Hi, I'm Glen
Being an innovative craftsman fits comfortably with Glen Colechin’s engineering background. With a past career in product design and production engineering, he has a sound foundation with the skills to drive his creative core. “Art is everywhere,” Glen explains. “You need that creative eye to see it. That’s what makes me a good engineer.”
It’s a balancing act working in a demanding day job and squeezing every moment from weekends and after hours to develop a stable of sculpted art pieces that have now taken the market by storm. Glen recently uploaded photographs of a couple of pieces on social media and was inundated by nearly a thousand enquires from as far afield as Dubai, New York, and throughout New Zealand. He has recently transitioned to Full-time Artist and focuses his creative energy on fulfilling his passion and delivering his beautifully crafted sculptures to clambering customers.
But it wasn’t always like this. Born in the United Kingdom in 1975, during the year of the mad March Hare, Glen loves wildlife of all kinds and has a particular affinity with his pet rabbit called Jack Black. Glen’s wife kiwi-born, Janelle, returned to New Zealand with her husband ten years ago. The pair have easily assimilated into the New Zealand culture, having grown up with respect for the environment. His father, a watercolor artist, imbued Glen, with love for hunting and fishing, along with a deep respect for nature, while his mother always encouraged and supported the development of his creative talent.
Glen’s contemporary sculptures are made from recycled materials, off-cuts from native timbers, recycled copper, and natural elements like stone and wood found on hikes along the coast in the Hawkes Bay, where he calls Napier his home.
“My studio is set up with my tools and materials which function like instruments in an orchestra, and I’m the composer. The finished artwork is the musical Symphony,” Glen explains.
With a unique style, Glen’s work has clicked with an eager art market, and some of his pieces are re-purposed as magnificent sports trophies. At first, he created a series of stylised copper cyclists racing across a stave sliced from a curved portion of an old wine barrel.
Glen continually scours recycling plants and construction businesses for items he can transform into beautiful works of art. “I see shapes in materials and think how it will form part of a subject I want to create,” Glen describes. “Some things can take a year to manifest, but they all slot into place eventually.”
With an imaginary picture-board in his head, Glen adds images to it, as he goes about his daily life. When he’s ready to create a new sculpture, he looks through the collection on the image board in his mind. He selects different combinations of forms to develop the concept design before preparing to create his next masterpiece.
The key turning point in the last couple of years for Glen’s career, was finally getting up the nerve to directly approach art galleries. He has been astounded at the high level of interest in his work and how quickly his sculptures sold. Some pieces sold within thirty minutes. “It really galavanised me into action with a desire to develop and create much more,” he said.
The Creative Process
Over the years Glen Colechin has used a wide range of self-taught skills to work with all kinds of stone, timber and metal in creating his arresting sculptures. By way of an example, here is a recent project.
About a year ago, he decided to build a 2.5 metre giant Stag. At the time, he was working with a friend on a construction site and encouraged his welder workmate, Kane, to help him complete this massive project. “Kane had never created artwork in his life,” Glen said. “But he was a keen hunter so I knew he would have a passion for the project.”
The pair worked throughout the nights until the early hours of the many mornings, bending reinforcing steel around the outside lamp post and cutting sections of Corten steel for the body of the Stag. They lacked the heavy steel working equipment which could have made their job easier. Glen, the ever innovating engineer and sculptor found the street post outside was a perfect solution. But it was hard physical work for them both. Dressed in jandals and stubbies they worked up a sweat as they gradually developed the sculpture. During short breaks they drank cold beer and leapt around the studio, excited by the emergence of the magnificent wild beast.
“It was a huge opportunity to learn welding from an expert and at the same time Kane was astounded at how the animal sprung from the inert steel. “I would say; we’ve got to get legs on it!,” explained Glen to the incredulous welder as the pair continued to wrest the form from the pieces of scarp-metal. “Right, the neck!” Glen announced. “And let’s get the head turned, as if it’s just heard something, with one foot raised.” Old copper water tanks on the scrap heap at a local plumber’s business were ideal for working into the Stag’s body. The pair cut up sections of raw material, moulding and bending it when suddenly a massive statuesque steel and copper Stage emerged like magic from the scrap iron.
“I’ve got a thing about the eyes, Glen told his friend. “They need to look real, like the Stag’s eyes are watching you.” That week he bought two stainless steel spoons, cut the handles off them and reworked them into the eyes of this magnificent beast. “That was the coup de grass, the final aspect that brought the Stag alive.”
Finally 18 pointer antlers were fixed to its majestic head, conveying form and finesse. The light cast shadows across the studio walls as the sculptor and the welder were both speechless. An entirely new dimension, a real Stag stood before them, in the shapes and shadows of the wilderness spread across the backdrop.
