Looking for a gift? Forget the race day vouchers or the grow-your-own purple carrot kits as there’s a new experience to behold. Glassblowing. I say new, it’s been around since the 1st Century, which makes me wonder why I’ve never picked up the blowpipe sooner.
Nestled in the centre of London, a short walk from London Bridge, is the Peter Layton London Glassblowing Studio. The first half of the studio is an art gallery of blown shapes and colours. Some resembling birds or fruits, some with atomic precision cutting and sculpturing and some with such layered detail you’d think the glass had been threaded afterwards.
Behind the brilliantly white art studio you can see the real men and women at work. It’s a pleasure to see the grit behind the beauty, as if a production of Swan Lake was taking place in the engine room of the Titanic.
It seems just walking through the door makes you part of the family as Peter and his team of permanent and visiting gaffers delight in showing you around their works. Of course it wasn’t long before it was my turn to pick up the pipe and blow myself some art. On today’s programme, Christmas baubles.
Gloved up and goggles on I was ready for the 1100 oC furnace. Guided by Anthony Scala, who tells me how after winning a competition, aged 14, to try glassblowing he was hooked, I was led to the molten glass. A surprisingly unworried Anthony allowed me to gather my own ball of glass which is a little like taking honey from a jar, albeit a 150kg jar with honey that if dropped on your foot would start to eat away very quickly at you. Once removed we dipped into glass crystals of festive greens, blues and whites before returning to the heat to spin the colours together.
Now blended it was time to blow the glass into, ahem, a perfect round bauble. Working with one of the galleries most precision glass cutting artists I knew it was here I had to impress. Let’s just say it was good to have an expert on hand!
Once shaped and clipped it’s then sent to cure for a couple of days.
My bauble arrived in the post and without being bias I would say it’s certainly a studio worthy piece. The fact it had air bubbles, a slight dint in the base and looks more lemon shape than sphere, only adds to it’s value and charm. Ok, I don’t think it’ll quite pass Peter’s keen eye for only displaying the studio’s finest works, but it’s certainly a piece and experience I’ll treasure forever.