Watershed Photography » Langley BC photographer Craig Roberts

Robert Gary Parkes: The Loafing Shed Glass Studio

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.

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

Images of Glass Blowing

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

Images of Glass Blowing

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.
Images of Glass Blowing

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.

Images of Glass Blowing Images of Glass Blowing Images of Glass Blowing

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!

Images of Glass Blowing Images of Glass Blowing

 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.

 

  • Marion McCristall - February 20, 2012 - 8:32 pm

    Beautiful story and photographs Craig! I really like the way you captured Robert’s intensity as he is truly a master at his craft. The images of the apprentice are great too.

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