11 August 2022

Be blown away by the mysterious world of glass-making this National Science Week

| Claire Fenwicke
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Artist Katie-Ann Houghton blowing glass in the Hotshop. Photo: Canberra Glassworks.

A traditional artistic artform is the focus of National Science Week, with its Canberra launch based inside a dedicated institution.

Canberra Glassworks will play a vital role in the week, highlighting this year’s theme, ‘Glass: more than meets the eye’.

It’s after the United Nations declared 2022 the International Year of Glass, the first commemorative year in which it’s recognised a material as an annual topic.

Canberra Glassworks public program manager Lilith Silva can understand why there’s a focus on the fascinating material and artform.

“Glass is a wonderful tool that experiments with various scientific aspects,” she says.

“There’s so much science behind it – why glass is so stretchy, how you make the colour change … it’s a beautiful, sustainable material that can be recycled or reused indefinitely.”

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Hotshop demonstrations will be the main drawcard at the Glassworks, where audiences can discover some of the region’s top artists.

Usually the facility hosts 10 to 15-minute long tours through the space, but for National Science Week hour-long demonstrations will be available to take a much more in-depth scientific look at the craft.

Neon bending will also be featured, which is where glass tubing is pumped full of gas and electrified. A special evening demonstration will be held by Science Week artist-in-residence Harriet Schwarzrock who specialises in neon bending.

Commentary and insight into the process of glass blowing will be provided by artistic director Aimee Frodsham and resident science expert Jodie Smith.

Canberra Glassworks artist Katie-Ann Houghton hopes drawing back the curtain on the world of glass-making will encourage more people to take up the artform.

“There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the glass-making process, so having tours with someone explaining what’s happening while we work is a unique chance to let people know what’s going on,” she says.

“I’m really interested in people gaining more understanding and knowing about glass-making, because it is a dying artform.

“Institutions like this are keeping the traditions alive, but it’s still getting rarer and rarer … I want people to get excited about it.”

A wealth of glass-making knowledge is contained within the Canberra Glassworks’ walls, which is one of two such institutions in the country.

Be it using glass to make art, furniture or lights for Parliament House, there’s someone in the building who will have the skills to make it happen.

“Glass is very exciting and very challenging, it’s never boring, even when you make the same thing 150 times or 10,000 times, something different happens every time,” Katie-Ann says.

Glass-making covers a vast variety of techniques, including glass blowing, flame working, kiln forming, casting and cold working.

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Demonstrations at the Canberra Glassworks are part of a range of activities being held for National Science Week throughout the ACT.

Hands-on science activities will pop up in our shopping centres, STEM community workshops at Civic Library, educational walks and talks at the Banksia Building in the Australian National Botanic Gardens and a science dance class in Ainslie are some of the opportunities on offer throughout the city.

Overall both women hope this will lead more locals to discover the inner workings of the glassworks facility in their own backyard.

“This facility is one of a handful in the world that is artist focused for both education and private usage, it’s pretty unique,” Katie-Ann says.

Lilith agrees: “The Glassworks is a huge beacon for the glass community, and this is an opportunity to invite more people in.”

The National Science Week launch is on Saturday, 13 August in the Canberra Glassworks foyer at 10 am.

Blown molten glass reacting to paper. Photo: PewPewStudio for Canberra Glassworks.

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