hau and Te Uri o Te Aho o Ngāpuhi.

She made her first visit to New Zealand at the age of 26 to visit her Māori grandmother, and as a proud descendant of Patuone she eagerly explored her Māori heritage, and especially her connection to her grandmother's whānau of Ngāti Hau and Whakapara Marae.

Although never one to promote herself, Kathy in fact achieved considerable success.

She topped her class and won a national competition, as well as a scholarship, while studying at the Swansea Institute, in Wales, before completing a Master's in Fine Art at Central St Martin's in London.

In 1990 she exhibited glass panels at New Zealand House for the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi, and held another solo exhibition, Te Po me Te Ao (The Dark and the Light), at the Commonwealth Institute in London.

She was commissioned to design the inaugural window for the prestigious Human Genome Project campus near Cambridge.

Her tribute panel to Rahera Heta Windsor, kuia of Ngāti Ranana, in London, was one of 100 pieces selected by the Corning Glass Museum in New York, from 2500 international entries, to feature in New Glass Review, the world's leading journal of innovation in glass art.

In 2007 Kathy married Rev Rapata Urlich and moved to New Zealand, where she and Robert established a home and studio for her glass-making, at Whatuwhiwhi.

Kathy Shaw-Urlich at her art exhibition 'Celebrate Matariki 2012'. The piece to her right is entitled 'Tokerau Matariki'. Photo / Petrina Hodgson
Kathy Shaw-Urlich at her art exhibition 'Celebrate Matariki 2012'. The piece to her right is entitled 'Tokerau Matariki'. Photo / Petrina Hodgson

Kathy connected with the glass community in New Zealand, and made many friends, personal and professional, both locally in Northland and nationwide. She exhibited her work in solo exhibitions and in group shows.

Most of her public commissions are in England, but she made a suite of work for St Isaac's Church, the wharenui and the wharekai at Whakapara, the latter made with the support of a Creative NZ Te Waka Toi grant.

She designed a Passchendaele memorial window for All Saints' Church in Kaeo, though she did not live long enough to complete the commission. Her works are held in many private collections in New Zealand, as well as England, Wales, France and Iceland.

'The Price of Milk', part of Kathy Shaw-Urlich's art exhibiton 'Celebrate Matariki 2012'. Photo / Petrina Hodgson
'The Price of Milk', part of Kathy Shaw-Urlich's art exhibiton 'Celebrate Matariki 2012'. Photo / Petrina Hodgson

News of her death has been greeted with a great sense of loss by those who are proud to own her work, and by all those who loved and admired a warm and wonderful woman who bore her increasing illness with strength, faith and courage.

Moe mai rā, e hine, te tohunga karaehe.

Kathy was farewelled at Haititaimarangai Marae, Whatuwhiwhi, on Thursday, followed by cremation.

- Written by Stuart Park, former Auckland War Memorial Museum director

- Northland Age

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