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Jenny McLeod is moving her glass art studio to a renovated building along Thames’ main street. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Glass artist relocates, renovates home and studio

Now that Jenny McLeod has moved to Thames, living above the renovated gallery which will soon showcase her glass art, she’s reached the “finale” of finding the perfect lifestyle.

For 19 years, she and her family have resided in Henderson, West Auckland, and she has been making glass art which she supplies to galleries across the country.

But with an eye on the future – and a dose of fearlessness – she has decided to move her studio to the main street of Thames and operate a retail store for the first time.

“We were looking at all sorts of real estate. In our minds, we wanted to work and live in the same place, and for a lot of the time we were imagining being more rural, but we needed it to be where people could find us,” she told The Profile.

“I was doing some Google searches and for some reason, I came across a property down the road. I’d never imagined a main street anything, but that planted the seed.”

Jenny and her partner Peter Bell put offers in for several places, but after speaking with Bounty store owner Fiona Cameron, they set their sights on 644 Pollen St, which was formerly Nectar.

“They were not on the market, so it seemed a bit weird and I was scared, but we had nothing to lose by asking,” Jenny said. “After one visit, we bravely negotiated a private sale.” 

They moved into the 1896 building in January this year, and started the renovations at once. 

The property boasts three bedrooms, a living room, and kitchen on the upper level and two shops downstairs, which Jenny and Peter have converted into the gallery and studio, which will house two electric kilns. 

They’ve had to install new windows, a modern bathroom, feature lighting, and fix the sloping floorboards, among other things. 

Throughout the whole process, Jenny and Peter have re-used materials and have honed their skills in upcycling. 

“The very first time we were here, Peter was pulling wallpaper off the wall,” Jenny said. “He’s actually a really big part of the glass making now, and he’s really proud of it too.

“I never would have taken on a building like this if it wasn’t for him.” 

Like many emerging artists, when Jenny was just starting to make glass creations, she had to borrow money from her parents. She also secured a grant to buy her first kiln.

“And I had a million part-time jobs,” she said. “I was glass making during the day and working at a movie theatre during the night.” 

She was, and continues to be, attracted to the challenges the medium presented, and said she was “excited but scared” to relocate her studio to Thames.

But with her son Hunter moving down ahead of starting at Thames High School next year, and with familiar sights like Thames Hospital – where Jenny was born – right outside her back door, the fear has made way for anticipation. 

“I know I’m never going to make a lot of money, and that doesn’t matter. I’m doing a job that I love and this step, moving into this building, is the finale of ‘lifestyle’,” she said.

“We’re really looking forward to that lifestyle change of being able to come downstairs and just open the door.” 

Jenny’s glass art studio will be opening “as soon as possible”, once the necessary renovations are complete. To follow the process, find Jenny McLeod Glass on Facebook.