The hottest place to visit in Weymouth is Stuart Wiltshire Glass Studio!
This week I took a trip into Weymouth to visit Stuart Wiltshire Hand Blown Glass Studio and Workshop. What an amazing experience this was too. The studio is located just a few minutes stroll from the harbour.
Stuart Wiltshire has been a glass artist for over 20 years now and he has a great passion for creating unique hand blown commissioned glass lighting chandeliers as well as distinctive features for interior and exterior commercial spaces and private residences.
Stuart along with Dan and Ben were very busy with a commission of some 150, 400 mm, hand crafted and blown glass domes! All these have to be perfect and with limited space in the cooling oven it was going to take a few days to complete.
The temperature inside the glass furnace is around 1,120 degrees centigrade which is 20 degrees hotter than molten lava from a volcano!!! (SO no poking fingers in there then!) Once being worked a smaller furnace or “glory hole” is used to warmup the glass and keep it workable. Finally, once the piece is finished then it is allowed to cool in an annealing oven. Glass has to cool down slowly as if allowed to cool at room temperature the hot glass would crack or even shatter due to thermal stress…
In awe and amazement I watched the guys work on this project…
Firstly Stuart preheated the tip of the blow pipe, then dipped it into the molten glass in the main furnace. He “gathered” some glass on the end – like getting honey out of a jar on a spoon. Then, taking the molten glass on the blow pipe, he “marvered”(shaped) it with a block made from wood which had been soaked in water. This formed a cool skin around the glass which then allowed him to blown through the pipe to form a bubble of glass.
Stuart then “gathered” more glass from the furnace, on the end of the blow pipe, to enable the size of the bubble to be increased. Marvering was then repeated on the larger gathering of glass. To get the full size of the glass dome a wooden mould was used which had been pre-soaked in water to ensure that the wood did not burn. This involved Stuart going up three steps while Dan held the mould closed and Ben covered the mould with additional wood to get the shape as near perfect as possible.
The dome was then taken to the glory hole for one last reheat and shape checking before being removed from the blow pipe and put into the annealing oven for cooling.
Loading the pot
As I visited at the end of the day I was fortunate enough to be able to watch the furnace being loaded with glass to be ready for the following day. The pot can take up 100 kg of glass and it takes a while to reach working temperature.
Visiting the studio
Anyone can visit the studio and watch Stuart and his team work and you can buy some of the fabulous items on display – from Dolphins and snowmen to Daffodils! Access is very easy and even wheelchair friendly, however there is no parking outside and there is limited seating.
Hand and Foot Print Glass Keepsakes
Have your families hand or footprint impressions cast in clear glass by Stuart at the studio. A wonderful gift and unique keepsake to treasure. Book Hand and Foot Castings. (Note: you will need to book this in advance).
Stuart runs glassblowing lessons and a short beginner workshop is £60 per person.
You have the option to make one item on your Stuart Wiltshire workshop. The list includes a small bud vase, small bowl, tumblers and Christmas baubles.
All safety equipment is provided and the Stuart Wiltshire glassblowing class lasts about 40 minutes per person.
Everyone booking a beginner class will receive one to one tuition from Stuart Wiltshire, this includes group or family bookings.
Stuart is very busy and gets booked a long way in advance so we would recommend booking your class at the time of booking your holiday!
I must say that watching skilled craftsmen at work left me in total and utter amazement. Certainly Stuart Wiltshire Glass Blowing is the “hottest place” to visit in Dorset!!!!