A large glass chandelier made up of work by 40 New Zealand and international glass artists is the centrepiece for a conference that has attracted more than 200 Australasian glass artists to Whanganui.

And tomorrow the public have a chance to dig for treasure at a unique beach dig with more than 100 glitzy prizes to be won.

Glass artists Leanne Williams and Jim Dennison were tasked with coordinating the giant chandelier, now on display as the Sarjeant on the Quay.

The Martinborough duo, known as the Crystal Chain Gang, said they received an overwhelming number of submissions.

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"Each artist sent us a diagram, model or a written plan of what their contribution would be," said Dennison.

"The criteria was not too strict - we just asked that the piece had to relate to chandelier language."

Although it could have been a logistical nightmare, it has come together nicely in time for the CoLab Australasian Glass Conference which began in Whanganui yesterday.

Now hanging from the Sarjeant on the Quay ceiling, the individual works have been brought together into one giant chandelier and Williams said there are many people to thank.

"The wonderful artists at NZ Glassworks in Whanganui have crafted many pieces of clear glass to bring it all together."

Glassworks manager Scott Redding along with Whanganui glass artists Katie Brown and Philip Stokes led teams to craft clear beads and moulded pieces to thread amongst the individual artists' work.

Other key players were Nicole Lucas who helped it all come together and Andrew Taylor who forged and welded the framework.

A hexagonal mirror has been placed on the gallery floor beneath the chandelier to enhance viewing.

Redding said it is hoped that the chandelier will have a permanent home at the Glassworks in Rutland St after being exhibited at the Sarjeant.

More than 200 Australasian visitors are in Whanganui for the conference which runs runs all weekend.

"It is double the number that we were expecting which is fantastic," said Redding.

The New Zealand Society of Artists in Glass (NZSAG) and its Australian counterpart Ausglass have previously organised their own conferences on alternate years and this is the first time they have come together for a combined conference.

"Ausglass requested that the conference take place in Whanganui because it is known as a glass hub."

CoLab opened with a pōwhiri and morning tea at Pūtiki Marae yesterday and the weekend will be action-packed with speakers, workshops, hot glass demos, and public events including a Beach Furnace and Dig In at Castlecliff tomorrow.

Members of the public pay $10 to dig a section of the beach for a glass treasure.
"Over 100 pieces have been donated for the Dig In and they range from a paperweight with a $50 value to pieces that are worth thousands," said Redding.

The event begins at Rangiora St, Castlecliff at 2pm. Tickets will be for sale on-site from 1pm and will be sold on a first come, first served basis.

A hexagonal mirror on the floor of the Sarjeant Gallery allows visitors to views the lower pieces on the chandelier. Photo/Bevan Conley
A hexagonal mirror on the floor of the Sarjeant Gallery allows visitors to views the lower pieces on the chandelier. Photo/Bevan Conley