Now that I’m back from the UK, I’d like to talk about what I did during the past week: I was learning glassworking.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may recall a post I did on the importance of new experiences. That post came about as a result of my trip the US, where I took a glassworking class. Ever since that day, I’ve been itching to try my hand at it again, this time, a lot more seriously, though. I wanted to take a proper class (preferably one that lasted more than a couple of hours). I wanted to learn all the nitty-gritty details and learn how to set up the torch myself. Most importantly, I wanted to learn some of the design techniques that I can use when I work.
So I started searching around. I first started searching locally and tried to find someone that would be able to teach me. That search yielded only one result, and the person I contacted pretty much ignored my request. Being ignored really ticks me off. I pretty much lose all respect for a person in that circumstance, let alone want to do business with them.
So, I finally decided that it would be better to get some quality training abroad, and so I started looking at glassworkers in the UK. I quickly noticed a very common trend. I found that most people worked out of their garages. The teaching they offered was more like an additional income stream. So, I was not quite sure whether they had the skills themselves to be able to teach. Additionally, I found a lot of people worked with soft glass. Soft glass is much easier to melt and requires a much cheaper setup. However, I wanted to work with Borosilicate glass (Pyrex, essentially), which melts at a much higher temperature. It also behaves differently when heated.
I was not willing to settle on anyone in this case. I was choosing to travel abroad and pay quite a lot of money. So I wanted to make sure I was getting the training that I wanted. After quite a lot of searching, I finally stumbled across an artist Ray Youngs. I did a little research into him and it turns out he has a shop, with a studio in the UK. He has a website (which you can check out here) which was well-designed and looked professional. I also looked through his Facebook. While I don’t use Facebook myself, seeing a person’s activity on Facebook helps me judge how engaged they are with their followers. He was very active, responding to comments individually. All good signs.
So I sent him an email, asking him for details on his classes and whether he’d be able to teach me a few things that I thought might be important for me to know. I got a response roughly four hours later (stunning, given my past experience with other people). His response was detailed, gave me all the information I needed to know and was very welcoming. After a little more clarifications back and forth, I agreed on his price and made the travel and accommodation arrangements.
So fast forward to now, where I finished the classes a few days ago. I wanted to talk about my experiences with him, because it is something worth highlighting. As with any new teacher, I was very weary whether I’d get along with him fine, and if his teaching style worked well with how I learn. I’m happy to say that it all worked out well.
When I first arrived at his studio, Ray was very welcoming and greeted me with a big smile. Even his dog, Bob said hello. Ray quickly outlined some safety rules for his studio and got me working on the torch. Throughout the course of the week, he was not only a teacher for me, but a mentor. Someone who watched closely and offered advice for improvement.
Ray, as a teacher is very approachable. He never let me feel inferior as a student and always offered words of encouragement. He has a hands-off teaching style, only offering to jump in when I really needed it. This is the teaching style I prefer, because it allows me to learn from my mistakes without feeling overwhelmed. Glassworking can get really finicky at times and requires a lot of patience. It is important for people to not feel pressured, especially when they are learning, and Ray was able to make me feel comfortable under those conditions.
As a person, Ray has a lot of passion for his art. And you can see this in every piece of work he puts out. He aims for perfection with everything he does and stands by the quality of his work. This not only shows integrity of the individual, but also a sense of pride for what they do. I’ve seen a lot of people do glassworking for the money, but money is clearly not why Ray is in this business. He does it because he enjoys it. He does it because it is his passion.
So, if you’re curious on what I made during this past week, you can see my progress below. I’ve tried to keep the scaling of the images the same, so you can see the relative sizes of the marbles. Additionally, I haven’t really taken the time for post-processing work, as these marbles are not professionally-made by any stretch of the imagination.
(Three marbles, one pendant)
(Three marbles, three pendants)
(Five marbles, one pendant)
(Four marbles, four pendants)
(Four marbles, two pendants)
You’ll notice that I also made pendants during the course of my training, which points to another positive experience I had. Ray had advised me that it would be in my best interest to also learn how to make pendants, because they are easier to sell. Additionally, skills I learn from making marbles can easily be transferred over to pendants too.
And here comes why I enjoyed the class so much. Any other teacher would have just gone and taught me what I wanted to know. Ray cared enough about me to actually want me to do well. He set me up for success, something which very few people seem to want to do. He also taught me how to encase opals, something I didn’t even know was possible. It is this care and attention that differentiates a good teacher from a great one. He looked at where I wanted to be, and taught me the skills that would allow me to achieve that goal.
The pieces that I have done do require a lot more work. My particular issues lie with the shaping of the marbles, which are not perfectly round (as can be seen by the photos). Additionally, the bails on the pendants are a little tricky to get down right. But I believe with a little more hands-on experience in front of a torch, I should be able to smooth those issues out (pun intended!).
My experiences with Ray have been nothing less than positive. He is a great person with a fantastic sense of humour. He is honest and puts his heart into everything he does. Most of all, he is one of the most genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Kind, friendly, approachable and very respectful. He was easy to get along with, had a wealth of experience and was more than happy to share it. It was a pleasure meeting him and getting to know him and we had a lot in common.
Plus, I got the pleasure of meeting his dog, Bob. Bob is quite happy to start barking at you if you do not pet him or stop paying attention to him but has a heart as big as Ray’s.
I have never taken a selfie before, and nor do I intend to in the foreseeable future, but I believe that this one was well-worth it:
If you ever do want to learn glassworking, Ray is the artist to learn it from. I cannot recommend him highly enough. You can contact him through his website here or Facebook here. If you are reading this, Ray, thank you, once again, so much for the great week. I learnt a lot, and I cannot express my appreciation enough.