My name is Jessie Trott, and I am an independent glass artist at Jess Trott Glass, and the head educator and business owner of flame-working glass studio Orange Glow Glass Co. From a young age I developed an interest in glass, ranging from smaller accessories like mushroom pendants, to the intricate, yet functional glass I would see in headshops. My own glass education began at 18 when I discovered the Craft and Design Glass program at Sheridan College in Oakville. The then 3-year advanced diploma (it has since evolved into a 4-year Bachelor’s program) taught everything I could want to know about glass. In addition to educating students about traditional hot shop/furnace glass blowing, flame-working, cold-working, and kiln-casting, they also teach more specialized techniques such as how to use an electroplater. They have mandatory courses that taught me a lot of practical and invaluable skills – glass chemistry, figure drawing, business management, and so much more.
I loved trying out all the different types of glass mediums, but I found myself constantly drawn into the flame-working studio. Also known as lampworking, flame-working is work performed on a stationary torch which is secured to a table. The artist then uses glass rods, which come in a variety of colours, densities and sizes to sculpt the glass. An annealer (kiln) is also used to anneal the glass, which is similar to a curing process. By annealing the glass, you are removing the stress to prevent any cracking. In flame-working, you can achieve intense detail and precision, and there is such a huge colour palette to choose from.
In 2010, at the ripe age of 21, I graduated college. I first worked for a few corporations, with the focus on making money so that I could save up for glass blowing supplies, but I itched to make glass blowing my fulltime career. In 2011, I had the opportunity to work as a resident artist at the Living Arts Centre (LAC) in Mississauga. I spent a year there, advancing my techniques as a hot shop/furnace glass blower, while also flame-working in my little home studio. After a year of furnace glassblowing I decided it wasn’t for me, as I simply enjoyed flame-working more. Flame-working provided more independence, less physical labour, and allowed me to work at a slower, more comfortable speed. It was at the Living Arts Centre that I was given my first opportunity to teach. I was super involved there by leading their bead making course for three years, all the while still continuing to work out of my home studio and advancing my skills in private.
For years, I only taught soft glass (bead making), but in my own work, I preferred to use a different type of glass called borosilicate, or boro. The difference between the two types is that soft glass is exactly how it sounds — very soft — while borosilicate is a harder glass. Boro is more forgiving with temperature changes, therefore making it easier to create larger pieces of artwork. Ideally, soft glass is used for bead making or small sculptures, though I know that some gifted artists have pushed the limits and achieved larger scale work with it. One such artist, Lucio Bubacco, is one of my all-time favorite soft glass flame-working artists. He creates intricate figures that seem to dance as they tell a story across the scenery he creates.
After teaching soft glass for so long, a lot of people started asking about borosilicate lessons. Naturally, I started incorporating boro into the end of my lessons at the LAC. That way, the students could see, feel, and truly experience the difference between the two different types of glass. I received many complaints that there wasn’t a studio where people could practice techniques learned in my classes, to the point where many students wound up taking the same bead making course 3 or 4 times simply for torch access. This gave me the idea to open a studio where people could work with both soft and borosilicate glass, allowing them the opportunity to practice anything they wanted. Students were also searching in vain for a place where they could pick up raw materials and tools around the Mississauga, Ontario region, since all the best colours and raw materials comes from the United States. People wanted a local place to buy materials to save on the cost of driving, shipping, customs and exchange rates.
I had always dreamed about opening my own glass studio, but I began taking it more seriously after taking two boro classes in 2013 at Edy Roy, a glass gallery and studio owned by Matt Robertson (of ME Glass) where flame-working glass artists Elbo and J.O.P were guest instructors.
Matt was the first person to show me how to make a proper pipe, and I was lucky to discover a job posting by him needing an apprentice around 2012. I worked with him to create some of his designs, and learned a great deal from him about hollow forms. He also used to bring international artists to demonstrate specific techniques for the Canadian flame-workers. Taking those classes helped me to understand rig construction, colour application and a lot of techniques that I still use to this day.
Matt’s move back to the United States around 2014, and left a void in the glass scene. My own home studio at the time was cozy and sufficient for my private work, but limited to just that. I felt I was finally ready to take the leap and open my dream studio to provide a place where people can rent out space, as well as take lessons ranging from beginner to advanced from myself and other guest artists. That’s when Orange Glow Glass (OGG) Co. was born. Open since May 2015, it still feels very new, but it’s constantly evolving and improving. OGG Co. has eight rental stations: four stations have a torch provided as well as tool kits that you can rent out, while the other four are reserved for seasoned glass artists to bring their own torch and tools. OGG Co. also has a glass lathe, a sandblaster and a saw for artists to try out many different techniques.
I really believe in the value of community and I thought it was important to have a physical place for people to congregate and work together, much like the already established glass communities in the United States. I wanted a studio where people could go to talk about glass and exchange opinions on topics like colour applications, sculpting/forming techniques, and more. I’ve also had the honour to host some of greatest masters of the glass scene – Simone Crestani in May of 2016, Dustin Revere in November of 2016, and Robert Mickelson coming up in May of 2017. It’s amazing to bring in artists who can demonstrate some truly advanced techniques to the budding Canadian glass community.
Running a studio has been an intense experience with a real learning curve for me, but I already know I’m truly creating a community with the awesome people that work out of Orange Glow Glass Co. I am proud to have a positive environment for beginners and advanced artists to grow together. I have a beautiful studio where I also get to practice and learn new techniques. That’s the thing about glass — it’s never boring because the possibilities feel limitless. You could master a technique inside out by practicing as much as possible, or you could do something new every day.
I also realized how much I love to teach and get a kick out of watching people learn and react to such a fascinating material. When in its molten state, glass moves like honey. You must continually turn it, using gravity to keep things on center and in the correct place. In contrast, when the glass is cold, it is a very hard medium but can be very fragile. Finished glass is stiff and unrelenting, its shape permanent, but when still molten, glass is so soft that you can literally push and pull on it to form and sculpt it into whatever shape you want to see it become. You could compare the glass market to glass’s molten state, as it is forever moving with the changes and constantly upgrading with new ideas for colours and shapes, but most importantly, upgrading with the new artists coming into studios like mine every single day. It can be very challenging to keep up, so working in the glass industry, we’ve learned to just keep spinning and shape things as we go.
I am grateful for the support from my family and friends to help me on this crazy journey. I always say everyone should try flame-working at least once because it’s such a unique experience. I want to thank the great people from Dankr.ca for letting me tell my story and I would like to give a shout out to all the Canadian glass blowers who are killing it and helping to build a community here — you know who you are. I hope you all give Orange Glow Glass Co. (Insta) a visit online at www.orangeglowglass.com or in person at 205 Matheson Blvd East, Unit #2 in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. You can contact me about more information and lessons at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 647-968-4569.