• laura

My spontaneous glassblowing education

aka how my husband and I became a couple

my favourite pieces from my time at Halliburton School of Art and Design

I know that glassblowing school is about as far from the traditional college experience as it gets. I signed up very last minute to the course, but there's also a little more to the story - it's a big part of how my husband Kyle and I got together.

You know those stereotypical love stories where the girl has a (bad) boyfriend and a wonderful best friend who's in love with her and it takes her forever to figure it out? Yeah, that's how Kyle and I got together. He's been my best friend since high school, but at the time of choosing college/university in grade 12, I was with someone else.

by Fiona Chiu Photography

At the time, I wanted to follow my ex to whatever school he wanted to go to, as I was going to take some kind of administrative assistant course just to get an education. It didn't really matter where I went. I wasn't happy with the situation, but I felt pressured to "do something" with my life.

As I was looking at the courses offered at the school that my ex ended up choosing, I discovered they had another campus up North - called the Halliburton School of Art and Design. There was a glassblowing class listed. Until this point, I think I vaguely knew that it existed, but that was about the extent of my knowledge. I started looking into it and I became obsessed with the mystery of glass. I secretly wanted nothing more than to try it, but I knew that would mean going to a new school all on my own, and my anxiety (and my ex) wouldn't have that.

I won't get into it, but this ex was not the right person for me for many reasons. I ended up breaking up with him soon after graduation, and decided last minute not to go to the school I had been planning to. I started telling Kyle about the glassblowing course, which started the following January instead of September. He was as intrigued as I was, and we very quickly signed up. There are over 100 applicants each year and only 12 spots.

overlooking the Halliburton School of Art and Design

We were both accepted, and we made arrangements for a house to rent together the following winter. That summer as we looked forward to our adventure, we eventually "became official". Although we've always agreed it felt like we had been together for a very long time.

Three years later we got married.

That was last May :)

Kyle has always encouraged my creativity and I'm so grateful to him for that. Our glassblowing education opened a floodgate of creativity in me, and when it was over I knew I had to explore other crafts. I tried many things, but embroidery just stuck with me and I can't get enough of learning about it and sharing it with you.

I never thought I could be an "artist". I was going to go to school, get into debt, have a boring office job and maybe at the height of my career be a personal assistant to someone making a LOT more money than me.

I'm glad I went to school for glassblowing with Kyle.

Want to know more about what glassblowing school is like?

Just like glassblowing itself, the style of education was very unconventional. We were in school 9-5 with optional studio time from 5-9 as well. Our teacher and subject changed each week for 15 weeks, which was very interesting! We never really knew what to expect on a weekly basis. Some weeks I can remember are shapes, colour, plates & bowls, coldworking, and production. We also had a week on flameworking or lampworking which uses a different type of glass rods with a torch on the table. The first part of this video is flameworking.

The classroom was two stories tall and the size of a small gym, with two garage doors on one side that were always open to the freezing Halliburton winter. Despite this, the classroom constantly sat at a nice warm 42 degrees because of the two large furnaces, each 2100 degrees.

There are also 4 "glory holes" (yes, they're called that), which are basically re-heating furnaces. Glass needs to be HOT to be worked, and every time you touch it you cool it and have to reheat it. A big part of glassblowing is learning to manipulate it as little as possible to make it do what you want. Glass has to be worked with in very specific ways, so you break a lot of pieces while learning.

We had a short lesson each morning followed by glassblowing time, and each week there was one assignment that had to be completed by Friday. I loved how laid back the learning was - there was so much time and room made for experimenting and trying things repeatedly. Kyle and I made a lot of fish in our spare time. Each one is between 4"-7". Everything is done as partners - we really had to learn to communicate with each other while we practiced making these. Our first ones were not this good!

Watch a glassblown fish made here. This is a slightly different style of fish than what we made, but the techniques are the same overall. One tool we used to use that isn't shown is a damp folded newspaper, which you probably never would have guessed would be a tool for hot glass.

While we don't currently have the means to work with glass, we would love to open up our own little shop once we have the space for it. It'll be a few years, but I'll keep you updated!

I hope this was interesting and informative for you - I'm going to try to be more regular about posting here again, so if there's anything you'd like to see or if you have questions, email me at laura@throughrainorshine.ca.

Talk to you soon! xx

by Fiona Chiu Photography

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