The guard at the entrance!
The lease on the barn on the Arreton Barns Craft Village site was acquired in June 2013. Originally a grain drying barn, for many years our future studio had been used to accommodate a variety of artefacts related to the Craft Village, some of which were very strange and unusual. For instance when we first arrived we had to push a 1922 Model T Ford truck out of the way to get in!
Upon opening the door…
After opening the doors the huge amount of paraphernalia that came into view was a daunting sight, and even with the help of an obliging fork-lift truck, it took a whole three days for us just to clear the space.
Previous occupants required eviction!
Amongst the residents was a twice life size plastic Father Christmas, who upon opening the door complained bitterly about being disturbed – but we took no notice and unceremoniously carted him away! Perhaps the most unusual item was a large rotting cylinder of wood said to be part of one of the masts of Nelson’s flagship “Victory”!
Richard risks life and limb…
The next task was to remove the several years’ worth of dust from floor, walls and roof prior to painting. The apex of the roof is very high, and a number of precarious and rather unstable arrangements were required to gain access with the paint roller. As we worked we planned just how the space would be divided into the functional areas that would be required to produce, sell and distribute finished pieces of glass. Although the floor area is relatively limited
Stud partitions divide the work areas.
(90 m2), the saving grace is the mezzanine, which offered us about a third as much again. Briefly, downstairs the requirements were a hot working area encompassing furnaces, glory holes and annealing, a cold working area for grinding and polishing, a retail area and a viewing area. Upstairs we required a packing area, staff area and office. After painting, Timothy, now ably assisted by Roger, began to erect stud partitions dividing the various functional areas.
The retail area was constructed using display units retrieved from the St Lawrence studio. A ‘shop-front’ was built at the entrance with a heavy sliding glass door, and an exit door was installed at the side. Upstairs there was a requirement for a fire door and fire escape stairway. The next stage was the installation of services, electricity, gas and water. Electricity and water were relatively straightforward, and we thought that installing the gas supply would be the biggest headache.
Gas main installation
Because there was no natural gas available at the St Lawrence studio, propane had to be used there. This is considerably more expensive than natural gas, and we wanted to avoid this if at all possible. By a stroke of good fortune we learned that we were only 10 meters away from the principal gas main on the Isle of Wight! Despite this, getting the gas into the studio in the volumes we require (600Kw/Hour) proved extremely expensive.
By December 2013 the retail area was complete, so although we were not yet in production, we decided to open the doors and start selling some of the ‘Relocation Stock’ that we had acquired from the old company.
Stock on shelves and ready for customers
Although this meant that there was some income trickling in, it also meant that work on the studio was continually interrupted by the requirement to serve customers!
Furnace almost completed
The next issue was the furnace, the heart of a glassmaking studio. At the old studio there were two furnaces, and we managed to acquire both of these. We decided that we only wanted a single furnace in the new studio so we dismantled the two we had and crated all that was salvageable up to Peter Wren Howard in Stourbridge. Peter then constructed a state-of-the-art furnace for us, which arrived in March 2014, and so far has behaved perfectly.
First pieces of glass.
By the end of March 2014, although the studio was not completely finished, we had enough equipment in place to start making glass, and glassmaking has continued apace ever since.
Mark Hill declares the studio open.
The studio was formally declared open by Mark Hill (BBC Antiques Roadshow) on October 19, 2014. This coincided with our first Collectors Open Day making the whole day a great success.
Not bad for a couple of glassmakers!