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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Two Cowboys on a Journey: Nicole Tremblay at Fireweed Glass Studio - Canmore, Alberta

Make What's In Your Heart

(Learn: **** Inspire: ** Amaze: **** Live: ****)
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Nicole Tremblay has been blowing glass for over twenty years. After graduating from The Alberta College of Art and Design she spent several years living and working in Toronto and Milton, Ontario before returning to Alberta to work with Susan Gottselig at what would become Fireweed Glass Studio in Canmore, Alberta.

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She is a glassblower known for her generous use of brilliant colours, fluid shapes and her whimsical figurines and landscapes. Her work is exhibited and sold across Canada.

Glassblowing is a glass forming technique that involves inflating molten glass into a bubble (or parison), with the aid of a blowpipe (or blow tube).

The technique was created in the middle of the last century BC, glassblowing exploited a working property of glass which was previously unknown to the glassworkers: inflation. Inflation refers to the expansion of a molten blob of glass by introducing a small amount of air to it. This property is based on the liquid structure of glass where the atoms are held together by strong chemical bonds in a disordered and random network. Therefore molten glass is viscous enough to be blown and gradually hardens as it loses heat.

To increase the stiffness of the molten glass, which in turn facilitates the process of blowing, there is a subtle change in the composition of the glass. During blowing, thinner layers of glass cool faster than thicker ones and become more viscous than the thicker layers. This effect allows production of blown glass with uniform thickness, instead of causing blow-through of the thinned layers.


If there is one observation from a glassblower's work environment, it is, that it is hot! There is a lot of energy going into melting glass. During the long Canadian winters, it may not be much of a problem. Summer makes glass blowing a vocation of love for anyone that is temperature sensitive.

During our visit, Nicole highlighted a very important principle of art. We think it is a universal principle for all the work of producers and makers: "Make something that's in your heart." If you worry what people are going to buy, then you are likely going to sacrifice creativity to conform to perceived expectations. The end result will lack value for yourself, and most likely then also for your customer that should share in this value.

The most important drive for your work should be for the utmost value it holds for yourself. This can only happen when your whole heart is into it. If the maximum value makes it into what you do, only then do others really get to share in your value. They share in it when they appreciate, buy and use what you produced. This is how an artist and Producer produces their best work.

When I asked Nicole how long she works on perfecting a piece, she mentioned that it can take her up to two years to perfect the technique for the production of a single type of item, and everyone is still unique. This is an enormous commitment and speaks to the dedication and devotion that goes into practising this very challenging art form. For one, I am looking at a hand crafted glass article from her or any glass artist in a whole different light. Think of all the broken glass that must go into perfecting one beautifully formed, and very useful article, like the beautiful beer mugs Nicole made for the Cowboys.

The second important takeaway from Nicole's interview was that the art of glass blowing also goes hand-in-hand with utility. Glass is something we use every day anyway, without thinking much about it. Because it is so much part of our lives, we may as well use something that is hand crafted, beautiful and useful from a maker like Nicole and her colleagues at Fireweed Glass Studio. Now, you can get it from your local glass blower.

Thank you, Nicole, for our Beer Mugs. They are treasured possessions and welcome companions at the end of a hard days of work.

Hendrik van Wyk

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