A Passion for Glass

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what ignited my passion for glass.  It certainly stems back as far as childhood.  I have early memories of my grandmother's green glass collection.  I loved sneaking away on my own, to the special living room.  The kind with wallpaper, floral curtains and stiff couches that no one ever really sat on.   I would perch myself over the side of a wingback chair and study the glimmering glass, in various shades of chartreuse and emerald.  A collection of mostly functional items like drinking glasses, dessert plates, and an intricate pitcher.  Each piece thoughtfully organized on an illuminated brass and glass, multi-tiered display shelf, indicative of the time.

When I was 6 we took a family trip to Walt Disney World.  There are 3 things I remember about Disney.  The fireworks, Big Space Mountain, and a glass seahorse.  I vividly recall walking into a gift shop where a man was performing a lamp working demonstration. Using a torch and a pair of pliers he heated and pulled molten glass to form a small, delicate seahorse.  I was mesmerized.

Glass chandelier by Dale Chilhuly

In my early teen years, I discovered Dale Chihuly.  Chihuly is an acclaimed blown glass artist who has been making magic with glass for nearly 6 decades.  He is known especially for his large, whimsical glass installations and chandeliers.  He and his team have created ‘glass gardens’ all over the world.  Inspired by the world around him, Chihuly designs vibrantly coloured, organic glass creations.  Some of my favorites are massive installations, consisting of thousands of twisting glass orbs.  When I was 21 I had the pleasure of viewing some of Chihuly’s work in person for the first time, at the Sandra Ainsley Gallery in Toronto.  Feasting my eyes on several of Dale’s ethereal chandeliers, was a moment I will not forget.  I was officially obsessed with the medium of glass, born of sand and fire.

Although I was dying to learn how to blow glass, in the early 2000’s glass blowing lessons were expensive and hard to come by.  And I knew that even if I did have a chance to learn the craft, a hot shop wasn’t something I could just put in my house, so I wouldn't be able to continue to fuel my passion for glass in that way.  My love for the medium of glass as a whole included a love for stained glass.  In particular Tiffany Lamps.  I was fascinated by the elaborate lampshades, crafted of hundreds of tiny, intricately cut, glass pieces.  

For my 23rd birthday my cousin and two aunts gifted me a beginner stained glass course at Stained Glass Stuff in Ottawa.  I was the youngest person in the class, by about 40 years.  For 6 weeks the white hairs and I learned how to cut, grind, foil, solder, in the traditional Tiffany method of stained glass (the same process as the lamps, and the one I work in today). We made 8”x10” stained glass panels, from patterns found in books with projects comprised of 20 pieces or less.  Each week I eagerly awaited the evening where I would get to spend a couple of hours at the glass studio, working on my creation.  The multistep process came naturally to me.  But, learning stained glass doesn't come without a bit of spilled blood and more than a few burns.  It confused me that stained glass was, at that time, a hobby mostly enjoyed by the older crowd, considering it was such a bloodsport.  

I was proud of my finished piece; a moody nightscape spin I put on, what was intended to be, a sunset scene.   After the course was finished, I acquired the tools necessary to continue making stained glass at home.  For years I made stained glass very sporadically.  Pulling out my tools once a year or so to make a poppy as a Christmas gift, or an owl for a little boy’s birthday.  In November of 2005, I made my sister a stained glass feather for her birthday.  Pleased with the design, I made 9 more feathers, started an Instagram account and opened an Etsy shop. And with that, Flux Glass Co was born.  

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