London Glassblowing was set up in 1976 by Peter Layton and was one of the first of its kind in Europe. Now turning 80, Peter himself lets the resident artists run the studio and produce most of the work. Here they have just completed the main structure of a perfume bottle and are transferring it from one worker to another, who will continue to shape and refine it.
Making any kind of bottle requires the glassblower to blow small bubbles of air into the centre of the piece; if done wrong, the piece could break and it would have to be remade.
As the piece progresses, two to four people will work on it, adding attachments like a base-plate to any standing piece (see above) and generally helping the main glassblower to complete the work. A piece this size takes about thirty minutes to complete.
The various colours are produced by constantly adding little coloured glass shards and powder to the original work, repeatedly turning and melting the glass to provide the incredible swirls. Though currently orange, this piece will finish clear with bluish swirls.
A glory hole, used for reheating the piece of glass, is constantly returned to by the glassblower to shape and reshape the piece.
The two outside furnaces constantly reheat and remold the piece while the middle furnace, known simply as The Furnace, provides the molten glass used throughout the piece. The glass in this furnace is 1100C.
During the winter the heat can serve as a welcome break from the cold air outside but as the summer months move in the combined heat from the furnaces and the sun can send temperatures soaring, making an eight hour day here absolutely brutal.
In a place like this, a tea break could seem almost refreshingly cool.
Once the piece is finished it is put into a third furnace and slowly cooled over a period of 36 hours. Although a part of the cooling process, this furnace is anywhere between 300C and 500C. If the glass were cooled any quicker, it would shatter.
It can take ten years for an apprentice glassblower to get good enough to produce their own work independently. Layne Rowe (above) has been a glassblower for about twenty-five years, starting after he finished university.
Pieces range in size and price; anything from a few hundred pounds for a smaller piece to a few thousand for a bigger ornament.
Though the overall interest and desire in glassblowing has increased, the number of experienced practitioners has declined and many feel it is a dying art form, growing more and more exclusive. Because it takes so long for the apprentice to become the master, only time will tell if the art form is to survive.
Featured image by Joshua Potter.