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Ngwenya Glass Design Workshop 2007

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In 2007 Ngwenya Glass in Swaziland hosted a Design workshop for artists who work and wanted to work in glass.

During the winter of 2007 Ngwenya Glass in Swaziland held its second international glass design workshop. The workshop coordinator was none other than Peter Bremers from Holland and Richard Price, as master blower from England who lives and works in Amsterdam.

Peter Bremers discussing work

Richard Price at the bench

The old lady that got me there and back
I drove to Swaziland for this exciting event with my old VW bus. Boy, what a trip, running on only three cylinders most of the way. Once I got there (a day late due to other commitments) the studio was alight with artists and designers drawing and discussing their work and concepts. The blowers with their teams were frantically keeping up the pace in front of the glory holes and furnaces.

Sibusiso Mhlanga and James

Ngwenya furnace designed and built by Sibusiso Mhlanga

The following morning work kicked off in earnest for me. As the only cold worker I immediately prospected the entire yard of the factory for a suitable space to work in. A very nice diamond saw beckoned me over and we started dancing immediately. We were joined by a variable speed Flex and an old Bosch wet grinder, which I packed for the trip.

The Diamond Saw

Cold shop guys

Cold shop ladies

Now the space and tools were sorted and rigged I needed some glass. Ngwenya recently constructed a new furnace for their production facility. There was tons of cullet laying around in the back, being crushed for reuse in the new furnace. I managed to salvage some really tasty pieces that I could barely carry back to the saw.

Me kitted up and working

Back inside the facility the tango with fire was commencing.
Glass Recycling at Ngwenya.
Whenever I had a chance I would go inside to dry and warm myself. As there were many artists working inside everybody was given a slot with a blower and his team to materialize their designs in glass. My sessions were later in the afternoon and I had some really thick and chunky work made. Unfortunately my choice of colour on the first piece caused it to crack. I tried to save it by cutting the cracks out but to no avail…

The second piece – Tri-Pod – was a successful (-ish). The legs cracked due to the glass cooling off too rapidly on the pipe. No problem. I’ll remove the legs and replace them with metal or wood. Another sculpture is born!

James blowing Tri-Pod


Outside was my domain. I ground and cut and polished away with fervour. Using the un-annealed cullet made things tough too. All my work cracked in one way or the other. This didn’t matter as the process was the reward, understanding how to approach the chunk of glass purely sculpturally. This process was far removed from my usual approach to my work.

Carved Face

Carved and polished head.

Achtung!! Raw cullet with a steel sawblade

I am really looking forward to the next event in Swaziland. Our hosts were absolutely wonderful and assisted us wherever they could. How often does one get the chance to have an entire facility with highly professional craftsmen and women assisting you with the creation of ideas? (Sometimes it was hard for them trying to wrap their heads around your ideas and then still getting the results)

Chas Prettejohn, Peter Bremers and Richard Price

I would like to thank Chas Prettejohn and his entire team at Ngwenya Glass for a most memorable and informative experience.
I would also like to thank Martli Janse van Rensburg for bringing the eager students of the Tshwane University of Technology's Glass Department. Keep an eye on them as they'll be the future stars of glass.

Group photo


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