Memorial window taking form

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Taking shape . . . Stained glass specialist Peter Mackenzie (left) and artist Jenna Packer discuss the placement of glass sections in the stained glass window commemorating the life and death in the Antarctic of the Rev Arnold Spencer-Smith, commissioned by Dunedin's All Saints' Church. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

In a quiet workshop in Dunedin, a dramatic story of the great age of Antarctic exploration is coming to life in stained glass.

Designed by artist Jenna Packer, and created by stained glass specialist Peter Mackenzie of Otago Stained Glass, the 3.5m window has been commissioned by All Saints’ Church to commemorate the Antarctic exploits of the Rev Arnold Spencer-Smith (1883-1916).

Chaplain and photographer for the Ross Sea party of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s dramatic, failed Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Spencer-Smith died in the Antarctic and was buried on the ice.

The chalice and paten Spencer-Smith used in the Antarctic is in the care of All Saints’ vicar the Rev Canon Michael Wallace, who has been researching his exploits and Dunedin connections.

Using imported hand-blown glass sheets from Bavaria, in Germany, Mackenzie and Packer are well into the $70,000 project, which involves creating two tall, slender lancet windows, a tracery window, and eight square panels.

“We are working through the pattern we have made, carefully selecting the streaky glass to depict the ice and the sky,” Mackenzie said.

The pair are cutting roughly 1000 pieces of glass, many of them small and “fiddly”, which are assembled to make the images.

Packer is also using the glass as a “canvas”, using special techniques and light-stable pigments to paint images of the Ross Sea party’s story.

“Jenna has adapted very well from using canvas to using cut glass,” Mackenzie said.

Once the images are completed, they will be heated to red-heat in a kiln to make the pigments permanent.

Packer said the project had been “a steep learning curve”, but a great experience.

“It has been fascinating learning how to use glass in this way,” she said.

Mr Wallace said All Saints’ Church had so far raised about $31,000 towards the project’s $70,000 cost, and was “so grateful for people’s generosity”.

A fundraising art auction for the stained glass project will be held next Thursday, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm, at the Dunedin Community Gallery. Auctioneer will be Peter Hayden and featured artists include Grahame Sydney, Jo Ogier, Jeffrey Harris, Peter Nichols, and Christine Boswick.

There will be a pre-auction exhibition and sale of affordable art in the afternoons of March 11 and 12, at the gallery.

The auction catalogue is online at www.allsaintsdn.org.nz/catalogue

In addition, All Saints’ Church will hold a mass commemorating Spencer-Smith on Monday, March 9, from 5.30pm, followed by a 7pm lecture on his life by Richard McElrea, author of Polar Castaways: The Ross Sea Party of Sir Ernest Shackleton (1914-1917). All welcome.