As a little girl, one of Melody Jewitt's favourite activities was searching a sandy shoreline for pieces of beach glass, worn into interesting shapes and textures by the tide.
"I have a memory of spending hours on the beach in Thunder Bay where I grew up," says the 25-year-old artist. "Everybody else would give up and I would still be there looking for glass that I could bring home."
A few years later during a careers day at her school, she completed a questionnaire that pointed her towards becoming the owner of a glass factory. At the time, the idea was a little perplexing, recalls Melody, but the suggestion proved to be prophetic. Today, she is a full-time artist in glass and the co-owner of a glass studio and store in Merrickville. "Glass was pretty far out in left field, when I chose it as my medium," says the award-winning graduate of the Sheridan College crafts and design program. "In a way, glass found me. From the get-go, glass has been challenging and inspiring."
The petite brunette, who set up her studio in 2004, does both glass-blowing and flameworking in crafting large and small artworks.
Glass-blowing involves using a blowpipe to inflate molten glass into a bubble to create such pieces as lamps, bowls, vases and other vessels. Flameworking (sometimes called torchworking or lampworking) involves heating and melting glass rods in the flame of a torch and forming them into jewelry, figurines and other small sculptures. "Glass-blowing is for larger pieces," she explains. "You work with a big tank of molten glass, blow it up and sculpt it that way. Flameworking is worked off a torch and is for smaller pieces, generally jewelry, but it can be used for other smaller items. I like doing both, but I'm predominantly a glass-blower. Flameworking is like a draft for me and then I turn it into a larger idea."
Melody frequently combines both techniques in her pieces. For example, some of her blown glass bowls and vases are decorated with glass beading, created by flameworking. She also uses torchwork to etch or engrave designs on some pieces. Her life lanterns - waisted teardrops topped with steel - and some of her bowls carry etched designs, while her jewelry often includes flameworked droplet pendants and beads.
Melody's work, generally priced from $20 to $200 a piece, has been displayed at the National Art Gallery, as well as at various shows in Toronto and New York. She has also produced several custom pieces and has been a regular contributor to craft shows across Ontario. "Now that we have the shop, most of the work that I generate is for the studio," she says, adding that she also sells pieces through the Internet (for more information, go for www.redomglass.com).
Melody and her business partner, Bronwen McKnight, plan to move from their current outlet, Kiss My Glass, in Merrickville and relocate to Ottawa as soon as they find a suitable location.
With the new venue will come a new name, Flo Glassworks, which Melody says is a tribute to her grandmother. "Her name was Flo and she was the reason I went into the arts," explains Melody. "I spent a lot of time with her when I was growing up. She had an enormous crafts room and our big activity was crafts. The term flow also speaks of a lot of the qualities of glass."
The new venue will also include classes in glass-blowing. "We love to make pieces ourselves, but sharing is another element of the business that we love," says Melody. Written by Iris Winston