Stephen Proctor was born in Sussex, UK in 1946, the second son of Rosebud and Peter, who was a flight engineer. He initially studied engineering at the encouragement of his father, but later chose to study agriculture, which was closer to his love of the outdoors. He made a living as a student through painting commissions and a family friend requested him to engrave a picture of her home on a glass goblet. He began to investigate English glass engraving, this inspired him to learn the craft.
In his studio near Ashburton in Devon, UK Stephen focused entirely on his engraved glass goblets for his livelihood and achieved a high standard of craftsmanship. During this time living on Dartmoor he felt closely connected to the land. His long walks and painting expeditions through the wild, open hills and the intimacy of the river valleys formed in him an even closer link to the forces of nature than his previous studies in agriculture.
Feeling the limitation of working on a given glass form Stephen wanted to make his own shapes and to carve them deeper. He was awarded a grant by the Crafts Council UK to develop his work. He bought a blue van and left his home in Dartmoor to expand his understanding of glass and how he could cultivate his art. He traveled to Vienna to study at the Glass Workshops of J. & L. Lobmeyr, where he learnt prismatic cutting and traditional fine carving techniques. He went on to travel through East and West Europe, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Germany and Holland visiting glass artists and museums.
He was invited to be the first Visiting Artist at Glass Studio Franzensbad Baden, sponsored by the J. & L. Lobmeyr factory, in Vienna, Austria. In this residency he learned to blow glass and made his first sculptural works, such as Materiality Overcome and Optical Orientations.
Joel Phillip Myers, Head of the Glass Program at Illinois State University, USA, invited Stephen to be Artist in Residence. Stephen worked on developing his paintings, refined his glass blowing skills, and made experiments with light beams passing through transparent forms to reveal shadows and light play like in Continuous Rhythm and The Offering. He exhibited this work under the title Through Glass Forms in Illinois and New York and showed his paintings Contemplations on a Cornish Landscape at the Fine Art Centre, Illinois. While living in the USA he explored many magnificent natural places, immersed himself in modernist architecture and American cultural traditions.
Stephen was invited to become Artist in Residence at Sunderland Polytechnic. There he established links to poets and writers. He worked in two glass factories to make his forms, Monkwearmouth Glass Centre and Glass Bulbs Ltd, Leamington, after the day shifts were over and started to blow large forms to make works such as Deep Pool and Floating on a Sea of Light.
Stephen began teaching at The Royal College of Art in London.
Stephen and Christine Manger married in the UK.
He is appointed Senior lecturer at West Surrey College of Art and Design in Farnham. While teaching at Farnham, Stephen and Christine spent the summers in a small cottage on the Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, returning annually. Out in the elements he worked at small and large scale drawings and paintings from early morning to after sunset. He worked with rocks and stone on wild beaches where few people ventured. This direct understanding of mass and balance experienced with the stones became critical to his sculptures in works such as Rhythm of the Sea and Sky.
He had a major solo touring exhibition Passages Through Light that traveled across the United Kingdom exhibiting works such as After the Great Wave and Floating on a Sea of Light.
Stephen was awarded a British Council Research Scholarship to Czechoslovakia where he worked in Novy Bor and made contact with prominent studio artists. In New York he lectured and gave demonstrations at the Glass Art Society conference, Corning.
Stephen’s experiments using prisms and mirrors to create drawings of pure colour were seen for the first time in an installation during his exhibition Thoughts About Light at L.Y.C Museum and Gallery, Cumbria.
Hergiswil Glass Factory at Lake Lucerne, Switzerland invited Stephen to make pieces for the exhibition titled Glass In Architecture. Roberto Niederer, artist and owner of the factory enabled him to use the facilities, which was vital for blowing the large pieces of glass that Stephen exhibited in subsequent years. During these stays he enjoyed rambling in the Swiss mountains.
Solo touring exhibition Thoughts About Light that traveled from England to Germany, Switzerland and Austria. This exhibition included large scale works such as Rhythm of the Sea and the Sky, Cosmic Rhythm, and Large Bowl for Gathering Light. While teaching at West Surrey College of Art and Design at Farnham, he was involved in numerous student exhibitions all over Europe.
Birth of daughter Anna.
Solo exhibition For The Gathering Of Light toured various galleries and museums in USA traveling to Florida, Texas, Iowa and Illinois, showing major pieces such as Regeneration and The Awakening.
Birth of son Ben.
Stephen and family move to the USA to take up the position of Visiting Associate Professor at Illinois State University running the Glass Program at the invitation of Joel Phillip Meyers.
Solo exhibition Seeds Of Light was shown in the Netherlands and included works such as Dialogue, Whistling in the Wind and Seeds of Light. These seed works were made over a number of years as symbols for renewal.
Stephen moved to Canberra, with his family to become Head of the Glass Workshop at the Australian National University.
Inspired by the strong, powerful landscape, the intense light, the space and new palette of ochres, reds and greys, Stephen’s work changed. The family settled in the bush just outside Canberra, a place that gave him a renewed connection to the land. In the studio he made the black series Light Beyond Darkness and the Engraved Vessels that adopt bright vivid colour with deeply carved drawings.
In Canberra he initially taught with Scottish artist Elizabeth McClure, but was later joined by English-born, American artist Jane Bruce. Together they developed the glass program and continued to bring excellence and innovation to Australian glass. His time at the ANU was an important one for the school and for his own growth.
Stephen traveled numerous times to Japan to undertake research and became fascinated by Japanese gardens and their aesthetic sensibilities.
Stephen collaborated with Mutitjulu aboriginal community to introduce glass engraving to the Mutitjulu women through the course of several visits. This made it possible for English artist Clare Henshaw and Australian artist Lienors Torre to travel to Ulurru in the Northern Territory to work with the women. They took with them glass shapes inspired by traditional forms which were deeply carved by the women. The works are now part of the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.
Stephen attended an international symposium Glass Net in Venice Italy, where he meets to discuss the creation of web presences for artists and art organisations. He returns inspired, secures funds from the Australia Council and launches the first web site for Australian studio glass at www.glassaustralia.anu.edu.au/ to showcase the medium, its artists and to provide information and networks for practitioners.
Awarded Australia Council Artist's Studio residency at The National Institute of the Arts at Taipei, Taiwan where Stephen studied Chinese art, especially painting and developed a series of ink paintings. Working with the students at the Institute he made a large installation of colour prisms.
The Glass workshop was invited to be the inaugural university glass program to exhibit in Aperto Vetro, Venezia, Italy. This was a milestone in the history of the workshop.
Completes Light Works, his architectural prism installation for the foyer of the Innovations Building at the Australian National University.
Stephen became ill and died at his home after spending an intense period of reflection, painting and making in his studio.
In honor of Stephen and his contribution to Australian glass, 70 artists participated in an exhibition titled Dialogue: Stephen Procter and Friends, at Quadrivium Gallery in Sydney. The Stephen Procter Traveling Fellowship, organised and administered by the ANU Glass Workshop is established. Experience and travel were both important to Stephen. This Fellowship is intended to foster links between glassmakers around the world. It is awarded to both international and Australian artists.
Stephen by the sea with sketch book