Belize Arts Glass Blowing

Belize Art – glass blown piece at Artemis Glass Studio

An almost celestial experience, for me, is walking into a room with stained-glass windows. The kaleidoscope light show which it casts on the walls proves as intriguing and beautiful as the stained glass itself. There is certainly something magical about glass and the way the light shines through it creating little mischievous light shadow games.

I remember the first time I entered Artemis Glass Studio on Blancaneaux Street. I traveled from Ladyville to San Ignacio to purchase some glow-in-the-dark French wires, but quickly realized that I had stumbled upon much more. Behind the tall wooden gate were
retired expat, artist and glass engraver Paul Stevenson, his wife Ther and their grandson Kaleem. The tour began with a visit to the workshop.

Inside there were big machines, test pieces, glass rods of many colors and little marbles. Instantly I was struck with nostalgia, and was transported to a sandy spot in the school yard which hosted chipped marbles during recess. It was amazing to discover that such fragile pieces were manipulated into existence by such heavy machinery. I marveled at several shiny test works which were converted from the coloured tubes which had no luster, and was instantly flooded with a dozen ideas for new works.

Admittedly I have never worked with the material before, but seeing the gems which were scattered in the workshop, I was inspired. We ventured into the shop, where glass raindrops were suspended in the air.

These drops were actually pendants and earrings, which were crafted with such finesse they seemed to just drip down with static fluidity. Marbles and swirly glass hearts lay neatly positioned in showcases, brightly coloured bowls and stained glass rested on white counters, all in a small white wooden building with big open windows.

A truly remarkable compliment for the Cayo sunshine for as light hits each object, colors were pushed into multiple directions inside the shop creating little circles which dilated or jumped as the sunlight fluctuated. The forms and colors in Steveson’s work remind me of the color and movement in Dali’s paintings, and especially in his more popular color palette available, and how the glass moves. These are fascinating to me. The challenge of translating ideas into glass inspires me to create new work.”

The Artist On His Passion For Works In Glass

I asked Stevenson to share the most interesting or exciting project that he has ever done. He responded “I did an installation of a series of engraved wall panels for a wildlife sanctuary. It was a great experience translating what the artist originated into what the client wanted – design work like the Chupa Chups lollipop logo. “Glass is my medium of choice because glass is such a durable material. I’ve been working with glass in various forms for about twelve years now. I started off with engraving trophies and panels, later explored kiln formed glass, stained glass and torch work. Wish I had found torch work a lot earlier, because I like the spontaneity of creating on the fly,” elaborates Paul on his work with glass.

What inspires me to create? “The love of the material. But the most satisfying (ongoing) project is letting my Grandson pick out the colors he likes and then make it into marbles. I also swap with other marble makers throughout the world and hide some of them at archaeological sites; these are puzzles for the archaeologist,” revealing a mischievous and humorous side. Paul says that the glass art trade in Belize allows him to make enough to cover the cost of materials and equipment. He added that if it became a business he thinks he might lose the passion to create.

Stevenson admits that he often leaves pieces until the last minute that way it has to come out right because there is no time for re-trials. “I get a buzz out of that!” For artists who would like to explore a new medium, Paul Stevenson offers Classes at $25 per hour and $20 for materials. The course is an introduction to torch work and it covers health and safety as well as introduction to tools, equipment and basic techniques. He recommends two-hour sessions at a time. He believes that it is a good starting point for anyone who needs insight to the process. The shop and studio are located at #9 Blancaneaux Street in San Ignacio Town. The artist can also be contacted at 622 4391 or via www.artemisglass.bz

-  Katie Usher

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