Calgary·Audio

Calgary glass artist tangles with earth, fire and memory to create unique 'bits of soul and spirit'

As a glass artist, Laurel Pryde has shaped thousands of lampwork beads over the past decade through what she describes as a collaborative, spontaneous and at times even combative dance between fire, earth and memory.

'This is what I do to fill my heart and my soul,' says hobby glass artist

Calgarian Laurel Pryde has been creating lampwork glass beads for a decade now and says she's learned that 'if your expectations are really rigid, lampworking is probably not the thing for you.' (Jocelyn Boissonneault/CBC)

Some days, the "glass goddess" is just not on Laurel Pryde's side.

"It's feisty. It fights back. Part of that is the fun, and part of it is when you just need to walk away."

As a glass artist, Pryde has shaped thousands of lampwork beads over the past decade through what she describes as a collaborative, spontaneous and at times even combative dance between fire, earth and memory.

Pryde has shaped thousands of lampwork beads over the past decade. 1:34

She draws inspiration from the places she's been, the thing's she's seen and the emotions tied to those experiences.

"Where the fire and my memories and love of the ocean — where they meet, comes ocean beads. Then being able to walk around with that and feel it on me ... they're little bits of soul and spirit, and art that are portable."

The bead in the top left corner is the lampwork manifestation of Pride's inspiration, pictured in the bottom right. (Lauren Pryde)

Each bead begins in much the same way.

Pryde carefully selects a few coloured glass rods from the hundreds in her studio, carries them to her worktable and fires up the torch.

Then the glass awakens.

An animated Pryde describes the motion of molten glass, pushing and pulling as it heats or cools in the flame, strands tangling unpredictably as their colours and opacity morph.

Pryde creates a spiral-shaped bead by wrapping molten glass round a bead in front of her propane torch. (Jocelyn Boissonneault/CBC)

"You have to respect the fire and the glass itself," she cautioned.

The temperature of the flame, the fuel composition of oxygen relative to propane, the unique combination of chemical oxides and minerals present in the glass — all of these variables contribute to the final outcome.

"Until I put it in the flame, I don't know. It could come out the same, or it could come out different," Pryde admited, gesturing to a stick of glass to draw attention to the change in colour.

A marked change in colour is observed between the tip of the glass rod, which was heated to its melting point, and the rest of the stick. (Jocelyn Boissonneault/CBC)

But she appreciates that element of uncertainty.

"When something unexpected happens, just through its own properties of what it is, that's my favourite part; it's like a surprise," she said.

She acknowledges that others might not share that perspective.

"It can be frustrating. If your expectations are really rigid, lampworking is probably not the thing for you," she said, laughing.

But the unpredictable twists and turns and even the inevitable moments of disappointment suit Pryde just fine.

"This isn't my job; this is my passion. This is what I do to fill my heart and my soul, and put light in my eyes and make me happy."

The shimmer in this bead owes to the mineral composition of the glass. (Jocelyn Boissonneault/CBC)

With files from Jocelyn Boissonneault