Robert Gary Parkes: The Loafing Shed Glass Studio / by Craig Roberts

It is always interesting to watch an artist working with a medium different from photography, to see how they construct and communicate their vision into an appreciable object, and to try to compare their stages of development to those of photography. A recent camera club outing took us just down the road from my home base to visit Robert Gary Parkes and his Loafing Shed Glass Studio, located on his family farm in Port Kells. Robert, a recognized Master Glass Blower, has been involved in artistic glass for well over 40 years (since he was a "hippy", in his own words ...); he spent 20 years initially working with flat glass (stained glass), then began his glass blower apprenticeship in 1987 at the Robert Held Studio in Vancouver, recognized as one of the most successful glasshouses in Canada. In 2009 Robert became an individual entrepreneur, building his current glass studio and gallery in what had formerly been the farm's hay storage, and the Loafing Shed Glass Studio was born.

During the time we visited I chose to document the process of the creation of this art rather than the final product itself; Robert's website has a varied image selection from the many glass items he offers for sale within the gallery.

Frit, Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Frit, Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio

Frit, tiny pieces of colored glass are used to add color to the blown glass creations.

Colored glass rods, Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Colored glass rods, Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio

Selection of colored glass rods used to color the main body of glass.

Apprentice glass blower at the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Apprentice glass blower at the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Shaping molten glass, the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Shaping molten glass, the Loafing Shed Glass Studio

Into the "glory hole", a super-heated (approx 2300 degrees F) furnace used to heat the blow pipes and to reheat glass between work steps. This is the second of three furnaces used: the first (the "furnace") contains the crucible of molten glass that the project begins with, while the third (the "annealer") is used to slowly cool the glass over approximately 14 hours to keep the glass from cracking due to thermal stress.

Robert's apprentice glass blower at the Loafing Shed, stretching molten glass into a rod; pieces of this may be used as frit in future projects.

Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio

Robert Parkes at work creating what would become a substantial sized vase (below). The material he has cupped in his hand for shaping the glass? A wad of wet newspaper, very high-tech!

Molten glass, Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Molten glass, Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Working tools, Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio
Working tools, Robert Gary Parkes - the Loafing Shed Glass Studio

Some of the work tools involved in the glass blowing process including a few pairs of shears and a  jack.

On this afternoon, it was a great opportunity to experience Robert's dedication to sharing his passion as well as his creative process in person.  To see more of this master artisan's glass works please visit www.robertgaryparkes.ca.