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Welcome to The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a sneak peek inside the fabulous Canberra Glassworks – Australia’s only cultural centre that is wholly dedicated to contemporary glass art. The historic Kingston Powerhouse is home to this amazing arts space, which is used by local artists and those from interstate and overseas.
Glass — it’s miraculous when you think about it.
It’s a solid substance you can see straight through. We live and work surrounded by it — and travel from our homes to our workplaces largely encased it in. Yet rarely do we give it a second thought, even as we sip our evening tipple from it at the end of the day. But as the good Doctor Julius Sumner Miller used to put it so eloquently: ‘Why is it so?’
That question will be answered during a visit to Canberra Glassworks in the nation’s capital. Located in Canberra’s oldest public building — the Kingston Power House, which recently celebrated its 100th birthday — Canberra Glassworks is Australia’s only arts facility dedicated solely to celebrating the artistic form of one of our most precious, but largely unsung materials.
Like many of us here in Oz, my exposure to glass as an art form has been somewhat limited. I recall many moons ago (the aforementioned Doctor was still with us so it was quite a while back) when my globetrotting grandparents returned from a world cruise bearing an emerald green hand blown glass decanter from Venice. There was much ooh-ing and ahh-ing over this glorious treasure, which we were only permitted to touch under strict supervision. It seemed so exotic at the time.
Canberra Glassworks has a remit to cast glass art in a contemporary light — and it certainly succeeds at doing so. There’s plenty to do at the centre, and you‘ll need to set aside at least half a day to do it justice.
For many, the Hotshop is going to be the highlight. There’s a tiered viewing gallery where you can sit and observe the artists-in-residence creating their works. This is not a demonstration that’s put on for visitors. These are working artists — most of whom have paid to make use of the state-of-the-art facilities.
It feels almost like you are watching a ballet set in the underworld. The glistening artists are the performers — ducking and weaving between one another armed with great rods tipped with glowing molten glass. The Dickensian 19th century industrial setting only adds to the atmosphere.
The more serene Coldshop is where the finishing touches are put to the works. This is also where school holiday classes take place. At other times, budding artists (aged 14 and older) can take part in the ‘make your own paperweight or tumbler’ program. It runs on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year.
Down in the foyer there’s a wonderful gallery space. Exhibitions change roughly every eight weeks. Check the website to see what’s on during your visit.
Finally, the Canberra Glassworks shop offers exquisite glassware and general objets d’art — much of it crafted exclusively for the facility. The shop also showcases the work of a different local artist each month. It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir of your visit to the capital.
Formed under intense heat, yet infinitely smooth and cool to touch, there’s no doubt you’ll think of glass in an entirely different way by the end of your visit.
Adam travelled as a guest of VisitCanberra.
Do you have any tips for things to do at Canberra Glassworks? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Australia, Europe, Asia, North America, parts of South America, Africa and the Middle East. He worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the Tour the World travel TV series on Network Ten. Adam also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class and Talking Lifestyle. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hoi An.