Thursday 9 February 2023

Maria Ida Designs Vancouver Glass Blowing Artist

There are few art mediums as captivating as glass so I was excited to connect with Vancouver glass artist, Maria Ida Designs and see her in action firsthand! Working out of the Terminal City Glass Co-op, Maria creates colourful home objects ranging from bud vases to glasses. 

I came across Maria Ida Designs pieces at the Little Mountain Shop Holiday Pop-Up 2022 where I fell in love with her miniature bud vases. She also makes bubble bowls, glasses and vases in vibrant colours. Since each piece is made by hand, no two are alike. 

So how does glass blowing work? 

Using a hollow steel pipe, Maria gathers molten hot clear glass from a furnace (1500ºC to 1700ºC) and shapes it using various tools. To achieve her spectacular colour patterns, the clear glass on the pipe is dipped into fritz - small pieces of coloured glass. Maria uses her breath to literally blow the glass at the end of the pipe into a bubble which she continues to shape. Maria made it look so easy, but it is challenging tough work. The heat from the furnace is uncomfortable and the steel pipe is heavy and once there is glass on it, you need to continue rotating the pipe to keep the piece symmetrical. She also continuously montinors the temperature of the piece, continually rewarming it in another hot oven so she can continue to shape the piece. Once happy, the glass piece is literally knocked off the pipe, and blasted with a torch to melt the rim before being rushed into an annealer/hot box where the glass is slowly cooled to prevent cracking and shattering. 

The Nest Bowls in Maria's collection require a few more steps that I did not expect. The coloured fritz on glass is encased with a second layer of molten clear glass, melting the coloured fritz into larger blobs of colour. To turn the blown glass sphere into a concave nest bowl, Maria breaths in, collapsing the sphere to make an indent! It happened so fast that I needed Maria to do a second bowl so I could see the bowl take shape. 

I once did a quick 1 hour glass shaping session and it was tough! The hot glass looks like it would be easily pliable, but instead it is thick and viscous and impossibly tough to stretch, pull or shape. The heat that radiates from the glass is intense not to mention how heavy the pipe and tools are. You really need to be physically strong and resiliant to the high temperatures when working with glass. 

Maria took her first glass blowing class at this very workshop in 2012 and after honing her glass blowing skills, she transitioned into a fulltime glass blowing artisan in 2020. Her current collection of mini vases, nest bowls and glasses come in gorgeous hues of colours. Many of her pieces start at $50 making them something everyone can enjoy and add to their home! 

I do not know the last time I had this much fun taking pictures. Glass is so much fun to photograph and I was able to capture some spectacular moments from steam rising to water dripping, to the glowing hot glass! Hope you enjoy them as much as I did photographing Maria blowing glass. 


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