Up, up, up goes the tray of marbles at the glassworks as the crowd watches on.
The two-storey marble run is a sight to see. Up, up, clunk – oops. The handle sticks. The glassworks tech gets it moving again, and the kids start guessing which marble will finish first.
And they’re off! People watch from halfway up the stairs, and from the ground. This is a scene that played out many times through the marble-themed Open Day at Canberra Glassworks in Kingston on Saturday (3 August).
The Powerhouse building suits these large-scale displays, with its cavernous spaces and high ceilings. On Saturday it was a hive of activity as people watched molten glass turn into art in the hot shop and tried their hand at painting with marbles or making glass marble paperweights.
So why theme the day around marbles?
“Everyone loves marbles,” says Louis Grant from the Glassworks. “This is our community engagement event for the year. Last year we had Winterfest, but this year we decided on the marble theme to do something more family-friendly.”
The marble theme is a winner, and families have flocked in to try out the activities. There are paid options like running 20 marbles through the mega-marble run or creating a glass tile in bright coloured glass.
But there are also free behind-the-scenes building tours, guess the marbles in the jar, roll marbles through obstacles and paint a picture using marbles rolled in paint.
Maureen from Orange was in Canberra on the weekend visiting family. “It is really lovely to see all this,” she said. “I haven’t been here before, so this is a good day to come.”
As well as the booked activities, there is also the hot shop to look at. From a viewing platform, the artists can be seen on the floor below, along with their kilns full of molten glass. They gather up the red-hot glass on long poles, roll it on special benches and add twists and flakes of colour and snip and shape the glass – taking it back to heat up in between.
It really is hot down there – waves of heat rise up to the audience above, and the artists look pretty warm in their protective aprons and boots. Despite the heat, the viewing area stayed pretty full on Open Day with people peering over the side balconies, and kids with their noses pressed up against the glass.
Andrew from Ngunnawal brought his two littlies. “It’s good fun for the kids. They played with the marbles and did painting with marbles. The painting was their favourite actually.
“It’s really good for a free family day out. For me, seeing the hot glass work was my favourite.”
The glass tile-making was also popular. Randomly-sized slivers of coloured glass are arranged on a clear glass background, in a pattern or design. These will then be baked in the kiln until the glass melts together into a personalised glass tile.
If you missed Open Day this year, there will be other chances through the year to try these activities. “We are doing the tiles again for Science Week, so people can book in for that if they missed out this time,” says Louis Grant.
The hot shop operates for parts of each weekend, and the shop and gallery are always interesting. On Saturday the shop was busy selling gloriously colourful hand-made marbles as well as the usual gleaming vases and unique jewellery – including a pair of tiny bacon and egg earrings!
The glassworks gallery was open with Translating Tradition showing work by Indigenous artist Maree Clarke and Mitch Maloney, with a huge glass eel trap in the circular smokestack room.
The Glassworks is good for a visit any weekend, but the two-storey marble run designed by Emeirely Nucifora-Ryan was a one-off creation for Saturday’s Marbelous Open Day.
Who knows what they will dream up for next year!
Canberra Glassworks is at 11 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston ACT and is open 10 am – 4 pm Wednesday to Sunday.