CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

The art of glass-blowing: handle with care!

The Story

The snow lies thick around artist Ione Thorkelsson's rural Manitoba studio, but inside is a furnace hot enough to melt sand. Thorkelsson, a glass artist, is a patient instructor to the CBC's Peter Jordan, who's journeyed to her studio to learn how to blow glass. After twirling, shaping and blowing air into the molten glass on a blowpipe, Jordan ends up with a creation that proves glass blowing is a job best left to the professionals.

Medium: Television
Program: Midday
Broadcast Date: Feb. 14, 1995
Guest(s): Ione Thorkelsson
Reporter: Peter Jordan
Duration: 5:13

Did You know?

• The raw materials for glass are silica sand, lime, soda and potash. Together they are placed in a furnace burning at about 2,300 degrees to melt into a honey-like consistency.

• According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, glassblowing probably originated in Syria in the first century. Glass beads made by the Egyptians date all the way back to 2,500 BC.

• Glass-making factories were first set up in Canada in the late 18th century.

• Glass blowers of the 19th century were highly paid artisans. Every Labour Day, they marched in parades and showed off their skills by wearing hats made of glass and brandishing glass swords, knives and handguns.

• "Whimseys" were glass blowers' calling cards. They were oddly shaped objects like paperweights meant to showcase a blower's skill.

• In a 1981 book on Canadian craftspeople, glass artist Ione Thorkelsson explained that she drew her inspiration from the prairie environment. "The sky is what's always here. It's constantly changing," she said. "After those bright blue skies you often get evening thunderstorms. You are always in a different environment, the sky being what it is. I like to get at least that freedom into the glass."

• In 2000, Thorkelsson was a finalist for the Saidye Bronfman Award.




Handmade in Canada: The Art of Craft more