From angels to unicorns, a fantasy world of exotic creatures awaits you at Dockyard Glassworks.
Stepping into the west end studio is like walking into a sorcerer’s den, as artisans conjure beautiful figurines from a scorching furnace.
You can easily while away the hours just watching these craftsmen and women at work, as they transform molten, liquid glass into animals, marine creatures and other fantastical shapes.
Since July 1999 Wendy Avery and her team have created glass figurines and tableware in every colour you can imagine.
Whether it is a tiny tree frog or a jardiniere vase, their glassblowing is a mesmerizing process.
Mrs Avery co-owns Dockyard Glassworks with business partner Tony Johns, a Master Craftsman from Essex, UK.
Between them they have 39 years’ experience of glassblowing.
Mrs Avery describes the profession as “hot, hard work”, but also “creative, challenging and compelling”.
An ancient artform, glass is produced from an alchemy of silica sand, soda, ash, lime, feldspar, antimony and other ingredients.
It is produced in a furnace reaching thousands of degrees farenheit.
At Dockyard, the black iron and steel furnace is fired by propane and hot air to reach 2,380 degrees.
Dockyard Glassworks uses batches of lead-free clear glass from Phillips Lighting in Holland.
Adding colour is a fascinating process. Metals, minerals, gemstones, crushed pearls and oyster shells are among the ingredients used.
Crushed frits (chips of minerals and gemstones) and lines of coloured powder are laid out on the marver — the black iron table onto which the clear glass is rolled.
The craftsman uses hand tools to pull, shape, twist and cut the glass, and to add any decorative features.
Dockyard Glassworks also has a Glory Hole — a dry, reheating chamber which fuses the colours into the glass and reheats it as it is being worked on.
The glassblowers each have handmade black iron tools with stainless steel tips, individually shaped for their hands.
They are dressed with melted natural beeswax to prevent them from ‘sticking’ in the hot molten glass.
During the glassblowing process the glass is cooled by newspaper soaked with Bermuda rainwater.
Once the artist is satisfied with the piece it is then placed in a lehr, or annealing oven, to cool overnight. This is kept at a temperature of 962 degrees.
At Dockyard Glassworks you can find creatures characteristic of Bermuda. Among the items for sale are tiny tree frogs, green sea turtles, Bermuda hogs, dolphins, lizards and longtails.
Mrs Avery also provides handout information for each piece so children can learn all about Bermuda’s native wildlife.
But it’s not just ornaments and figurines. The craftsmen and women also produce Christmas tree decorations, jewellery, wine glasses, vases, jars, plates and paperweights.
They can even create engraved trophies and light fixtures.
“We can pretty much make anything you want, to a custom-made order,” said Mrs Avery.
She owns Dockyard Glassworks with business partner Tony Johns, a Master Craftsman from Essex, UK.
Between them they have 39 years’ experience in glassblowing.
Dockyard Glassworks is open every day and can ship glassware anywhere in the world via Federal Express.
Mrs Avery also runs three other companies in Bermuda. The sister company to Dockyard Glassworks at the naval gun mounting store is the Bermuda Rum Cake Company.
In St George’s she also owns the Bermudiana arts and crafts shop at 1 King’s Square and the Dockside Glass and Rum Cake at 3 Bridge Street.
Mrs Avery has a background in tourism as her father, Sydney Sherwood, owned the Hamiltonian and Fairylands Hotel, also known as Sherwood Manor.
“I grew up in the hotel industry, dealing with people of all ranks and files,” she said.
She started glassblowing in 1982 and ran her own studio at her home in Deep Bay, Pembroke.
The business expanded into several shops in Hamilton and then a studio at Blue Hole Hill, Hamilton Parish, before moving to Dockyard in 1999.
All her staff are Bermudian and undergo a thorough five-year apprenticeship programme.
“We had four staff to begin with and now we have up to eight glassblowers,” she said.
“I strongly believe in training, it’s what we are all about.
“All our staff are Bermudian, and we have up to 27 in the summer.”
At Dockyard, the glassblowers include Alan Avery, Damon Simons, Chrissie Howarth and Stephanie DeOliviera.
New apprentices are Samantha Wilkinson and Diamon Tate.
Dockyard Glassworks also educates school groups and runs glassblowing demonstrations for tourists.
“Sometimes when the cruise ships are in we can get 3,000 people a day in here,” said Mrs Avery.
Tourists can watch the staff in action in the large open plan workshop.
Anyone wanting refreshments has tea, coffee and snacks on hand at the Bermuda Rum Cake Company.
Mrs Avery’s rum cakes are available in 11 flavours and four sizes.
“This is the only rum cake made commercially in Bermuda, and our kitchen is open so people can see the whole process,” she said.
The flavours are: Traditional; chocolate; fruit; rum swizzle; black fruit; Christmas rum cake; coconut; banana; ginger; coffee; and gold liquer.
Mrs Avery said the company uses fresh ingredients such as pineapple, apricots and cherries.
Her traditional rum cake is based on the British Navy custom of giving its “men of war” lemon and vanilla biscuits to ward off scurvy, plus a shot of rum at the end of each day.
Dockyard Glassworks and the Bermuda Rum Cake Company, Royal Naval Dockyard, 8am-5pm Sunday to Friday, 10am-5pm Saturday. Call 234-4216 or e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.