Magical. That is the best word I can think of to describe the Robert Held Art Glass gallery in Parksville.
We recently visited the huge Quonset hut that houses the Held gallery and glass-blowing operation and were flabbergasted at the exquisite beauty that occupied every nook and cranny of the place. Vases, crucibles, paper weights, light fixtures, decorative pieces, seasonal work – all in vibrant, jewel-like tones that left us wondering at the loveliness of it all.
Vancouver Island is lucky to have the likes of Robert Held – he originally moved to Parksville three years ago to retire after many years of running a 30-man glass-blowing operation in Vancouver. But an entire lifetime as an award-winning artist held sway and when Robert spotted the vacant Quonset hut on the highway near Parksville’s Orange Bridge, his curiousity was piqued. One thing led to another and before he knew it his long career in glass blowing was revived.
Anyone walking in to the Held gallery expecting to see only the finished product will have a bit of a surprise. Three glass blowers are hard at work in the back half of the Quonset, with furnaces blasting out heat that, at times, is almost enough to knock you over. Wide-open doors were the order of the day when we visited.
Other than the superb finished products displayed in the front of the gallery, the opportunity to watch these talented artisans in the creative process is an added bonus. Several customers and browsers spent quite some time taking in the methods used.
The other great thing about this gallery is that you will most likely have the opportunity to meet and converse with the master himself. Although Robert now leaves most of the glass blowing work to his three long-time employees, he is ever-present in the gallery area, working on new designs and other projects. He is a totally affable fellow, happy to talk, it seems, to anyone and everyone.
Robert’s career in glass blowing began 48 years ago when he attended a two-week course in North Carolina. He returned to Canada to launch this country’s first college-level hot glass program, and over almost half a century has been acknowledged as the pioneer of art glass here. His work is treasured all over the world.
One of the gallery’s most popular items over the years has been a decorative blown-glass heart design. Small enough to be held in the hand, the hearts contain exuberant colour combinations and designs that can’t help but raise the spirits and engender an appreciation for the fine craftsmanship that goes into each one. Robert says that he and his artisans have created more than one million of these tiny jewels over the years, and they are all over the world.
But, enough words – the accompanying photos of some of the Held work speak more volumes than I ever could. If you are in Parksville just go there!
Further information on Robert Held Art Glass gallery can be found at the website:
Robert Held Art Glass gallery is located at 708 East Island Highway, Parksville.
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat.: 49.316129 Long.: -124.287616
N 49 18.968 W 124 17.257