stories from people in murringo

William Joseph "Bill" O'Reilly, often known as Tiger O'Reilly (wikipedia)


Helmut's story

from an exhibition held at the wagga art gallery

Cultural background:   
Both of my parents were born in Austria

Place of origin:     
Schneegattern, Upper Austria

Start of migration journey:   
From Vienna to Genoa, Italy to board the ship "Galileo Galilei" 2 May 1976

Place of arrival in Australia:  
Sydney, NSW - 2 June 1976

First home in Australia:   
Young, NSW  Brother's house

Initial employment in Australia:  
I set up an engraving workshop at the house of my brother Heinrick

Other employment in Australia: 
I set up a glass blowing furnace in old Blacksmith shop in Murringo, NSW.

Any glass related objects that you brought with you? And still have?:
I brought a glass engraving machine and tools, also glass grinding wheels with me.

At the age of fourteen I finished school and then started working with the Austrian-Bohemian firm that was owned and operated by Professor Claus Josef Riedel.  This is where I learned how to blow glass, I was there for four years. 

Initially I was supposed to go into a ceramic factory because I always modelled with clay.  My brother and
sister were already in Australia and my mother and I were going to come over at that time.  We had all the papers to come but because my mother was a little too old and got frightened she changed her mind.  By that stage somebody else got my job in the ceramic factory and the only place I could work was in the glass factory. So Australia had something to do with me being in the glass business.

Then in 1961-1964 I attended Austrias' art glass school, Kramsach in the Tyrol, this is where I learnt engraving and decorating.  When I finished my course I worked in Germany as a designer of glass forms and decorations for a few years.  Then I returned back to Austria where I had my own shop designing, decorating and engraving my glass. 

In 1972 some of the designers from Steuben, part of Crown Corning glassworks in New York(NY), came to the glass school in Kramsach to look for glass engravers.  Our engraving teacher called me to meet them; they liked my work the school had on display, as well as the time it took me to make them. They were very impressed with what they saw and offered me to go to Corning and work with them.  It was a big step for us to make, at the time I was self employed so we had our shop and a five year old son to consider. On the other hand to work at Steuben Glass and have everything paid for could not be ignored. For our son, it would be better to move before he started school so we sold everything and went to the United States of America (USA) for three years.

In 1976, I came to Australia with my wife and eight year old son.  We had not planned to go to the USA first but the opportunity came along and we ended there for a few years before coming here.  When we first arrived we stayed with my brother Heinrich in Young NSW for about two months.  At first I had an engraving workshop at my brothers house but then we moved to Murringo, about 21 kilometres east of Young, which is where I set up my own kiln. 

When I first arrived here there was no glass available for me to engrave on, which is why I had to start with glass blowing that I set up in an old Blacksmith shop.  At that time I could not get the proper gas supply to have a furnace running all the time, which is what you need to melt the raw materials.  This meant that we could only start up the furnaces on the weekends to do demonstrations for people and make some pieces for my engraving.  On the 1st October 1976, the first glass was blown in Murringo.  My wife was the only
assistant that I have ever had, even with no experience in glass blowing.  I had to gather the glass and she was holding it.  I had to build everything myself because all that was available were the raw materials.  You could not buy the equipment locally and importing them was much too expensive.

I have been invited to exhibit in many local and international shows.  I also sell to private collectors, in the USA and all over the world, somehow they hear about my work and sometimes find me out here in the bush. 

I have been in Australia for about thirty years now.  Although I live in the bush, Young is a growing town and the local people have always been friendly and helpful to me.  The local craft shop likes my work and it was also good for them to have my glass pieces for the tourists that come through the town