Saturday, November 13, 2010


My trip to South Africa included a quick visit to the country of Swaziland. And no trip to Swaziland is complete without a visit to Ngwenya Glass

It was pretty darn cool.

I've seen countless glass studio's in my day, but few that operated like this one. It's a factory. The tools, equipment, etc are the same as smaller operations, but it's the way they work and why they work that makes this different.

The glassblowers at Ngwenya Glass work in teams of 2-5, depending on what they are making. Each person has 1 specific job (for example, gathering glass from the furnace, or loading the finished piece into the cooling oven). Essentially, they are an assembly line of glassblowers.

The same can be said about the way I (and many other production glassblowers) work. After all, most of the things I make are production pieces. I design a product, figure out how to make it, then will make it again. And again. And again. (Once in a while, I make one of a kind pieces, and I enjoy that process as much as making the production pieces).

But, back to the differences:

To these factory workers, this is a job. They don't design the products. Most have never worked with glass, studied glass in school, or apprenticed with other artists. If they were given an hour to make something other than a product from the Ngwenya Glass line, they probably couldn't do it. But they are very skilled at what they do. Do they have a creative mind? Maybe. But at work, it's their job to do their specific task(s). It's their job to make not create.

When I travelled to Venice and Murano 10 years ago, I saw the same thing (with the exeption of my visit to Pino Signoretto's studio).

Simply put, it's not better or worse than what I do. It's just different.

So, of course I bought something. A little hippo wine glass to add to my collection of handmade goblets. And a little elephant votive.

When I returned to the US, I told a fellow glassblower about the factory, and about my purchases. And he seemed surprised I would buy something. Why? Because I could make it? Because it was factory made? I'm not really sure. The truth is, it's still handmade, it's still handblown glass, and it was a pretty awesome souvenir of an awesome trip.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Where Have I Been?

Yes, I've been gone. And I've been busy. And I've been walking! Here's the cliffnote version of the last 4 months:

I got off the crutches in early August, and was prescribed 5 weeks of the walking boot. If you ask me, I would say it's really more of a clunking boot. It was a loooooong 5 weeks.

I was able to start blowing glass again (in the boot). I was limited, but it was awesome. Really, really awesome.

At 5 weeks (mid September), I was told to start walking. No boot, no crutches, just walking like a real, total normal and healed person would do. And that was awesome. Really, really awesome.

On Sept 25th, I flew to Zurich. Spent a night there, then flew to South Africa, where I travelled around the country for 2 weeks. It was my mom, two cousins and myself. It was better than awesome. It was even better than really, really awesome.

I came home on Oct 10th, and hit the ground running. Holiday season usually starts in September, so I was a bit behind schedule. Not so awesome.

But here I am. Walking (running a little, too!) and ready to take on the Holidays. It's been a crazy year. One that I would never want to repeat. I could get all philosophical, and say that I'm a better person for what I've been through. But the reality is, I'm still the same person. I still believe in my business, believe in hard work, and believe that good things happen and bad things everyone.

Do I think I've had my share of bad things this year? Hell ya. But I went to South Africa. SOUTH AFRICA!!!! That's all good.