Ruth Downham is a born and bred Tasmanian with a rich and colourful ancestry that goes back to settlement days. Born while her parents lived at Savage River, at age two the family moved south to the D’Entrecasteaux Channel region. Ruth’s love of the region has kept her living there. Upon first meeting Ruth, you find yourself confronted with a lovely, bubbly personality, a great sense of humour; and then you realise this lady is like an Energizer Battery… she just keeps on going!
Ruth Downham: Tasmanian Glass Artist
Ruth Downham developed her love of glass in her late teens as a Year 12 student, while learning to create a leadlight window. To this day Ruth keeps one of her earliest pieces in a glass rack to remind her of her humble beginnings into the world of glass, one which quickly became a passion. Ruth went on with her education to complete a science degree and also a diploma in teaching, which in turn led her to becoming a science teacher at a Hobart College. But throughout it all she kept coming back to glass, both playing with it and teaching the art of glass craft.
The desire to learn more grew, and she found herself looking further afield for varying techniques. In her desire she has learned from national and international glass artists such as Patty Gray (USA), Donald Robertson (Canada), Emma Camden (New Zealand) and Helen Stokes (Melbourne), to name but a few.
Ruth’s involvement with glass has seen her creating stained glass windows (both leaded and copper foiled). Ruth has learned how to fuse and slump flat glass; sandblasted, etched and painted glass and also lampworked a few pieces. Her present passion is casting in glass and creating fused glass windows (lit within by LED lights).
In Ruth’s own words today, “Glass for me is just so much fun. I lose time; I relax… and it combines a bit of an organized mind with the fun of playing”.
What’s it All Mean: Glass Artist
For those readers who have no idea what some of these glass artist terms mean (I didn’t either) here’s a simple explanation.
Lampworking is a type of glasswork that uses a gas-fuelled torch to melt rods and tubes of clear and coloured glass. Once in a molten state, the glass is formed by blowing and shaping with tools and hand movements. It is also known as flameworking or torchworking, as the modern practice no longer uses oil-fuelled lamps.
Glass Fusing and Slumping are often referred to as warm glass, or glass art fusion. A kiln is used to make the glass molten and to join two or more pieces of glass. This process is also known as kiln-forming. The firings range from 600 degrees Celsius to about 950 degrees Celsius. These pieces of glass are designed in a layered manner in a kiln and through one to several kiln firings a new piece of glass is created, formed and shaped.
Glass Casting is the process in which glass objects are cast by pouring molten glass into a mould where it solidifies. Modern cast glass is formed by a variety of processes such as kiln casting, or casting into sand, graphite or metal moulds.
Other Passions of Ruth Downham
Ruth’s passion doesn’t stop with glass alone, though glass plays a major part in each of her passions. Ruth Downham has a deep love of everything Tasmanian, from the fauna and flora through to our diverse marine environment. From these things, Ruth draws inspiration for her artwork.
Ruth also has a keen love of gardening and building, and together with her husband Fintan owns Woodbridge Hill Hideaway, a dream in the making. Woodbridge Hill Hideaway is an accommodation property enclosed in 100 acres of beautifully forested hillside (plus 10 acres of newly landscaped gardens) above Woodbridge. The beautiful eco-friendly accommodation showcases much of Ruth’s artwork.
Beautiful slumped glass shower screens displaying large eucalyptus branches show her love of the Tasmanian bush. Cast glass windows showcasing our diverse Tasmanian marine life, seahorses, urchins, flathead and flounder and large leadlight windows ablaze with nature’s colours complete the ambience found inside these stunning cabins.
Presently under construction at Woodbridge Hill is a lodge; a magnificent structure built of rich Tasmanian timbers, to become a function centre for weddings, parties, business functions etc. and will include upper floor accommodation. Ruth is presently designing windows for the lodge, four of which I had the pleasure of being shown. These fused glass windows, 1.2 metres high and each representing a season, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter will be showcased in the upper floor ensuites of the lodge.
Glass will be a major feature in the lodge, and if you wish to see more as the lodge progresses, then you can follow on Woodbridge Hill Hideaway on Facebook.
Exhibitions: Glass Artist Ruth Downham
Exhibitions showcasing the work of glass artist Ruth Downham include…
- Spiritual Journeys, Margate, 2012/2011/2010/2009
- Southern Exposure, Cygnet, 2009
- 30th Anniversary Ausglass Exhibition, Hobart, 2009
- Handmark Gallery Glass Exhibition, 2009
- Fleurtys, Birchs Bay, Tasmania, 2007/2008 /2012
- Heads and Tails Exhibition, Morning Toast Gallery, Cygnet 2007
- Playing with Glass, Little Space Gallery, Hobart College 2007
- Tas Ausglass exhibition, Clarence Council, 2007
The Ruth Downham Glass Artist Studio and Gallery is also located at Woodbridge Hill. Her studio is a working artist’s studio. Upon entering you are faced with with an incredible visual display. The studio is built with light in mind… large windows all around, upon the sills of which sit so many of Ruth’s creations, a blaze of colour.
As you stand and slowly view her work, the true creativity of this woman comes to the fore. You realise Ruth’s artwork is based around the beauty of nature and it’s colours, and the incredible visual qualities Ruth creates using her love of the beauty of the nature which surrounds her here in Tasmania. Ruth can also be commissioned to make windows for your building needs.
The glass studio is open by appointment, and Ruth offers various classes at the Woodbridge Hill Studio. For further details of classes contact Ruth Downham by email.
All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography. You can follow Carol on Facebook at Haberle Photo Cards. Carol writes feature articles for this website about all things Tasmanian. If you’d like Carol to visit you, please contact Think Tasmania.