This piece Sold at Auckland’s Kings College Exhibition, invitation only, during November 2019 and Sold on Gates opening
Q. How do you feel about the sudden popularity of your work?
GC. It’s been absolutely gob-smacking! I have heaps of orders. I’m living the dream because I can give up my full-time engineering job and focus on becoming a professional sculptor. I’m transitioning between the roles currently and will continue with some part-time engineering to make sure our bills are paid. But now I believe that I can work at being a full-time sculptor. People’s excitement and enthusiasm from all over the world has just blown us away.
Your work has incredible movement in the design and its execution. Is that because you are used to designing for a manufacturing or production environment?
Yes. I want to repurpose static materials and give them new life. Being a keen hunter and fisherman myself, means that movement and action has always been part of my activity. I enjoy being able to take something inanimate like stone and show that it has life. I like to play with the light too, the shadows my sculptures convey also shows action and movement.
If you look back, when did you first realise that you had a strong creative drive?
My father is very creative, his main stay is watercolour painting. When I was young, we moved from a Yorkshire mining town called Wakefield, to Robbie Burns country, living in both Dumfries and Galloway. My parents wanted a simpler life and to get away from the abject poverty during Maggie Thatcher’s reign with the impacts of mine closures hitting our community.
My father has always been a keen hunter and painter and his subjects are hunting scenes and landscapes. Still to this day he takes his gun dogs for walks during the mornings to spot potential stags or hinds. He has always been caring and respectful of the land in a native American Indian way. Equally my mother who is the biggest support and nurturer of the creative process, has always said; if you don’t try you don’t get. I realise now, she’s 100% correct. With that in mind, I’m going to places that I never could have imagined. I love my parents to pieces but they live an old-style life of hunter-provider but they both love it that way.
Q. How DID YOU EXPRESS YOUR CREATIVITY AS A CHILD?
GC.I was never into conventional sport, apart from hunting and fishing. I really enjoyed walking and the open country scenery. I loved watching my dad and hearing him explain about the different flora and fauna that makes up the landscape and how it’s maintained. As a child I liked nothing more than pencil drawing and animals, the closer I could get to drawing the better my enjoyment.
Q. What did your graphic design qualification give you? How has it contributed to the way you see and get inspiration for the work you do now?
GC.My graphic design did little to help me. It was almost a waste of time, except it gave me a clear realisation about the corporate advertising world and the bull that went with it. This is one of the reasons I fell into Engineering. As my mum said if you want something, you’ll work for it.
Q. WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE LOVE YOUR WORK?
GC. I don’t know if they do love my artwork. I hope they see the hard work that has gone into creating each piece. It’s almost like romanticism is a lost art. I see too many people jumping on the abstract/contemporary band-wagon and you can tell they are doing it for the kudos and attention. There’s no real passion for what they produce. I love my artwork and my passion for perfecting each sculptured piece comes first before I am happy to release it.
Q. WHAT THINGS INSPIRE YOU?
GC.Firstly, my wife Janelle. She is my rock and keeps me on track with lots of love and support. She’s amazing and every day I’m grateful for her and our daughter.
I’m also inspired by the old colonial Englishman within me. I like works by Freeman White, he’s not trying to be anything except himself and be a true artist, his work is a labour of love and you can see this in each piece he produces. Materially, he also lives like an old-school artist in a period when chesterfield chairs and dark wooden antique furniture crowded the room. You can almost smell the cigar smoke … not that he smokes! Also, the Street Art scene which is a completely different style again. I just love the diversity and colour. They work for pittance to throw a wall up and they’re just as good, if not better, than works I see in high-end art galleries.
Q. WHAT REALLY GETS YOUR HEART RACING?
GC.My wife and daughter, Statues … big bronzes, hearing the passion and excitement in gallery owner’s and customers voices for art. The working of the materials over weeks and months and transforming it into a piece of outstanding art that people love. That’s a buzz.
Q. WHY DO YOU CALL YOURSELF AN ART OPPRESSIVE?
GC.I can’t stop and won’t stop. Until recently I worked as an engineer five days a week, on the nights that I’m not putting our daughter to bed, I’m in the garage/studio creating. My eyes are constantly looking for inspiration, for materials or improved ways of making art. Now I’m enjoying the game, which I feel art is. It’s exciting and a challenge to delight every customer with a unique piece of artwork I’ve created.
Q. What are the top three things you need to do to achieve success journey?
GC.Pay our mortgage off and have complete balance in my family unit. We have no family support here in Hawkes Bay, so everything is lean, time is tight. We haven’t had a holiday in seven years but don’t miss it as we are happy within our skins. I want to help educate people about the hours of work that goes into creating a piece of artwork and how great it feels when you are totally swept away by your own creativity.