I was fortunate to come across the beautiful work of Julie and Gordon Webster, small-scale glassblowers in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. Their work has precision and elegance, distinguishing it from some blown glass, that to me often looks to me too much like freeform art projects. But Sandpiper produces work that is fine and functional, in a particularly striking palette of colors like avocado and gray not usually seen in glass.
I particularly like these boldly striped incalmo bowls, which caught my eye across the floor of a crafts show. The crisp bands of color are like those of a silk scarf, or a necktie. They are luminous and lovely, perfect for a fruit salad or centerpiece. I love how their colors radiate against one another.
Gord also makes botanically inspired glass sculpture, and Julie does work combining glass with screen print.
I asked Julie a few questions about their work, and how the incalmo bowls are made:
-You’re both master glassblowers, but why the initial interest? why not pottery? why not metal?
I went to school (Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario) to be a potter and took glass as an elective class. In the end I struggled to choose between the 2 mediums, but it was the process and the purity of color in glass that won me over. Gord went to school (Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Alberta) with the intention of being a graphic designer and the glass studio snatched him up too! He was drawn to the process as well – it is pretty captivating!
-What inspires your use of color?
I love bold color. We both also like trying to combine colors that might be unpredictable yet harmonious. I don’t think we will ever get tired of playing with color.
-About incalmo bowls: about how many do you make a year? do you make them all at once? doesn’t it make you dizzy? (seriously) what’s the trickiest part of making these bowls?
We make about 100 throughout the year and we make them about once a week, trying to avoid making them in the summer – it is too hot!!! Production is limited as we are the glassblowing team in our studio – just the 2 of us and everything we make involves the 2 of us working together!
For the most part, glass blowing doesn’t make us dizzy, but sometimes Gord makes these pieces that have crazy linear patterns on them, and yes – they make me dizzy. I usually squint to keep focus on the form and avoid being sucked into the spiraling patterns.
These bowls are hard to make and it has taken us a while to get good at them. The process is a traditional Italian glassblowing technique. We start by making 2 thick walled cups, one the bottom color of the bowl and the other the middle band of color. These 2 cups stay in a kiln until we are ready to join them to the top color of the bowl. On the blow pipe we start the top color, blowing out the glass to the same thickness as the cups. We then proceed to pick open the bottom of the ‘bubble’ and open it so it looks like a plunger of sorts. We make this opening the same size diameter of the mid color cup. We then pick the mid color cup, heating the opening lips of the 2 parts, then we line them up and stick them together. We repeat the process again to join the bottom cup to the middle band. Once it is all joined together, we shape and blow out the glass and make a bowl! It is a hard thing to describe especially if you have never seen glassblowing before. The process is long, taking us an hour to make the 2 cups and then an hour and a half to put them together and make the bowl.
Do you live with a lot of color at home? Any advice for people who don’t, but would like to live with more?
Yes! We are colorful people – for sure. We don’t get to caught up on any matchy-matchy business at our house – it is free and eclectic. We buy things we like and for the most part they always resonate with us and fit in somehow. The best part about our colorful home is we have a lot of art and handmade objects, which all have a story to tell.
If people are afraid of living with color, I would suggest buying something colorful that you are drawn to and see how that little punch of color feels in your home. Start small with some pillows, a throw or something like one of our bowls. Try it and if you are still uncomfortable, it is not like paint, you can tuck it away Express yourself! Life is too short to be neutral