The close knit community of Canberra and surrounds is home to some of Australia’s top glass artists. Canberra is one of the biggest glass making hubs in the Southern Hemisphere, lucky enough to have organisations such as the Canberra Glassworks and the Glass Workshop at the ANU School of Art & Design.
Canberra’s international glass reputation was established in 1982, at what was then the Canberra School of Art, Glass Workshop (now ANU School of Art & Design). International glass artist, Klaus Moje AO, moved from Germany to head up the program and had great success.
Drawing much national and international attention for the quality and skilsl of its graduates, a group of artists from ANU approached the ACT Government to develop a contemporary glass studio.
The Canberra Glassworks opened in 2007, providing artists with state-of-the-art equipment, studio spaces, intensive workshops led by leading glass artists, mentorship programs, residency opportunities to develop and realise new works and ultimately, a community.
We met with local glass artist Annette Blair (Netty) in the Canberra Glassworks Hotshop to see how she turns molten glass into beautiful homewares and artwork.
How long have you been making glass for? And how much training has it taken?
I have been working with glass for 20 years now. It began as work experience when I was in highschool, which immediately led to me enrolling at the ANU School of Art and Design for 4 years in the Glass workshop. After graduating I moved to Adelaide for a further 2 years of training at the Jam Factory. Glassblowing is one of those things where you keep learning new things every day you step into the studio.
Why is local shopping important to you?
It seems like there is a lot more interest in shopping locally lately as the pace of most people's lives has slowed down. We seem to be actively looking a little harder for local suppliers to support and in Canberra we are lucky to have so many wonderful producers and products to choose from. As a maker it's so wonderful when people realise just how much talent there is in Canberra across so many fields.
What is your favourite part of the process?
I love that I have the ability to walk into the studio and craft almost anything that I want to from a furnace full of hot, molten glass. But besides that I really enjoy the team aspect of glassblowing, I have been working with Belinda Toll for about 12 years and her skill and reliability is invaluable, she often knows what I need before I do which makes my job a whole lot easier.
How do you get into a state of “flow”?
I'm not sure I ever really get into a state of flow these days, I have so little time to make work at the moment with two small kids that when I do get time in the studio, I have no choice but to knuckle down and just get it done. Some days though in the glassblowing studio, when everything works out and nothing hits the floor, it definitely feels like a good day.
What is your favourite spot in Canberra?
I'd have to say that Lake Burley Griffin on a sunny day is our go-to. There are so many great spots to explore like the great playgrounds, cafes and cultural institutions, all linked together by family friendly bike and walking paths.
What have you been binge watching?
Does ABC kids count? I haven't really binged anything for a while but I do love a good old fashioned zombie so I am hanging out for new episodes of the Walking Dead.
As we arrived at Canberra Glassworks, Netty was crafting a bowl from her ‘Softies’ range. Netty was working with Belinda Toll at the Canberra Glassworks Hotshop. A Hotshop is the name of a glass blowing studio.
The volume of incremental steps it takes to make a piece in glass is mind-blowing! The maker constantly needs to turn the glass to keep it centred, while also maintaining a good working temperature through consistent reheating.
Netty’s practice as a glass maker spans many forms of glass making; blowing glass, painting with enamels on glass, creating beautiful layered portraits or textured colour scapes and also cold working and engraving works to finalise their appearance.
Netty works professionally as a Gaffer and as a highly skilled assistant on glass blowing teams. A Gaffer is a lead glassblower - during this process Netty makes art work and production pieces for other artists and designers as well as for herself.
Glassblowing is a team oriented experience, usually requiring a Gaffer and 1 - 2 assistants. The bigger the piece, the more assistants are required.
It was a delight experiencing the magic of Netty creating her work from molten glass, watching the form shift, change and refine.
You can find Netty’s ‘Softies’ range in Shop POP and also some of her LUXE range!