I feel a huge connection with the glass makers who would have been working inside this historic canal building in the 1700s and 1800s. Stourbridge Red House Glass Cone is a great building with amazing heritage.
I've been a glass blower for six years and I've worked in loads of places, but there's such a physical connection with the heritage of glass making here. It's the best preserved of only four glass cones remaining in the UK and I think it's the only cone that still has glass making in operation today. The building's 100ft high cone shape was designed to increase the temperature of the furnace burning inside it and it would have been insufferably hot in here for glassmakers. Today we use gas kilns, but much of the process of how we work is the same.
With the canal running alongside this building it's so easy to imagine the mass of materials that would have been delivered in bulk by canal boats. There were great bags of powders and unbelievable amounts of coal that had to be hauled into the old coal-fired furnace to keep it burning. In the summer now, the Red House Glass Cone runs lots of themed activities which help people feel the connection with the canal and the industrial heritage of glass making in Stourbridge.
I do demonstrations here to show the process of glass blowing. Working in front of people used to make me a bit nervous, but I've been doing it few years now so it's easier! "Do you ever burn yourself?" is the question I'm most asked, and just today I've been asked 14 times! Over six years at 14 times each demonstration day, that's quite a few times. No, is the answer, I don't really!
Glassblowing is full of logical thinking, adrenalin and excitement, and you never stop learning. I did most of my training in Manchester and then I came here to study in Stourbridge. As a glass artist, I like exploring the mathematical side of glass and experimenting with technique. My inspiration is the process. I sell my work here in the cone and through my website www.hayleyglassdesigns.co.uk.
My partner is a glass maker too. We've worked in a lot of places around the UK, and people tend give us a piece of glass when we leave so our home a bit like a gallery!
I didn't grow up thinking I would be a glass maker, but now it feels a privilege to work in this industry and I wouldn't see myself doing anything else!
Hayley, Red House Glass Cone, Stourbridge, Stourbridge Canal