After years of deliberation, we’re launching a new series of blog posts. Due to a lack of any other good suggestions, we’re entitling them Glass Eye, where our in-house spy will report back on the shenanigans of glassblowers Will and Johnny; things like what’s the latest fad, what have they been listening to, and whether they’re still getting on.
Here’s the first post – enjoy!
The workshop at Shakspeare HQ is a loud, hot, sweaty place, where a master glassblower and his assistant spend their hours shouting, swearing and pointing at each other. It’s 10p into the swear box per misdemeanour, in case you were thinking of participating.
But out of all the ridiculousness, the obscenities and the chaos, beautiful things happen when these two friends, Will Shakspeare, and Johnny “off-centre” Allen, work together.
These past few months have seen a frenzy of bauble making from the pair, the furnace has been working overtime.
Despite the seemingly ever-present backdrop of a global pandemic, these little glass spheres have been selling like proverbial hot cakes.
There have been interludes of insanity between long periods of concentration, though. Will and Johnny’s ‘bauble adventures’ have been appearing on Facebook and Instagram – if you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out their Langport bauble tree, or the thieving “baubledoodle”videos online.
The run on baubles may be down to covid in some part. People seem to be getting into the Christmas spirit super early, but it’s more that they’re taking the time to appreciate the craftsmanship of something made with care and a lot of real life blood, sweat and tears.
When I’m observing (bothering) Will and Johnny in the workshop, I ask pertinent questions.
Stuff like, how many baubles have you made today? What does that thing do? Why are you doing that now?
There’s a lot of eye rolling, but to the uninitiated (me), who’s never been allowed to hold a blowing iron (give it time), it still fascinates me how they create these amazing objects from molten glass.
The beauty of baubles is that the phrase ‘not just for Christmas’ really rings true.
They hang off a curtain rail or picture hook, year round, just as well as they’d sit in a Christmas tree.
Whether opaque or translucent, both have different qualities as they reflect and transmit light.
Stockpiling of baubles took place early in the year, but Johnny - look up Captain Snailhead on Instagram - had to self-isolate for 20 days, and Will for 14.
So now they’re making up for lost time. Articles in the Telegraph and Landscape Magazine further exacerbated the boom on baubles, and it’s by no means light work.
Glassblowing is physical, hot work. It requires strength, coordination, and stamina. And let’s face it. These two aren’t getting any younger.
Imagine watching an un-choreographed episode of Strictly Come Dancing, with considerably drabber outfits and less rhythm, and throw in some fire. You get the idea.
Usually, about now the team would be selling at Bath Christmas Market, talking to customers and explaining the process of glassblowing. It’s the bit Will really enjoys, talking to people and telling them how it’s done. Showing them that these baubles are not fragile ornaments that will break in a breeze, but robust pieces that you can quite literally bash together without fear of breakage.
This year, however, they are stuck in the workshop. But at least it gives them a chance to make ALL the baubles.
Every year a new bauble design is born, and for this reason neither Will or Johnny have a particular favourite, other than the last one they made.
Will says he’s still quite amazed that people buy what he makes, but to me it’s pretty obvious. They’re bloody marvellous.
Buy your baubles for Christmas, or for absolutely any other time of the year actually.
Keep these two glassblowers dancing around the workshop. And filling up the swear box.