Glass-blowing is a fascinating art, as veteran Australian glass artist Barbara Jane Cowie can attest to. At her studio Art Glass Solutions, she puts molten glass on one end of a blowpipe and blows through it to create a bubble, manipulating the glass into a languid shape that could end up as a vase or a beautiful sculpture.
Vases and tumblers are some items that participants can make at Art Glass Solutions. PHOTO: BY KEVIN LIM
Better known as B Jane Cowie, she is the artist behind an installation at Ocean Financial Centre that depicts a school of fish. She is also the one behind the bouquet-shaped sculptures, decorated with bright-coloured mosaics, sparkling mirror accents and sculptural glass petals at Changi Airport Terminal 2.
Ms Cowie is believed to be the only glass-blower in Singapore. When she is not busy working on commissioned projects, she conducts lessons at her Katong studio. Most of her students are working adults who "want the experience of trying something new and different, and feeling at one with glass", she says.
Grinding the glass to smoothen its surface. PHOTO: BY KEVIN LIM
Workshops range from the basics of glassmaking to more complicated techniques. In her beadmaking workshop, for example, participants try their hand at hot glass on a small scale, working with an extremely hot flame. They make glass beads and learn how to add colour and decorative details to each piece.
Be prepared to sweat at her classes, as you're working with molten glass at a temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius. You will learn how to blow into the blowpipe, turn the pipe with hot glass on the end and how to sculpture the molten hot glass. For such classes, Ms Cowie says long-sleeved cotton shirts and pants are highly recommended for protection from the heat, and closed-toe shoes are a must.
After a hot glass workshop, participants get to go home with their very own tumbler or small vase after the glass has been cooled slowly over the next 24 hours.
Glass artist B Jane Cowie demonstrates the art of glass-blowing. PHOTO: BY KEVIN LIM
"You can learn in a few lessons how to blow glass, but mastering the technique will take at least five years," says Ms Cowie. So you will need patience, especially when your first vase or glass will be raw rather than refined. But don't despair. "There is beauty in the naïveté of your very first blown glass piece."
One of her students even held his own solo exhibition in Singapore after a year of regular glass-blowing sessions.
Class sizes vary but generally she takes up to 15 people for the easier workshops. She sometimes has just one student in the hot glass workshops that explore the more difficult techniques. Classes cost from S$50 per person for an introductory class to S$480 for a series of four hands-on workshops to learn kiln casting, hot glass-blowing, lampworking and cold working.
Ms Cowie enjoys working with glass because of its transparent colours, its fragility and the dichotomous nature of glass – being beautiful and dangerous, soft and hard at the same time. "There is also nothing like drinking out of a glass that you've made yourself," she adds.
Her dream one day is to open a glassmakers' cafe. "A place where people can come, learn about glass, design their own pieces and enjoy a coffee and friendly cafe ambience," she adds.
This article was first published on The Business Times. Click here to read the original story.