There so much palpable enthusiasm from Carrie Billow as she gives a visitor a tour of Studio 73 in Newton that she’s asked to slow down – did she just say there was a bath in the little room now used to store glass sheets?
Next to it is a room with a kiln, followed by a main production area with work tables, glass cutters, trays of colour-separated glass shards, glue and other knick-knacks used to make something unique.
Almost every bit of space inside the little storefront on 137 Street is used to either store, display or produce fused glass objects: Trays, bowls, hanging ornaments, wine charms and coasters, each with a one-of-a-kind mosaic colour pattern.
“We all have different talents,” she says, speaking of the seven permanent part-time adult artisans with developmental disabilities who work at Studio 73.
Her specialty is mosaic coasters – although she spends much of her time helping with office tasks and networking with local businesses to sell the glass artwork in the neighbourhood.
Studio 73, which is now a year old, is run by the New Westminster-based Community Living Society (CLS), which was formed in the 1970s by a group of parents of kids with disabilities.
The studio – run using the template of an ordinary business – gives its artisans the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the community and achieve personal goals with the help of CLS counsellors.
“We jump in when needed,” says studio coordinator Jodi Leech.
The artisans are paid a wage for their work, and get a cut of each item sold in the store.
Although for some lower-level skills, the studio produces scented candles and soaps, the focus is fused glass.
The coloured glass plates are cut into shards – usually by resident expert Kurt Linke.
They’re then carefully glued onto a coloured or clear glass background.
The piece is then placed into the kiln for about 20 hours at 1475 degrees Celsius to allow the glass pieces to fuse together.
For objects that need to be curved or moulded (such as bowls), the heating process is repeated for another 15 hours or so.
Studio 73 is organizing classes for members of the public interested in making fused glass.
The classes will be taught by the adult artisans with the support of the CLS.
For months, studio members have worked to make friends with local businesses and the Newton Business Improvement Association.
A good chunk of sales have been made to CLS partner Vancity, which purchased fused glass objects for their in-company Christmas gifts.
The studio’s artisans have also taken part in neighbourhood cleanups and have collected donations for the homeless.
Billow beams with pride telling the story of how she personally gave a local homeless woman five cans of food.
Leech says the networking and active participation has helped in selling the studio’s products locally while the area still struggles in growing its retail foot traffic.
“We do the best we can.”
That “best” includes a rare service.
Visitors can bring in their own glass bottle and Studio 73 will melt it flat for $15.
The studio is located at #112-7320 137 St. (on the west side of 137 St.). For more information and a list of items they have for sale, visit studioseventythree.ca