Roy Miller came from a family of artists and craftstmen. His grandfather Henry Miller was a Master Coachbuilder whose handsome-cabs won several championship awards at the Melbourne Exhibition. Roy’s father Oswell set the standard of signwriting in Dunedin with his firm O G Miller which started in 1913, became Miller Studios in 1958, then in 2016 was rebranded Miller Creative Group.
Roy’s brother Ralph Miller also worked in the family firm, establishing modern design techniques and was a talented artist, but tragically died aged 37 in 1956.
Roy started working with his father as a signwriter after leaving primary school in the days when paint was mixed each morning from powder. Acid etching on glass was a large part of the work in those days and Roy spent a large part of his time with this work. It was very specialized with various effects being obtained by using different acids over each other, resulting in badly burned hands at times.
Robert Fraser who was the first glass painter in New Zealand had a room next to O G Miller in Rattray St and in 1942 he offered to teach Roy the art of stained glass, as he was about to retire. In 1943 O G Miller purchased Fraser’s Art Glass Works and Roy Miller started producing his own stained glass window beginning initially with about one commission a year.
A progressive change came when the design work for Roy’s stained glass windows was done by Frederick Ellis A.R.C.A.of Wellington who produced designs from 1948 – 1961. Then to match competition from the English Studios Roy used designs from Kenneth Bunton (from 1959 – 1969) who lived in England. Roy, however, was always sure the ultimate was to be able to produce the complete window in New Zealand and he achieved this in 1969 when he combined with designer Beverley Shore Bennett to produce the Holm window in the Wellington Cathedral. Beverley produced designs for Miller Studios from 1969 until the studio closed in 1988.
Roy Miller (1978) and Beverley Shore Bennett (1974) were made the first New Zealand ‘Fellows of the British Society of Master Glass Painters’. Roy Miller’s stained glass windows can now be seen all over New Zealand from small churches to leading churches and cathedrals.
Paul Hutchins from Wales joined Miller Studios in 1976 and worked with Roy for several years. Roy retired in 1979 but came out of retirement in 1981 to work with Paul on three windows in the Christchurch Cathedral. However Roy died on 31 August 1981 before the first window was completed.
Miller Studios closed the glass department in 1988 following a recession and consequent drop in orders from churches.