The current resident artist at Whanganui's Glasgow St Art Centre is Kapiti conservationist and glass artist Gill McCaughey.

Her core-cast glassworks are painstakingly-made things of beauty, representing strong messages about climate change and endangered animals.

As a student at The Learning Connexion - School of Creativity and Art in Lower Hutt, McCaughey was working with Oamaru stone.

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"I was making stone knives which were a lot less complicated than glass casting.

"I had made a glass iceberg within an ice cube and I wanted to make a penguin."

The penguin was for a cousin in England she planned to visit and has led to a series of endangered animal works.

"I showed it to a friend of mine and she introduced me to people at Born Free [international charity organisation] and other conservationists who suggested I do a series."

Her next work was Ripped - a powerful piece depicting a polar bear with a torn pelt suspended above a melting iceberg.

The finished cast glass work Ripped by Gill McCaughey. Photo / Supplied
The finished cast glass work Ripped by Gill McCaughey. Photo / Supplied

The destruction of wild animal habitats is of great concern to the artist and she has worked at an orangutan rescue centre in Borneo.

"I've now been invited to go to Djibouti [West Africa] where I will get to study the endangered marine life there.

"I'm interested in whale and shark research and I have plans for a piece featuring a dying shark on the ocean floor as a protest about shark finning."


She is also working on a piece featuring endangered turtles and she says making each piece is a lengthy process.

"It can be a long time from the first sketch until the piece reaches the kiln.

"There are always technical issues and I have to be thinking four steps ahead but I love the challenges involved."

Before she started making the cast pieces, McCaughey's glass experience had been limited to leadlight work.

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"Casting is a long, long process and sometimes I need to walk away and leave it until I can come back with new vigour.

"What I really love is being able to marry my passion for animals with glasswork."

McCaughey's Whanganui visit is her first artist residency and she says she is finding it enjoyable.

"I don't have access to a kiln because the ones I might use are heavily booked so I'm using the time to reflect and plan."

During her stay, she will join masterclasses run by visiting US glass artist Morgan Madison at Claudia Borella Glass Design Ltd.

Whanganui District Council have assisted with funding for Madison's visit to demonstrate his unique fusing and casting process with Bullseye glass for local artists.

Georgia Carver's short film piece on McCaughey's work RIPPED Core Cast Glass Polar Bear can be viewed on YouTube.