The owl is an integral part of St Peter’s Cambridge. It forms the central image in the school crest and logo, and Owl Farm is a well-recognised demonstration dairy farm that supports the school’s agricultural and horticulture programmes.
Owls also signify wisdom, which is why three ‘golden owls’ were selected for the inaugural St Peter’s School Distinguished Alumni Awards, to be presented at the school this Saturday, September 8.
They were designed and made by award-winning ‘sculptural glassmaker’ Di Tocker, whose extensive pedigree with glass has seen her exhibit widely across New Zealand and amass numerous awards along the way. It is in her home studio in Cambridge that she crafted the ‘golden owls’ after being invited six months ago to submit a design that reflected the school.
“I was thrilled to be asked to design and produce the ‘golden owls’ for the St Peter’s School awards,” she said. “I think the most difficult part of the whole process was that initial design phase; I had to work out how I was going to approach the owl in such a way as to make a piece of art rather than just a figurine.
“I also felt it was important for the design to be contemporary. When I design glass pieces for awards I think about many aspects, such as who will receive the award, where will it be displayed and how can this art-piece reflect the organisation, and how long the design needs to remain relevant. Then you also have to make sure it is a manageable size and weight to be presented on stage.”
Di’s first drawing was approved, so she set about making the sculptures using the blackwood casting crystal she imports from Australia. She made the initial carving in wax form – that too, was given the tick by St Peter’s – and then continued the intricate and demanding production process which resulted in the three 2.8kg gold and green sculptures now ready to be boxed.
“I chose a green/grey for the base at the bottom because the school motto – structa saxo – means set in stone, or built on a rock, so I wanted the bottom to take on the appearance of stone.”
Di studied her craft at Melbourne’s RMIT University, where she majored in glass. Much of her early work was small figures … later, she placed figures on steps, with suitcases, or on boxes, and also did a series of glass paper-dolls. More recently there has been the navigator series – curves suggestive of boats and worlds – and rooms, where figures are encased in glass.
“I like to work in series – it helps me to get better at one particular type of work at a time.”
Di’s work goes into exhibitions and commissions, but she also makes uniquely designed glass trophies for organisations such as the University of Waikato and NZ Tourism.
St Peter’s School aims to present the Distinguished Alumni Awards to three recipients annually, to two older alumni and one alumnus under age 35.
The recipients of the 2018 two Distinguished Alumni Awards are Emeritus Professor Sir Vaughan Jones and Sir Noel Stuart Robinson, while Nicholas Mowbray will be presented with the Distinguished Young Alumni Award.