Haliburton heats up
IT’S 32 DEGREES under murky skies when my husband and I step out of our car in front of Artech Glass Blowing Studios in tiny Tory Hill, Ont., three hours northeast of Toronto, yet even this scorcher of a summer day could not have prepared us for what awaits inside glassblower Terry Craig’s workshop. The furnace must burn at 1,150 degrees Celsius to keep glass molten for blowing; even standing two metres back, the heat thrown from its glowing maw is almost unbearable. I’d promised my husband a hot date in the Haliburton Highlands, but I’m not sure he realized I was being literal. Craig guides us through the process of creating a few treasures — paperweights shot through with swirls of colour, luminous glass balls, a tiny whisky tumbler (Craig is a Scotch devotee). We take turns gathering glass from the bottom of the furnace with the long blowpipe, our bare arms stinging as if we’ve been sunburned. Mostly we watch Craig work, entranced by the alchemy of shaping liquid fire into solid matter. Artech, run by Craig and his wife Jennifer Wanless-craig, is a bona fide small-town success story. Their chic tableware, made of recycled beer and wine bottles and emblazoned with cheeky sayings, retails in more than 200 stores worldwide and was included in the swag bags for the 2015 Emmy Awards. The duo are often on the road for trade and craft shows, yet in spite of their busy schedule, they still set aside select weekends to host private smallgroup workshops like this one for visitors to the area, organized by local tour operator Yours Outdoors. This pride of place is evident throughout Haliburton County — better known as the Haliburton Highlands — a 4,000-square-kilometre quasi-wilderness region of lakes, rivers and forests punctuated by small communities that are havens for artists and free spirits. Every business is a small business; everyone knows and supports everyone else. Our guide for the Canopy Tour at Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve turns out to be part of a group including Craig that meets for regular Scotch tastings. When my husband forgets his sandals at the bed and breakfast, the owner tracks us down at a roadside barbecue joint 30 minutes away to return them. By the end of the weekend, we feel as though we’ve been coming back to the highlands every summer for years — and we understand why so many from the city do. Now that’s cool.
Terry Craig shapes molten glass into a paperweight at his glass-blowing studio in Tory Hill, in Ontario’s Haliburton Highlands.