Bruce Marks, 47, studio manager at London Glassblowing
How did you become a blower of glass?
‘About 12 years ago, I was living in South Africa working as a restaurant manager but looking for a way out of it. I got into glassblowing after I met a chap at a flea market who was doing it and decided that it was what I wanted to do. I had done a bit of travelling and London was one of my favourite places. So my wife and I moved here!’
And how did you go pro?
‘I walked into the London Glassblowing studio and said to the owner that I wanted to be a glassblower. He was like: “Yeah, sure, everyone wants to be a glassblower.” But I said: “No, really. I’ve come all the way from South Africa. I want to be a glassblower!” So he said that if I was prepared to come in once a week and work for free, they’d let me help out and train me up. Now I’m the studio manager.’
What exactly is glassblowing?
‘We start by getting coloured glass ready, warming it up in the kiln. We then wrap different coloured glasses around one another until we end up with a 'bead' of colour at the end of the iron. Then you can start to blow it, which expands the material. Each piece on average takes between an hour and an hour and a half to make, but some take a whole morning due to their complexity. If you’re making a big, heavy piece, it’s about absolute concentration. You get into a rhythm and you can’t think about too much else.’
How hot does it get when you’re working?
‘It can be a bit hellish in summer but nice and comfortable in the winter. Depending on where you are in the studio, it can get above 40C. The furnace is about 1,100C. You don’t need good lungs, but it does require a certain amount of physicality.’
What do you like most about your job?
‘The best part is that it’s creative and meditative. Coming into work and having all of these people coming up with new ideas is amazing too. Glass has been around for 2,000 years, and we’re still finding new ways of making things. That’s really exciting.’
Hours: 40 per week
Starting salary: ‘Probably £70 to £80 a day.’
Qualifications: An apprenticeship
By Sammy Robson
Or why not become a screen printer?