Once upon a time there were three glass artists who dreamed of building a working hot glass studio in Whanganui.

This month those glass artists are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of that dream's realistion: Chronicle Glass.

The furnace was first lit at Chronicle Glass in Rutland Street by owners Katie Brown, Lyndsay Patterson, and Karen Ellett in December 2005.

"It took us a year and a half to build this place and I remember thinking that if we made it to 10 years I'd be really happy," Katie says.


"And here we are - we did it."

Chronicle Glass is a well-known and successful hot glass studio and gallery that draws in tourists from around the country. People come to watch the spectacle of glass blowing; to take a weekend workshop; or to buy a piece of unique glass from the gallery shop, which features the work of 24 Whanganui artists. Its website sells glass throughout the country and even overseas.

Chronicle Glass had its beginnings at the Wanganui Glass School in the 1990s, when Katie, Lyndsay, and Karen first met. The idea of a jointly-owned hot glass studio began to take shape after Katie returned from a four-year stint travelling and working overseas.

"I had been hiring the furnace at the [glass] school to do my work, but I was getting tired of doing that," Lyndsay says.

"I had my cold working studio in this building about a year before Katie came home. It was just an empty shell. Then Katie came back to New Zealand and said 'I want a glass studio'. I'd seen the potential of this building so I showed it to her, and she was blown away."

Karen became involved and the three began working to establish their studio.

"It got more serious as we went along," Lyndsay says.

THEY HIT A SNAG partway through their set-up when Whanganui UCOL wanted the site for their new campus. The building was at that time owned by local potter and heritage building enthusiast Ross Mitchell-Anyon, and the three were renting it off him.

"[Whanganui UCOL] wanted us out and this building demolished. So we to-ed and fro-ed for about six months before deciding to buy the building. Which I think was a good move because it means we have security," Lyndsay says.

The name came about almost by chance, Katie says.

"The building has the word 'Chronicle' written over the door in big letters, and people just started calling us that. And it stuck."

The building dates from the 1950s and housed the Wanganui Chronicle's printing press when the newspaper was published from the building next door. A mezzanine floor is open to street level; visitors walk upstairs to the gallery, or watch the glass artists work the furnace downstairs.

"We knew people would be fascinated with watching the process [of glass being blown]," Katie says.

"At the start the main focus for us was having a place to work - we could have done it in the back blocks of Mangamahu," Lyndsay says.

"We had the gallery shop right from the start, but we didn't expect much from it as all the work we were doing at that time was being sent to galleries outside of Whanganui. We didn't do a lot of marketing and advertising; yet within a year the gallery was turning over quite good sales for us."

Katie says it's quite common to have people wander in to the building, just because the door is open and they're curious.

"We're used to strangers coming in and watching us work now, but at first it was weird. People can get really disappointed when something goes wrong. And you're like, 'Well, that's glass.'

"This is our set-up and our space, so we're comfortable here."

CHRONICLE GLASS employs five people, a mixture of full-time and part-time employees, many of them connected with the Wanganui Glass School or Whanganui UCOL.

"The people who we employ are usually graduates or near-graduates of the glass school, and they are the ones who approach us. We run lots of workshops for people who want to have that glass-blowing experience. Some of them go on to be glass students."

Karen is no longer involved with Chronicle Glass; she left after a couple of years.

Katie and Lyndsay say the two of them work well as a team because they have different strengths that complement each other. They joke that their professional relationship has been "almost like a marriage".

"We're totally different to each other," Katie says.

"Lyndsay is really strong on technical stuff, financial stuff, and systems. I'm more into marketing and promotions."

"She looks better than me in photos," Lyndsay jokes.

Although Chronicle Glass is a success story, Katie admits it's not always easy.

"You wouldn't believe our monthly gas bill, and then there's our electricity bill.

"People come in here and see us playing music and laughing and joking, and they think, 'Those crazy artists!' But it's serious business. We have to make a lot of money just to cover costs; we have to be really on to it."

A special anniversary event the pair have planned is a celebration with their investors, who have been involved with Chronicle Glass since its very early days.

"We were on the dole and we needed all the financial help we could get, so we came up with a plan," Katie says.

"We did a prospectus saying, this is who we are and this is what we want to do, this is our vision. And we got 15 investors, and they each gave $2000. The three of us each put money in, but those investors really got us over the line. We really want to celebrate those investors for our 10 year anniversary so we're going to have a bit of an evening and make some glass for them."

HIGHLIGHTS for the pair over the last 10 years include Lyndsay making all the glassware for Peter Jackson's film The Hobbit - an undertaking that took up two years of Lyndsay's work - holding the annual Glass Olympics as part of the Whanganui Festival of Glass, having overseas artists visit, and holding successful workshops and functions.

"The really lovely thing for me has been sharing this place with the Whanganui community," Lyndsay says.

"We get schools and clubs and all sorts of people in here, it's a great venue for people to come and watch. We're really happy if we're making Whanganui a better place to live. We know that tourists come and visit us - and that might help out the local restaurants, the local motels, and so on."

And what is in store for Chronicle Glass for the next 10 years?

"We do have some very exciting plans that we can't reveal yet, but that will take Chronicle Glass into the next 10 years," Lyndsay says.

"Watch this space."