This article was published last week in the Ausglass Newsletter. Ausglass is our National Association of Glass Artists, comprising some 360 members Australia-wide and overseas and including not only practicing artists but also Museums, Colleges, Libraries, academics, curators and collectors. .
By Jeffrey Hamilton
In the ‘early years’ of the late 70’s thru the 80’s Cherry Phillips was a shining light amongst stained glass artists. Her design skills, her sense of colour and beauty, the finesse of her lead-line and the immaculate finish of her work set her a cut above the field. She was there right from when I first began exploring this new medium of stained glass, working at the cutting edge along with Warren Langley and David Wright.
Cherry was at the very first Conference, before there was an Ausglass, when we became known as PIGS (People In Glass). She went on to hold successive Committee positions and curated more than one exhibition at the then Paddington premises of the Glass Artists’ Gallery. Cherry was also one of the exhibitors at the first Craft Expos run by the Crafts Council of Australia.
For me the most striking thing about her was her humility. Not exactly self-effacing but not the least bit egotistic: rather a warm, friendly person gracious in sharing her knowledge. Retiring from glass quite some years ago Cherry became something of a recluse. She died in Brisbane 16th February after a long illness.
The following words are from several colleagues who shared her life:
It was 1977 when I first met Cherry. I was working with David Saunders in the Argyle Arts Centre in The Rocks, Sydney. David had advertised for an artist/craftsperson and Cherry was the successful applicant. My first very clear memory was of her drawing a cartoon of Dorcus from one of David’s designs: not an easy assignment, as David had a very distinctive way of drawing and painting. His use of the lead line and arrangement of shapes is instantly recognisable. Luckily Cherry survived this ordeal and the drawing and the eventual window were beautiful.
Cherry was a very talented designer with a great eye for colour which resulted in difficulties between her and Saunders. Leaving Eroica Studios after a year she undertook all sorts of menial jobs, including cleaning motel rooms and we tossed around the idea of opening our own studio. I had already left David and was working on my own in The Rocks. After a bit of agonising by Cherry over the direction she wanted to go, Sydney Stained Glass was born in late 1978.
Business was brisk and the phone would ring 3 or 4 times a day with enquiries for work, a lot of it repetitive with no designing required, something Cherry longed to do. Whenever a new commission came along she tackled it with relish. However, the more commercial side of the business was not something she embraced and Cherry left in 1980 to set up her own studio. Relocating several times, she eventually moved to Taree, NSW.
My fond memory of Cherry is a woman of a sweet nature, a great designer/craftsperson and someone that put more than 100% into every job she undertook. Through her work she has left a beautiful legacy and those lucky enough to have a window of hers will rejoice in that.
Cherry Philips was one of the loveliest people to have ever graced my life. I have spent 30 years wishing to reconnect and to enjoy her serenity, her gracefulness, her creativity and her love. In 1979 Cherry and Rodney Marshall gave me a job at Sydney Stained Glass which then overlooked the construction site of the Sydney Entertainment Centre. I had only begun working in the craft a year or so earlier and so I was so thankful for such an opportunity. We all immediately became friends and Cherry opened up her heart and soul to me, sharing her personal experiences in love, family and her difficult early years. She was pretty much always quiet and dignified and so gentle.
I continued to work for Cherry when she established her own practice in Burwood Rd, Croydon Park in 1985. A true Pisces, she was sensitive and compassionate and possessed a beautiful imagination that seeded the many inspiring works she created. What a joy it was to witness such wonderful works being made: windows for Parliament House, restaurants, clubs, hotels, churches and domestic works far and wide. Cherry’s gifts to the world will live on for many years to come as will her memory in my heart.
For years Cherry I have wished there was a book of your works so that I could see all the beauty you created since I knew you. Perhaps someone can enable that to occur sometime. We’ve all benefited from Cherry’s presence in one way or another, her family, her friends and the world at large. Cherry my dear you will be sadly missed.
Cherry Phillips made a significant contribution to contemporary Australian architectural stained glass. Her training in fine art, design and appreciation and her understanding of the unique qualities of colour, transparency and texture of glass gave Cherry's windows an unmistakable dimension that spoke of quality, refinement and originality. Her windows in the Australian Parliament, Canberra, are fine examples of her later work.
Cherry was a complex and multi-talented woman. Her gentle and friendly nature masked a power, authority and understanding that only come to those who have experienced personal difficulty, challenge and the extremes of great joy and sadness. Maybe that's what made her work so memorable, so beautiful. She will be much missed; however her work will continue to be admired for generations to come.
Rodney Marshall continues in private practice in Blackheath, in Sydney's Blue Mountains. He is hoping to retire shortly. You can find examples of Lance Feeney's work on his website although Lance is now happily involved in Health Administration and no longer takes on commissions. Brian Berg also retired from active glass making some years ago. He lives and works in Clunes in the far north of NSW.