Fifteen years ago, glass artist Leah Allison moved to Invermere and began working at Bavin Glassworks. It was there that she began making beads on a torch.
“I just sort of progressed from there,” said Allison, who sells her glass work under the name Glass Duck.
Bead making progressed into making bigger items including glass cups, Christmas decorations and more. One of the largest pieces she’s made so far is a dress largely comprised of large beads that she wore in a fashion show in New York City.
“I wanted to blow glass, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. So I started out making beads, and then I said, ‘Teach me a little bit.’” she said. “Then I would get taught a little bit here and there.”
She has items at home that she made a decade ago, but didn’t really start getting into glass work until about six years ago.
“On my lunch break I make drinking glasses because I have time to make the things I really want to make,” she said. “So the cups were really thick and wobbly and not straight, and now the stuff I can make is more refined.”
Allison continues to commute to Bavin Glassworks in Invermere, but she and her husband Rob have plans to build a studio here – they just need a location. Allison noted that while there is a significant history of glassblowing in Invermere, it is a new art in Revelstoke.
Photo: Part of Leah Allison’s glass bead dress that she wore in a New York City fashion show. ~ By Alex Cooper
As an art form, Allison said glass is constantly changing.
“When you pull it out of the furnace and it’s molten and it’s at 1,100 C, the entire time you’re working with it, you’re losing heat,” she said. “It’s never the same, whereas you can walk away from your painting and it’s still your painting when you come back. Or wood, or anything metal stays, but glass when you start you have to finish the piece and then put it away in a kiln with a controlled cool so it doesn’t shatter,” said Allison.
Allison works with torches using propane and oxygen to heat the glass up. She then uses glass rods which she can melt around metal mandrels, which is how holes are shaped in the middle of the glass. She also works with borosilicate glass (what your Pyrex measuring cups are made of), which allows her to make larger items.
As a glass artist, Allison has had opportunities to travel to various places in the United States, and has even been as far as Berlin, Germany.
“The way people [blow glass], it’s the same way they’ve been doing it since the Roman’s invented it — with the addition of fuel,” she said. “We don’t have to burn wood constantly, but people have been doing it the same way with the same tools. It’s pretty amazing that way. And then there’s everyone’s interpretation on how to manipulate the material.”
Allison’s work, under the name GlassDuck can be seen at the Revelstoke Visual Art Gallery or you can visit www.facebook.com/glassduckjewelry.