A Q&A with Melody Jewitt: Making a ‘community of crafters’

Kitchissippi Times: Tell us a bit about your own background. How did you become the co-founder of a glassblowing studio? 

Melody Jewitt: Well, it’s been a bit of a gradual development, that’s for sure. I went to school back in 2002 for glassblowing at Sheridan College. I was fresh out of high school. When I graduated three years later, I moved to Ottawa and started a small flameworking company called Red Om Glass. I traveled to craft shows around Eastern Ontario, mainly selling jewellery but also I kept glassblowing orders going by renting time out of a space in Merrickville. It’s there where I met my future business partner, Bronwen McKnight.

It took several years, but eventually we brought her existing studio into Ottawa and launched our grand plan of running a studio for the community making classes for all ages our main focus of the business. Bronwen retired officially in 2013 so I’ve been leading the helm since then with the help of a great crew of teachers and administrative staff.

KT: It sounds like it’s changed a lot since you first came on board. Also, who’s Flo?

It has grown exponentially since we first opened. Every year we got better at what we offered and every year the interest has only continued to grow! We started with a white board calendar for booking and zero additional staff. We currently have six teachers and four admin on staff and offer a wide variety of workshops and classes seven days a week. Flo is actually named in honour of my late grandmother, Flo Jewitt. She was my first really crafty mentor. She never worked in glass but she taught me the love of making things.

“Working with your hands while learning something new and creative is both highly enjoyable and satisfying,” says Melody Jewitt, the co-owner of Flo Glassblowing. Photo by Andrea Tomkins
“Working with your hands while learning something new and creative is both highly enjoyable and satisfying,” says Melody Jewitt, the co-owner of Flo Glassblowing. Photo by Andrea Tomkins

KT: The timing and growth of Flo Glassblowing seems to coincide with a growing “maker” culture. Suddenly more people are interested in making their own stuff. To what would you attribute this bump in DIY?

MJ: Good question. I would agree, not just in glassblowing, but in a variety of areas, the ‘maker movement’ seems to only be growing in popularity. And why not?! For one, its fun! Even a bit addictive! Working with your hands while learning something new and creative is both highly enjoyable and satisfying. As an extra caveat, you come home with this unique item and it’s made by you! It gets to remind you every time you look at it of this awesome experience you had making it; no vase at Home Sense can give you that!

KT: Glassblowing is unique, though. It’s not very easy for someone to try this at home. Like, say, knitting. Can you tell us a bit about the set up at Flo and the classes available?

MJ: Glassblowing is most definitely unique, unlike any other medium out there. It is also much more challenging than one might expect if you haven’t tried it before. There’s this juggle of gravity and this continual turning motion. Add in the intensity of a piping hot, 2100-degree furnace and a liquid medium that needs very precise actions before it looses heat and sets up again. It’s a lot to coordinate. This is why we offer such a variety of styles of workshops at the studio. One style of class is our full fundamental training we call our Beginner Series. If you really want to learn the medium for yourself, these sessions are designed to build you up slowly, eventually making it to larger more impressive shapes and forms. The other ‘specialty’ workshops can be fun group evenings out. We change up the styles of workshops depending on the time of year and everyone gets to participate and bring something home with little stress on the students’ shoulders. This time of year we are hopping with ‘Blow your own ornament’ sessions which we actually can offer for kids as young as six years old.

KT: What’s it like to watch someone try glassblowing for the first time?

MJ: Ha! Well that completely depends on the student. There are a lot of steps to synchronize together at first. Throw in someone who is anxious due to the heat and it can look like a wild rodeo. Often I compare it to juggling, or patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time. Eventually all the pieces come together but it may take you a hundred times of doing the same action until finally it clicks and you don’t have to keep reminding yourself to turn anymore, your fingers just know to do it.

KT: Can you tell us about anything new that’s coming up in the run up to the holidays?

MJ: This is our busiest time of the year, so the studio is bustling. We’ve extended our gallery hours to open on Sundays from 12-5 p.m. until Christmas. Our latest seasonal ‘vintage ornaments’ classes have already nearly sold out so we’re encouraging everyone to buy a glass workshop as a gift for the New Year. Also, if you want to shop local and handmade this Christmas, Flo is hosting an Artisan Sale on Saturday December 2 from 2-6 p.m. featuring half a dozen local artists of a variety of mediums. There will be demonstrations and snacks for sharing. As always, our events are kid friendly so this is a great event to come out as a family and support your local community of craft.

For more information, go to floglassblowing.ca.

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