'Crystal Crusher' rolls two passions together

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WHANGANUI PEOPLE know her for her passion for roller derby, but Emma Camden is now revealing her other passion: cast glass.

Camden's exhibition, Now, is on display at the Sarjeant On The Quay's i-Site gallery until March 2016. It's a retrospective of her work over the past 12 years.

It's rare for Camden to have an exhibition in Whanganui as her work is mostly shown and sold outside of Whanganui, including overseas. Her last exhibition was at SOFA Chicago in the United States.

Camden has been making glass for more than two decades, but took up roller derby only five years ago.

"There is absolutely nothing that my two personalities have in common with each other, except that both have to be very strong."

While the strength needed for playing the high-contact sport of roller derby is obvious, Camden says working with large pieces of cast glass also requires a lot of physical strength.

"It's revolting work, it's very hard, and incredibly physically demanding. Each one of these pieces takes between two and six months to make, going through different stages. The last stage involves dipping the piece in acid."

Camden is a member of Whanganui-based West Coast Bombers, where she is known by her derby name, Crystal Crusher (a reference to the 45per cent lead crystal glass that she crushes to make her work).

"Roller derby keeps me incredibly fit," she says.

"I know I wouldn't be making such large and ambitious glass if I wasn't so fit."

Camden's work catches the eye with its angular forms and brilliant, yet moody, colours.

There's an architectural influence, with many of the works referencing towers, pyramids and passages.

She says her work often expresses her demons.

"It talks about problems, about my mother passing away, about religion and my inability to find a spiritual label."

Camden admits that sometimes her glass world and her roller derby world collide.

"Do I wear my skates while making glass? Yes, I do - my studio is very big and I roll around and get everywhere faster."

Camden said she could not do her work without the support of her husband, David Murray, who is also a talented glass artist.

She's also grateful to staff at Sarjeant On The Quay, particularly Greg Donson, and Creative New Zealand for funding.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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