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Melody Jewitt: Strong women kick glass

Melody Jewitt, playing with fire. Photo by Etienne Ranger

Grandmother’s influence inspires talented artist and musician honoured on Women’s Day

By Kathleen Wilker

Glassblowing is an ancient art with thousands of years of history. But according to Cole Avenue’s Melody Jewitt, glassblowing has only been in Canada for about 60 years and very few glassblowing professionals are women. In celebration of International Women’s Day, Jewitt and her business partner at Flo Glassblowing, Bronwen McKnight, are hosting their first art show as part of the Celebrate HER art crawl held in venues around Kitchissippi from March 3-10, 2012 and organized by Amanda Cottreau. The empowering event particularly suits the venue, a glassblowing studio owned and run by two women.

At the heart of the studio is a furnace kept at a roaring 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. “The furnace is named Flo, in memory of my grandmother, Florence,” explains Jewitt. “My grandmother was a big craft enthusiast and taught me to make my own clothes, to paint and to draw.” Jewitt credits her grandmother’s influence for the courage it took to travel from her home town of Thunder Bay to Sheridan College in Toronto where Jewitt studied glassblowing at the College of Craft and Design for three years.

Her grandmother’s influence was craft, but her grandfather’s was music. “My family is very musical, which is why I’m called Melody,” explains Jewitt. Although she took vocal lessons as a kid, Jewitt wasn’t interested in becoming a professional musician. “Music is just too special to me. But glassblowing was an easy sell.”

Marrying her craft with teaching, Jewitt and her business partner McKnight are hoping that the beginner lessons they are currently teaching to adults and children will build a pool of local glassblowing talent so that they can then share the complexities of their craft.

Once folks watch the magic of their breath expand a lump of glass into a bright ornament, they have a hard time leaving the studio. “I had one eight-year-old girl who liked the studio so much that she decided she was going to be my apprentice,” remembers Jewitt with a laugh. “The next day she brought me her résumé that included her skills at caring for animals. I’m not sure how that’s applicable to glassblowing, but I admire her commitment and I’m going to invite her back when we have a big event.”

In tune with her musical background, and as part of the week long Celebrate HER performances, Jewitt is performing vocals and guitar at the Alpha Soul Café on March 7. “My uncle and two of the cousins will be performing with me and they’ve decided we’re called Melody Jewitt and the Playboys.” With her usual warm humour, Jewitt takes the band name in stride and looks forward to an opportunity to have fun and create beauty in this Kitchissippi community she has made her home.