By Judith van Berkom
Ottawa glassblowing enthusiasts have a new cooperative space to enjoy, right here in Kitchissippi.
The Ottawa Glassblowing Cooperative celebrated its grand opening in November with an afternoon of live demos by experts Dean and Eliska Smiley, Sebastien Duchange and Melody Jewitt. It also hosted an auction and used the opportunity to raise funds for the co-op.
The grand opening drew constant crowds of interested people throughout the afternoon – an estimated total number of 300 people.
The co-op was created after Ottawa’s first glassblowing studio, Flo Glassblowing, closed. Former renters got together to open the new studio, located on 957c Gladstone Avenue. Based on the model of Terminal City Community Cooperative in Vancouver, the artists wanted to continue the art and offer rental space to members as well as classes to the community.
Founded in May 2019, the co-op’s mission is to “build an inclusive glassblowing community by cooperatively providing resources to support the artistic creativity, learning and growth of its members and to engage the public in the art of glass.”
“It has been a tremendous amount of work by a lot of artists,” says Yvonne Avis, membership engagement officer. “But we are so pleased to finally see the co-op up and running, and really looking forward to welcoming artists and students to the warm glow of molten glass.”
The five volunteer members of the board of directors are also active glassblowers in the co-op. A paid studio technician, Jeff MacIntoch, maintains the equipment, teaches classes and ensures the quality of glass, which is an important element of glassblowing. The cooperative is seeking additional professional glassblowers to share the overall cost.
Despite being a costly medium to be involved in because of the expensive gas and tools necessary, the co-op offers reasonable prices for people who want to use the facilities.
There are not many places around where professional-level glassblowers can develop their skills. Current membership is 15 people.
Independent and/or expert glassblowers are able to use the facilities on their own for a cost but there are different levels you can join into. For a member to be considered “independent,” they have to pass a series of tests involving the equipment and also to be able to look after themselves in the hot shop.
Opportunities exist for everyone to try this art, including “newbie” nights as well as workshops, private lessons and even group parties.