One of the highlights of living in this city is the serendipitous partnerships that arise when least expected. Introduced through the Beijing Bike Polo Club, glassmaker Paul V and Sam Haydon, a teacher at Beanstalk International Bilingual School (BIBS), hatched a plan to get his school’s students out to Paul’s scenic home studio, situated near to the Great Wall.
Paul V always knew that he wanted to work with his hands, and worked as a cabinet maker and lighting repairman through college, but finally found his calling after attending a ‘life-changing’ glassblowing workshop just over ten years ago. Since then, he has been teaching glasswork at various universities and institutions around North America and China, with a passion for functional glassware, such as cups and carafes. Started with his wife, Amy, as the designer, the Bubble Baker Glassware brand plans to break into various shops and studios over the next few months – hopefully more figuratively than literally!
Matching the current focus on “changing states of matter” in their science curriculum, the lucky BIBS students experienced demonstrations tailor-made to show “twisting, squashing, stretching, bending, and cutting” molten glass – “things you wouldn’t typically think it’s possible to do.”
Different to additive (adding clay), or subtractive (chipping away) processes, “blowing” a sculpture involves creating a bubble, and then reshaping it with airflow, either in or out. One can use different tools to make external indentations, but you also have negative space within the bubble to play with. It’s an incredibly fast-paced medium, with a very small time frame in which modifications can be made, which Paul sees as both a positive and a negative. “You can get things done very quickly, but at the same time, figuring out just the right motions to do at just the right time is what takes the longest to learn.”
Paul comments on how the material is always providing new challenges and opportunities to learn, which is what keeps him interested. “I feel like I could get comfortable making one thing, but every time I’m faced with a new design, it’s like starting over again.’ Admittedly, however, sometimes the most simple, preparatory tasks look the most impressive to a new audience.
For more information about studio visits, school trips, or perhaps that perfect piece of groovy glassware (I’ve got my mind set on a customized Chemex), contact Info@Bubblebaker.com
Photos: Daniel Rothwell