Note: Our volunteer photographer for this article is Saskia Lucuik. Fourteen year old Saskia is in her third year of the Education for Community Living program at Lester B. Pearson Catholic High School. She participates in the Dragonfly Learners with Down syndrome program and enjoys photography.
There is an infectious exuberance obvious when Melody Jewitt talks about her craft.
Melody is the owner and co-founder of Flo Glassblowing, Ottawa’s only glassblowing studio.
“We make glass blown products. We work with glass in its molten state, and manipulate it into all sorts of fun and creative things. We also do smaller intricate pieces called flame working.”
Standing in the “hotshop” near the main, 2000 degree oven, she demonstrates how to make a glass paperweight to a group of friends enquiring about classes.
Holding a long tube with a glowing mass of glass on the end, she asks one of them to hit the hardening glass with a wood handled pick in a stabbing motion. “That’s how you get the air bubbles inside,” she explains. Tentatively, the young girl strikes the glass and indentations are formed. A few minutes later, the glass having been reintroduced to the oven, the group stands visibly awed when seeing the result. “That was fun!”
For Melody, a graduate of Sheridan’s glassblowing program, the training aspect of her studio, while fun, “helps the public have a better understanding of the skills involved, and as a result, an increased appreciation of the individual pieces that artists produce.
“We offer small-scale, ‘no-skills required’, group teaser sessions. It’s a fun workshop. We’ll do all the moving around and lifting—anything that might be dangerous. You choose your design, and the colouring. You’ll blow the piece and assist with the different tasks. In the end, you’ll head home with a piece that you can have forever.”
While the introductory group sessions are popular (“We host birthday and bachelorette parties, really any kind of group events.”), there are scheduled beginner, intermediate, advanced and speciality classes.
“If you are serious in learning about glassblowing, we offer a fundamental series where you learn, in a gradual progression, all the different forms that will lead you up to bowls and vases. And then you will be able to become a renter and use the facilities on your own time. So, really, there’s something for everyone.”
Each year, on it’s anniversary, the studio holds a special celebratory event that’s open to the public. Proceeds from this open day are earmarked for a specific charity. Last year, that charity was Refugee 613. “We had a great turnout, and it was a wonderful event.”
This year’s event will raise funds and awareness for the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS).
For Melody, the choice of charity was obvious. In August, she became a first-time mother. Her son, Myles, has Down syndrome.
“This is a new chapter for us for many reasons. But also we’re really new to the community of those families with children with Down syndrome. We want to reach out, connect, and get involved both for ourselves, but also for Myles. I’ve been overwhelmed by those in the community that we’ve met to date.”
“Myles is the light of our lives. He is our greatest joy. We want to do all we can to bring awareness to, and help raise funds for, an organization that helps families, such as ours, be given every opportunity for their child.”
The studio’s 7th anniversary will be celebrated on Saturday March 17 from 10am to 5pm. The public is invited to “drop in and see what were up to.” There will be free demonstrations of glassblowing and flame working all day from an array of artists. These items, along with some others, will be auctioned online where full proceeds will go towards the charity.
There will also be a seconds sale in the front gallery where 50% of the proceeds will go towards CDSS.
Melody has special plans for that morning.
“In the morning, we’d like to host families who’d like to do some glassblowing themselves. And we are trying to target families who have a family member with Down syndrome so that they can have the opportunity to participate themselves and get the experience.” To save your spot, email Melody at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you aren’t able to attend the special day, Melody has arranged for supporters to donate online.
Seven years in business is an accomplishment. Definitely one to be celebrated. For new mother, Melody, this will be an extra special celebration.
Flo Glassblowing is located at 957c Gladstone Avenue, a block west of Preston Street. For more information about the event, visit the Facebook event page.