Things to do at Canberra Glassworks
Glass – it’s pretty 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 one to the other 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 no doubt be answered by a visit to the Canberra Glassworks in the nation’s capital. Located In the capital’s oldest public building – the Kingston Power House, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year – the 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.
Watch our video of this experience:
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 has actually been a part of human existence for an incredibly long time. Some suggest the Phoenicians first created it around 5,000 BC.
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.
Today the Canberra Glassworks has a remit to cast glass as an art form in a much more contemporary light – and it certainly succeeds.
There’s plenty of things to do at Canberra Glassworks and you‘ll need 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 watch the artists-in-residence creating their works. This is not a demonstration that’s put on for the visitors. These are working artists, most of whom have paid to make use of the state of the art facilities.
It’s hot work and endlessly fascinating to watch. It almost feels like a ballet set in the underworld itself, where 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 much more serene ‘Coldshop’ is where the finishing touches are put to the works. This is where school holiday classes take place and if you happen to be in Canberra with the kids during a school break, this would be an awesome activity.
At other times of the year you can still get involved with the Make Your Own paperweight or tumbler program, which happens every Saturday and Sunday. This is open to participants 14 years and older and you’ll work on your creation with an established artist. Check the Canberra Glassworks website for details and costs.
Down in the foyer there’s a wonderful gallery space featuring exhibitions that change roughly every eight weeks. Presently it’s an emotive ANZAC centenary celebration – The Distant Warriors: Ka Maumahara (We Will Remember) Let Us Not Be Forgotten – inspired by the stories of Indigenous Australian and Maori soldiers who fought in the First World War. Again, check the website for what’s on during your visit.
Finally, the Canberra Glassworks shop features exquisite glassware, home wares and general Objets d’Art for purchase, many of which have been crafted exclusively for the facility. The shop also showcases work by a different local artist every 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. It’s the art of glass at Canberra Glassworks – and it’s a must see.
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 us a comment.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a Melbourne-based travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North 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 TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. Adam also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class. 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 Hanoi.