Faced with the reality of development in Port Kells, local glassblower Robert Parkes is looking for ways to pass on his knowledge of the art. (Trevor Beggs)

Surrey’s premiere glassblower keeping an eye on the future

Robert Parkes’ says he’d be ‘more than happy to teach’ in the right setting

Surrey’s most established glassblower wonders how he’s managed to carve out a thirty-year career doing what he loves.

Sometimes I shake my head when I get up in the morning because I can’t believe I get to do this,” Robert Parkes said.

“I’m lucky enough to be able to get globs of hot glass and make stuff out of it for a living.”

‘Great Globs of Glass,’ would make for a great title if Parkes ever decided to write an autobiography. The glass industry has been an integral part of his life ever since graduating from high school in 1969.

Parkes entered the stained glass industry before beginning an apprenticeship at the Robert Held glassblowing studio in Kitsilano back in 1987.

“Robert was a wonderful mentor, I owe everything to him,” said Parkes.

In 2009, Parkes built his own glassblowing studio called the ‘Loafing Shed’ out on his property in Port Kells. He was recognized in the community on numerous occasions, including when his work was presented to Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr. during the 2011 Surrey Economic Summit.

Earlier this year, he was a 2017 Surrey Civic Treasure award recipient.

SEE ALSO: Surrey glass artist, poet, and theatre vet named as Civic Treasures for 2017

However, Parkes is aware of the changes going on around him in Port Kells. A lot of the area around Parkes’ farm has been bought by developers, and he’s aware that the clock is ticking.

“Surrey’s been my home for a long time, but we’re facing this daunting situation that could change our lives,” he said.

“We’re trying to decide what the next step is for us and this property. It’s all going to change, but we’re going to stay here as long as we can.”

Parkes is left with a few different options. He could stand his ground in Port Kells for as long as possible, re-establish himself elsewhere in the Fraser Valley, or face retirement.

Those are his current options, but Parkes is keeping another idea tucked away in his back pocket.

While development is launching piping hot glob of glass into Parkes’ life, he does have a vision for the future of glassblowing locally.

“I have a little idea cooked up where we can take this glassblowing equipment and make a facility where young people can learn glassblowing, blacksmithing and pottery.”

“Back in the day, these art forms made your cities,” Parkes said. “Automation changed everything, but it wasn’t very long ago that everything was handmade.”

“The goal is to partner with a school or move this equipment to another facility elsewhere,” he said. “Hopefully now that they gave me a civic treasure award, they’ll listen to me.”

Parkes is also staying flexible by saying that his equipment could be moved to a University, but it’s not a necessity.

If Parkes is forced to move, he doesn’t want his premiere glassblowing equipment to go to waste. The 65-year-old also realizes that it would be hard to re-establish himself elsewhere.

“This is the state of the art stuff, you can’t get better glassblowing equipment than this,” he said.

What Parkes needs moving forward is support from different levels of government in order to kickstart his project.

“It would have to be publicly and federally funded. Right now, they give no money to arts except for dance and theatre. That has to change.”

Parkes is hoping that his passion for glassblowing rubs off on other people who might have interest in the art form.

“If I can get into a facility that I can run, I’d be more than happy to teach. It would be an outlet for me to remain creative and pass on what I know.”



trevor.beggs@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Trevor on Twitter

GlassblowingLoafing ShedRobert Parkes

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP recover $80,000 worth of stolen property

Police found the property after executing two search warrants in Newton

White Rock approves scaled-up Festival of Lights for 2020

Event to run for nearly 60 days, and expand from the white rock to Oxford Street

White Rock to encourage Uber, Lyft to operate in city

South Surrey and White Rock are without ride-hailing services, for now

Annual Battle of the Badges hockey game to combat bullying in Delta schools

This year’s Battle of the Badges takes place at Sungod Arena on Pink Shirt Day (Wednesday, Feb. 26)

Trains through White Rock, Surrey could be affected by rail blockades

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

BC Ferries sailings filling up Family Day Monday

More than 20 sailings added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for long weekend

Most Read