Review: Canberra Glassworks inner banner

Review: Canberra Glassworks

The nation's capital certainly has no shortage of cultural attractions, with around forty museums and galleries at last count. One of the most interactive options is Canberra Glassworks — the only arts facility in Australia dedicated entirely to contemporary glass art.
23 Jun, 2024
Canberra Glassworks
Canberra Glassworks
Canberra Glassworks. Image: Visit Canberra

Top Oz Tours offers a great range of Canberra tours and experiences. You can browse the options here.

Glass — it’s miraculous when you think about it.

It’s a solid substance you can see straight through. We live and work surrounded by it — and travel from our homes to our workplaces largely encased it in. Yet rarely do we give it a second thought, even as we sip our evening tipple from it at the end of the day. But as the good Doctor Julius Sumner Miller used to put it so eloquently: ‘Why is it so?’

That question will be answered during a visit to Canberra Glassworks in the nation’s capital. Housed in Canberra’s oldest public building — the Kingston Power House, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2015 — Canberra Glassworks is Australia’s only arts facility dedicated solely to celebrating the artistic form of one of our most precious, but largely unsung materials.

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Like many of us here in Oz, my exposure to glass as an art form has been somewhat limited. I recall many moons ago (the aforementioned Doctor was still with us so it was quite a while back) when my globetrotting grandparents returned from a world cruise bearing an emerald green hand blown glass decanter from Venice. There was much ooh-ing and ahh-ing over this glorious treasure, which we were only permitted to touch under strict supervision. It seemed so exotic at the time.

Canberra Glassworks
Canberra Glassworks. Image: Adam Ford

Canberra Glassworks has a remit to cast glass art in a contemporary light — and it certainly succeeds at doing so. There’s plenty to do at the centre, and you‘ll need to set aside at least half a day to do it justice.

For many visitors, the ‘Hotshop’ is going to be the highlight. There’s a tiered viewing gallery where you can sit and observe the artists-in-residence creating their works. This is not a demonstration that’s put on for the audience. These are working artists — most of whom have paid to make use of the state-of-the-art facilities.

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It feels almost like you are watching a ballet set in the underworld. The glistening artists are the performers — ducking and weaving between one another armed with great rods tipped with glowing molten glass. The Dickensian 19th century industrial setting only adds to the atmosphere.

Canberra Glassworks
Canberra Glassworks: Watch local artists at work. Image: Adam Ford

The more serene ‘Coldshop’ is where the finishing touches are put to the works. This is also where the centre’s classes and group workshops take place.

Down in the foyer there’s a wonderful gallery space, which hosts changing exhibitions roughly every eight weeks. Check the website to see what’s on during your visit.

Canberra Glassworks
Canberra Glassworks. Image: Adam Ford

Finally, the Canberra Glassworks shop offers exquisite glassware and general objets d’art — much of it crafted exclusively for the facility. The shop also showcases the work of a different local artist each month. It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir of your visit to the capital.

Formed under intense heat, yet infinitely smooth and cool to touch, there’s no doubt you’ll think of glass in an entirely different way by the end of your visit.

The writer travelled as a guest of Visit Canberra.

Browse our range of Canberra tours and experiences here.

Do you have any tips for things to do at Canberra Glassworks? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours & Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.

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