Artist Katie Brown has done a lot to keep the glass furnaces burning in Whanganui, writes Liz Wylie.
Internationally renowned for her beautiful blown glassworks, Brown's photo features alongside the Sarjeant Gallery and the Royal Wanganui Opera House as a local tourist attraction.
Despite her personal stature, it has never been all about her, and Brown's collaborative efforts have been of great benefit to other local artists.
Her latest venture, Brown & Co, will be no exception as she prepares to open the new lighting and design store in the former Ridgway Chambers building on March 21.
The safety barriers are still in place and the builders are working to complete restoration of the 1877 heritage building which retains its former glory with some stunning contemporary interior features.
The company name is painted in classical gold lettering on the outside of the building and the ground floor interior is white and bright, with one mossy green feature wall in an alcove.
"The name was inspired by the building more than anything," Brown says.
"It has that old-school look and sound that fits with the era of this building and the whole area."
The ground floor space will soon be filled with glass pieces and two-dimensional works created by Brown and a selection of local artists.
"The two-dimensional works will be displayed in the alcove area and I want to set up an area to teach children's art classes," she says.
"I have all the plinths and pieces ready for display but there's been a bit of a setback with the building because of a water leak."
Although the problem is well in hand, it means Brown will have just a few days to set up before the opening but she is well prepared.
The building owner is Whanganui dentist and district councillor Hadley Reid, who has renovated the building with the assistance of the Government's Equip Fund programme, in support of the Whanganui arts and heritage community.
"Hadleigh is great - I asked what his plans were for the building and on the spur of the moment suggested that I could move in," Brown says.
"I didn't really know what my next venture would be but he agreed so readily I jumped at the chance to take up residence in this stunningly renovated heritage building."
The location means she will be in the same precinct where she set up Chronicle Glass (now NZ Glassworks) with Karen Ellett and Lyndsay Patterson in 2004.
Without Chronicle Glass, which was purchased by the Whanganui District Council's charitable trust in 2016, it is unlikely that Whanganui would still have a hot glass facility.
Brown also entered the world of parenthood in 2016 and now her son is 3 and a half she feels ready for a new phase.
"I didn't really know what my next phase would be until I had that conversation with Hadleigh and now I'm really excited about it.
"I'm doing this because I want people who are looking for statement pieces for themselves or as gifts, to have better access to the remarkable craft-making that is occurring in Whanganui and around New Zealand," Brown said.
Since the sale of Chronicle Glass, Brown has showcased her work with Patterson at the nearby Cosmopolitan building and has been doing "bench days" at Chronicle Glass.
"I plan to close Brown & Co on Tuesdays and that will probably be my Chronicle Glass day," she says.
"I've been in the art business for 25 years and I understand what great art looks like, how it should function and what buyers are looking for.
"I want to showcase the art, including my own and wow every visitor to the store."
Along with Brown's own blown glass and lighting, Brown & Co will feature furniture, sculpture, printmaking, painting and glass engraving.
Whanganui glass engraver Claire Bell is one of just a handful of glass engravers in the world and her works feature along with art by Vanessa Edwards, Fleur Wickes and other local talents.
"There will be around 10 artists' work for sale here," says Brown.
"I'm excited about launching my new venture as part of Artists Open Studios' twentieth year and look forward to welcoming locals and visitors to Brown and Co."
• The venue will be open on both open studios weekends from March 21 to 22 and 28 to 29. Regular opening hours will be 10am to 4.30pm, every day of the week except Tuesday when the store will be closed.