Hot Spot: Pandemic-Friendly Artistic Endeavours Are Hard to Find. This One Is as Fun as It Is Unforgettable
Searching for enjoyable, out-of-the-box date/family-friendly ideas in the era of COVID-19 can feel…well, depressing. Whether your main concern is a business’ availability/capacity issues, varying second-wave closures or angst over whether you’ll feel safe participating in a potential activity, the struggle can be very real.
Here’s where The Hot Shop by Artech Studios in Tory Hill, a small village near Haliburton, Ont. comes in. Offering private and small group lessons, owners Terry Craig and Jenn Wanless-Craig are part of a modest group of highly skilled glassblowing instructors within the province who not only pride themselves on providing a standout artistic experience – they make the safety and peace of mind of their students paramount in the process.
During our introductory private lesson, my mask-clad husband and I were walked through glassblowing safety fundamentals. Once we were clear on how to minimize and prevent injuries, Terry then explained the pieces of equipment and tools we would soon utilize before assessing our readiness to begin. Despite an initial hesitance on our part to approach the 2000-plus degree furnace, we summoned our courage and followed Terry’s very reassuring lead.
Our first make: A glass blob. Once we’d each collected glass from the furnace, we took turns sitting on the bench and rolling the pipe while using tongs to stretch and manoeuvre the melted glass.
Overseeing and advising as we worked, Terry instructed as us throughout the process, returning each piece to the furnace after approximately 30 seconds to maintain heat and prevent breakage.
Once satisfied with our blob composition, he placed the items in the annealer, which slowly cools glass, preventing it from cracking or shattering.
We also each made a paperweight with a fun swirled middle layer of coloured glass and were able to experience glassblowing (while outfitted with a face shield) with our final projects: mine, a hangable coloured glass ball and my husband’s, a coloured glass tumbler.
Throughout the process, we felt very confident in Terry’s ability to guide us and in Artech’s overall approach to COVID-19 safety protocols, which, the couple says, is their focus for every person, couple, family or small group visiting their studio. “Our goal has always been to ensure that everyone feels comfortable during every step of the creating process, and even more so now with the measures we’ve put in place regarding COVID-19 prevention,” says Terry.
Those measures include the wearing of masks and head shields in the glass studio, along with heightened cleaning and disinfecting before and after sessions since everyone has to touch tools and pipes to blow glass, says Jenn. “Another recent change is that we do not fix bubbles so our class times/prices are adjusted to accommodate fewer people.”
Artech Studios offers a variety of engaging introductory sessions (both private and for a small group) that range in price from $75 for a drop-in to $385 for a more advanced weekend tutorial. Couples and families with kids ages 12 and up are welcome, and the owners, who currently sell to over 200 stores/museums/galleries throughout North American and are known for upcycling glass and their repurposed beer bottles, look forward to instructing would-be glassblowers. “Our hope is that they leave a session having learned a new thing, appreciating how hard this is, and seeing that artists can make a living doing what they love,” says Jenn.
Visit artechstudios.ca for more information.
By Liz Bruckner
Liz Bruckner is a freelance writer and editor, wife, and mom to three young boys. She has an insatiable desire for travelling and has contributed to print and online publications, including Today’s Parent, Chatelaine, Best Health, Canadian Living, readersdigest.ca, where.com and Toronto.com. You can follow her on Instagram @itsmeee_lizzieb.