Montreal

Quebecer shows off his glass-blowing skills after Netflix show

Patrick Primeau started blowing glass over 20 years ago, after walking into a glass shop. He never thought he'd find himself on a Netflix competition show, but that's exactly what happened.

Patrick Primeau says glass-blowing 'is really exciting — if you're not afraid of the heat'

Patrick Primeau has worked out of his Sainte-Julie studio for more than 12 years. (Franca G. Mignacca/CBC)

Patrick Primeau is so used to the heat, he barely even notices when he gets burned.

"I'd much rather get a burn than a cut from the glass for some reason," he said.

Primeau has been a glass-blower for 20 years and now has his own studio in Sainte-Julie, Que., on Montreal's South Shore.

The kilns, open flames and furnaces are so hot, he risks getting minor burns from standing too close. But he hardly breaks a sweat.

Primeau has to be careful during every step of the process. One false move and the glass will crack. If the heat becomes uneven, the glass will shatter. One mistake, and he might accidentally burn one of his colleagues — or himself.

"Once you start something, you can't stop. It has to be done all the way to the end."

He started blowing glass more than 20 years ago, after walking into a glass shop. Then 23, he watched as the glass glowed different colours and decided he had to try the craft out for himself.

"The first time you try glass-blowing is really exciting — if you're not afraid of the heat or getting burned," said Primeau.

He launched himself into a three-year program at Espace Verre, an organization based in Old Montreal that offers glass-blowing classes, and hasn't stopped since.

To add colour and texture to the glass, Primeau rolls the item over small glass shards while it's still hot. (Franca G. Mignacca/CBC)

Primeau never thought he'd find himself on a Netflix competition show, but that's exactly what happened.

Primeau was one of ten gaffers — another word for glass-blower — selected to compete on Blown Away. He was the only Quebecer in the group.

"I did feel fairly comfortable in my ability as a glass-blower. When they presented the first challenge … I wasn't too sure anymore," he said.

Adjusting to a new studio and a new assistant was a challenge for Primeau. Having to come up with sculpture designs that fit certain themes in just a few hours, on camera, was even harder.

"I was hoping and expecting to go further than I did. I was hoping to get to the end," he said.

Despite his competitive nature, he said he felt a sense of relief when he got to trade his hotel room for his home.

An order of paper weights cool off in Studio Welmo. (Franca G. Mignacca/CBC)

Primeau works in his hot shop, which sits just off a highway in Sainte-Julie almost daily. He and his wife, Caroline Ouellette, opened Studio Welmo together more than 12 years ago.

They do a mix of commercial and artistic work, taking orders from businesses and making everything from funeral urns to paperweights.

When he isn't working on orders, Primeau's work is abstract. He creates vessel-like items inspired by marine life and nature.

He said before he starts on a piece, he forms an idea in his head on how each piece should look. The artform requires planning, and he said he enjoys the process of creating something new.

"I just like the fact that you have to be meticulous and follow your plan, from beginning to end."

Have a look inside Primeau's studio:

'I'd much rather get a burn than a cut from the glass for some reason,' Patrick Primeau said.

Montreal

2 years ago
1:44
Primeau has been a glassblower for 20 years and now has his own studio in Sainte-Julie, Que., on Montreal's South Shore. 1:44

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Franca G. Mignacca is a journalist at CBC Montreal.

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