ROBERT HELD THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS BY ANGELA COWAN PHOTOS BY DON DENTON
URROUNDED BY THE SWEET CHAR
of fruitwood and the shimmer of shelves teeming with intricate works of glass, one’s first few steps into Robert Held’s glass blowing studio reveal a marvel. Flower-strewn vases, delicate perfume bottles, encapsulated jellyfish — radiant colours swirl in glass sculptures so vibrant, you half expect their smooth surfaces to be warm. Pass through the wrought iron gate into the workshop itself, and a heavy wall of heat reaches out from a furnace housing 300 pounds of molten glass.
Bowled shaping tools and thick, elbow-length mitts sit waiting for the next slate of orders. Held, who started his artistic career in painting and then ceramics, fell in love with glass more than 40 years ago when he attended a short glass blowing course in North Carolina. “I thought, this is so exciting, so physical; it’s so dangerous,” he says. “By the second or third day I knew this was something I could do. I knew I’d never go back to ceramics.” At the time, he was working as the youngest department head at the Sheridan College School of