Retired stained-glass and leadlight craftsman Arthur Raffills
has countless decorative pieces from his past displayed in
churches, public buildings and private homes throughout the
However, he takes particular pride in knowing his latest -
and his last - glass creations will feature prominently in
his own children's houses as a special legacy of his life's
work in windows.
Mr Raffills, who is terminally ill, spent much of last winter
in his chilly Albert Town garage painstakingly piecing
together two leadlight glass panels featuring tui on kowhai
''I thought, 'I'm going to get this done, by hook or by
He completed the job shortly before he was diagnosed with
lung, liver and lymph node cancer, which has since made it
too difficult to do any further pieces.
''Towards the end of last year I thought, `just as well I got
them done', as I wouldn't have been able to now.''
Looking back, his wife, Noelene, is also thankful she urged
her husband to make the tui and kowhai windows for their son
and his family, who plan to put them at the front entrance of
their home, soon to be built near Lake Hawea.
''I think it's wonderful that that's going to happen,'' she
For now, the panels are carefully wrapped and stored away
under a bed, waiting to be installed in their son's new house
later this year.
''He's going to have to make his opening to suit,'' Mr
A few years earlier, he made two similar windows for his
daughter and son-in-law's home in Karamea, featuring a tui
and kowhai on one and a wood pigeon and pohutukawa on the
They joined many other one-off pieces he did for homes in
Central Otago and the Upper Clutha after retiring to Albert
Town in 1994, when his long career became a part-time hobby.
Mr Raffills went to work for his father, Walter, in 1949
after leaving Otago Boys' High School.
His father's company - renamed WA Raffills and Sons in 1956 -
worked in conjunction with John Brock, one of the most
significant stained-glass artists in Dunedin.
When Mr Raffills joined the business, he started cutting
glass and making leadlights before taking over the cutting
and firing work for stained-glass windows from his father.
In a kiln, he made bulged glass that was sold throughout New
Zealand and completed a certificate of apprenticeship as a
leadlight maker in 1954.
Some of the windows Mr Raffills completed or worked on during
his career can be found at St Paul's Presbyterian Church in
Oamaru, the Auckland Naval Base and St Barnabas Anglican
Church in Wellington.
He also removed and reconstructed the north and south windows
of Dunedin's First Church - a ''massive undertaking'' - as
the Oamaru stone around them was crumbling.
He has created and restored ''numerous'' other stained-glass
windows and leadlights and made leadlights for furniture,
including bow and straight ends of china cabinets, which were
especially popular after the war.
''It's something that I've never got bored with and there was
always something different.''
After getting out of the family business in the early 1990s,
he spent his last couple of working years with Aburns Glass
Mr Raffills said one of the main skills required for the
craft was patience, as each piece took a long time to
complete, involving many processes.
''And a steady hand ... because it's all freedom cutting.''
The intricate work was ''like putting a big jigsaw
together'', his wife added.
''It's a sort of art form that's not recognised. If you do a
painting you sign it, but you can't really sign windows,''
The couple's own 1960s home in the older part of Albert Town
is a kaleidoscope of colour, with many lampshades and
interior and exterior windows and doors crafted by Mr
Raffills and incorporated during renovations over the years.
His clear leadlights also feature.
After decades working in Dunedin's glass merchant industry
embellishing other people's architecture, the knowledge his
last leadlights will be admired in his own family's home
''feels good'', Mr Raffills said.
He is feeling good health-wise, too, having vastly improved
in recent months, thanks to cancer medication that is keeping
the illness at bay for now.
Mrs Raffills is equally proud of her husband's many
stained-glass and leadlight pieces, in both their prominent
and private settings.
''He's had an interesting journey ... and he's going to leave
a lot behind.''