Glass blowing is a dramatic craft, perfect for demonstrating as audiences will always be transfixed by the molten, fluid material, the glowing furnace and the sheer skill of the maker.
Timing is the key. It is fascinating to watch as they blow, stretch, turn, pull and twist the glass before it returns to a solid in seconds.
The good news is that you don’t have to go to Venice to watch the age-old techniques in practice, as Derbyshire can boast its own talented craftsmen working from a studio in Lumsdale near Matlock.
Jonathan Abbott of Lumsdale Glass will be opening up the studio this December along with Tom Petit and Manchester glass blower Gemma Truman. As well as giving demonstrations they will be offering people the chance to get hands-on experience.
Christmas has become one of the busiest times of the year for Jonathan, who has only been glass blowing for about six years, as traditional glass baubles for the festive tree have become fashionable once again and he has been inundated with orders.
Jonathan, 32, who studied for an HND in art at Liverpool, has always had a passion for traditional skills and crafts and when he first returned to his home town of Matlock he set up a dry stone walling business.
“I love using skills that haven’t changed in centuries and living here, dry stone walling seemed the obvious skill to learn. I spent seven years doing it and still keep my hand in occasionally, but now the glass has taken over I really do love making it,” he explained.
Back in 2008 when Jonathan was training to become a waller he also took a job as an assistant with Anthony Wassell Glass in Lumsdale one or two days a week.
“I helped him out with tasks in the workshop while he was glass blowing and I was really grateful for the chance to learn about the process.
It was about five or six years ago that I bumped into him again and he asked if I would be able to help him out again during the winter as he had more work than he could cope with.
“I jumped at the chance of guaranteed work in the winter – as you will appreciate dry stone walling is not the easiest job during the bad weather,” he said ruefully.
Anthony is one of the craftsmen used by Wirksworth businesswoman Esther Patterson to make the hand blown glass shapes for her lighting company Curiousa & Curiousa. Thanks to her phenomenal success in recent years his business is also thriving and so Jonathan found that the winter work turned into a full time job.
“I was not making glass at first, but I was so fascinated by the work Anthony was doing I wanted to learn how to do it myself, so I started a one-day-a-week course.
“Anthony could see I was keen to learn and passionate about the craft so he took the time to talk me through what he was doing and made me practise myself at the end of each day.
“It is all about practising – the more you do it the better you will get.
“You spend a lot of time swearing and burning yourself, but you only do so the same way once,” he said laughing.
Two years ago Jonathan felt confident enough to launch Lumsdale Glass and while he still helps Anthony with the lighting he also has a range of his own work – including the festive baubles.
The open weekend, with demonstrations, is on December 9 and 10 but the studio will also be open every weekend in December until Christmas Eve if you just want to go festive shopping.
The studio is at Unit 18 Lower Lumsdale Mills, Matlock DE4 5EX. You can check for more details on the Lumsdale Glass facebook page.