When Poppy Templeton enrolled in a glass and glazing course at Melbourne Polytechnic a few years ago, she wasn’t thinking about starting her own business. But life – and romantic trauma – had other plans. Now she spends her days making bold geometric stained-glass mirrors for her label Duck Ragu.
“I took the glass course on a whim and fell in love with the artistic side of it,” Templeton tells Broadsheet. “After the course finished, I got dumped from my relationship, so I just threw myself into creating things.”
Templeton uses the Tiffany method to make most of her wares, a copper-foiling technique that’s been around since the early 1900s. But Duck Ragu is hardly old-fashioned. Handmade mirrors (some constructed entirely from offcuts) are colourful, abstract and geometric: a little Mondrian, a little Memphis style. And custom pieces are fluid and graphic, inspired a little by nature but mainly by whatever weird and wonderful stuff her clients request: kookaburras, oyster picnics or tasty Sbagliatos.
Save 20% when you buy two or more Broadsheet books. Order now to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas.SHOP NOW
“I’ve got a core collection, but a lot of my designs are from people seeing a window they like and then asking me to make a mirror inspired by it,” Templeton says. “I love someone telling me what they love, and then finding a way to make it work in mirror form.”
Templeton’s creative process is one that is long and rewarding. First, she sources the glass – a step she says is her favourite. “There’s only one glass shop in Melbourne that I can get new glass from. Apart from that, I spend a lot of time on Facebook Marketplace and in vintage stores finding glass to repurpose.”
After she’s blocked a design, Templeton lays out her glass pieces – ranging from full sheets to tiny offcuts – on a table. It’s a “pretty slow process” of choosing colours and fitting them next to each other in all sorts of combinations to see what works. Once she lands on something she’s happy with, she scores, cuts and then grinds the glass pieces to shape before reassembling – a bit like glass collage.
Each piece is then wrapped in copper foil and soldered together. Working with copper allows Templeton to get more detail in the designs than she would with the traditional stained-glass method of leadlighting. For orders that can’t be picked up from her Brunswick studio, she’ll wrap the mirrors in an assortment of planet-friendly reused bubble wrap, packing peanuts and boxes, to make sure the glassworks are safe and secure before sending them off.
It’s a complex and inexact process, but Templeton reckons it’s worth it. “With a lot of types of art, you can see where it’s going most of the time,” she says. “When it comes to glass, you don’t really know what to expect. I’m not completely sure it’s always going to look great, but it’s exciting to just leave it to do its own thing.”
Mirrors are Templeton’s mainstay, but that doesn’t stop her from experimenting. She’s gone on to make glass necklaces (and bikinis), and has just started working with kiln-formed glass. “A lot of people say you need to focus on one thing to run a business, but I just have so much fun making different things.”
As for the name Duck Ragu? Just as Templeton collages pieces of glass to create her wares, it’s simply a combination of two of her favourite things. “I’m obsessed with ducks and I’m obsessed with ragu, so I just put them together.”
Duck Ragu mirrors are made to order via the website, and custom pieces are available on enquiry. Modern Times will stock select products from June.