Glass Art Just Got Hot

mailife - - Contents - By BRID­GET ESTELLE Pho­tos JONE LUVENITOGA

Hot Glass Fiji has gained no­to­ri­ety as Fiji’s first glass blow­ing stu­dio, but it is much more. Hot Glass Fiji is a stu­dio, an art gallery, a home and an ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Lo­cated on the sun­set strip in Koro­togo, Hot Glass Fiji is the pas­sion project of Alice and Alex Hill, part­ners in life, art, and busi­ness. Alice was born and raised in the UK. Her mother was a sculp­tor and ex­posed her to the arts from a young age. She first dis­cov­ered glass blow­ing while at col­lege, where she found artists work­ing in the campus stu­dio and was ex­hil­a­rated by what she saw. She knew im­me­di­ately that she’d found her art form. Alice spent the next ten years of her life work­ing in the UK as a glass blower. Her jour­ney to es­tab­lish the first glass blow­ing stu­dio in Fiji was cer­tainly not di­rect, as life of­ten takes un­ex­pected di­rec­tions. Alice fell in love with Alex, a pro­fes­sional scuba in­struc­tor, and to­gether they trav­elled the world. Fiji was ini­tially just one more stop on their global div­ing tour. They ar­rived seek­ing a unique ex­pe­ri­ence full of mem­o­rable dives and nat­u­ral beauty, but they also found a home. For the first time in years, they slowed down. Alex set up a suc­cess­ful scuba cen­tre and they started a fam­ily. Alice never for­got her love of glass blow­ing and through­out her trav­els took every op­por­tu­nity to get into a stu­dio and trans­form her ex­pe­ri­ences and emo­tions into some­thing she could hold. The vi­brant col­ors of Fiji in­spired her and she knew that glass was the only medium that could cap­ture the dis­tinct and in­ter­min­gling col­ors we see both on land and in the ocean. It be­came her dream to open the first glass blow­ing stu­dio in Fiji and in 2012, Alice and Alex de­cided to make that dream a re­al­ity. The cou­ple took a risk by clos­ing Alex’s dive cen­ter and in­vest­ing in a back­yard glass blow­ing stu­dio. Even with their workspace, kiln and cool­ing oven, no glass blow­ing stu­dio is com­plete with­out the right as­sis­tants. It is im­pos­si­ble for even the most skilled glass blower to work in­de­pen­dently. Some artists only de­sign their pieces and com­mis­sion glass blow­ers to cre­ate them. Even for those who de­sign and cre­ate their own pieces, as­sis­tance is nec­es­sary. The glass is kept at an in­cred­i­bly high tem­per­a­ture and is in con­stant mo­tion. Con­trol­ling and form­ing the molten glass re­quires a well-trained co­or­di­nated team that can an­tic­i­pate each other’s needs. Alice knew her search for as­sis­tants would be

un­con­ven­tional. Fiji has no his­tory of glass blow­ing, it would have been im­pos­si­ble to find as­sis­tants who had pre­vi­ously stud­ied glass blow­ing or had any di­rect ex­pe­ri­ence. Alice in­stead searched for ded­i­cated in­di­vid­u­als who could trans­fer prior knowl­edge and skills into learn­ing a com­pletely new trade and found Peter and Liza. Peter, a big, cheer­ful rugby player, was Alice’s first as­sis­tant and was rec­om­mended by an artist friend. Rugby and glass­blow­ing seem to have noth­ing in com­mon, but Peter be­lieves that when he plays rugby he has to an­tic­i­pate what the other play­ers are go­ing to do. He brings that in­tu­ition into the stu­dio, of­ten know­ing what needs to be done be­fore Alice needs to say any­thing. Be­fore Liza joined Hot Glass, Alice knew her as a nanny. Af­ter see­ing what Alice and Peter were do­ing in the stu­dio, she ap­proached Alice about the pos­si­bil­ity of her join­ing in. Liza’s ex­pe­ri­ence as a nanny made her neat, pre­cise and de­tail ori­ented, all ex­cel­lent traits when cre­at­ing and recre­at­ing pieces that must re­sem­ble each other. Alice was still very sur­prised by Liza’s im­me­di­ate tech­ni­cal skill. Grow­ing up, Liza of­ten helped her fa­ther with his work as a me­chanic. It wasn’t un­til she be­gan glass blow­ing that Liza re­al­ized how else those skills could be used. Alice and Alex’s orig­i­nal in­ten­tion was to sell dec­o­ra­tive glass pieces to tourists and wed­ding par­ties, but be­cause of im­mense sup­port from the lo­cal com­mu­nity, their work is much more di­verse. On any given day at Hot Glass Fiji, Alice and her as­sis­tants could be mak­ing medals and awards for lo­cal busi­nesses, dec­o­ra­tive light­ing fix­tures, or glass­ware for home use. They are all very thank­ful for how un­pre­dictable their work can be. Glass pieces are of­ten a blend of cre­ativ­ity and util­ity, art you can use, and this is re­flected in Hot Glass Fiji’s work prac­tices. Hot Glass Fiji has a lively so­cial me­dia life. Fi­jians can ex­plore Alice’s gallery

and or­der pieces with­out ever phys­i­cally vis­it­ing the stu­dio. How­ever, there is at least one very good rea­son to visit the stu­dio, the glass blow­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, Alice and her team of­fer guided glass blow­ing lessons that en­able you to make your own glass vase, plate, or cup that you can take home and en­joy. The ex­pe­ri­ence con­sists of three steps; the demon­stra­tion, the dry run, and the ex­e­cu­tion. During the demon­stra­tion, you watch as two glass blow­ers work to­gether to make the item you’ve cho­sen. They nar­rate as they work to en­sure that you un­der­stand what it is they’re do­ing and what you will need to do. Next is the dry run. You step in and walk through the en­tire process, mi­nus the glass. This lets you get a feel for the equip­ment and the hand mo­tions with­out the ur­gency that molten glass re­quires. You’ll now be ready to make your own glass piece. The only thing left to do is choose your col­ors and jump in for a pure adrenalin rush. Your piece is then kept in the cool­ing oven overnight to slowly so­lid­ify and Hot Glass Fiji de­liv­ers it to you at your con­ve­nience. Alice and metal artist Shane Bower are cur­rently plan­ning a ma­jor art ex­hi­bi­tion with a third artist fol­low­ing the suc­cess of a show last year. The ex­hi­bi­tion it is ex­pected to be to­wards the end of the year. Reach out to Alice through the web­site or so­cial me­dia out­lets for more in­for­ma­tion about Hot Glass Fiji and to stay up­dated about the ex­hibit.

Hot Glass staff

Melted glass is shaped by fire in the fur­nace

Brid­get tries out the art of glass cre­ation.

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