Teachers and graduates of Espace Verre

Teachers and graduates of Espace Verre:
Marie Hélène Beaulieu, Annie Cantin, Maryse Chartrand, Zou Desbiens, Carole Frève, David Frigon-Lavoie, Jean-Marie Giguère, Cédric Ginart, Detlef Gotzens , Karina Guévin, Catherine Labonté, Lisanne Lachance, Michèle Lapointe, Caroline Ouellette, Gilles Payette, Patrick Primeau, Donald Robertson, Cathy Strokowsky, Jean Simon Trottier

April 20th – May 20th 2017
Vernissage : April 20th, from 5 to 8pm

In 1983, when François Houdé was approached to participate in the creation of a glass school in Montreal, he asked me for advice.  I couldn’t imagine anything better to happen.  Finally, Quebec would have something similar to Sheridan College in Ontario.  Montreal could become a center for glass, attracting teachers and students of talent and be a beacon for the glass community.  What I could not foresee was the long and exhausting fight to get there.  Together with Ronald Labelle, who had the necessary political contacts, they had to overcome the incomprehension of the different levels of government concerning the financial and technical implications of such a school.  Because of the complex equipment needed, it was far more expensive and difficult than any other craft school.

All through history, periods of great glassmaking coincided with times of economic effervescence, be it in the Orient, in Rome, Venice or in the “Art Nouveau” period of the last century.  Establishing a glass school needs an affluent society.  Could it be done in Quebec?  After overcoming many hurdles the project became a reality.  In 1988, Espace Verre opened its doors to the first class of students.  It was a concentrated course of one year.  Today, the professional course lasts a minimum of three years.  Ronald Labelle and the few glass-makers in Québec had so far only limited glassblowing experience.  It fell upon Houdé with his extensive schooling at Sheridan College and his own experimentation at the University of Illinois in Normal, U.S.A., to establish a curriculum with a variety of techniques, not just in glassblowing, but also molding, slumping and cold working.  Quite naturally he invited his old co-students at Sheridan College to assist him: Susan Edgerley, Donald Roberston and Laura Donefer…

The first years were difficult.  Various times the enterprise nearly collapsed because of insufficient funds.  Today, Espace Verre is a world class facility.  Apart from its own excellent teachers, the school invites national and international artists for workshops where students can acquire a wide variety of knowhow.

Presently many of the school’s highly skilled teachers are former graduates such as Jean-Marie Giguère, from the first graduating class in 1989, and Patrick Primeau, one of North America’s best glass blowers, who can easily measure up with Venitians in the variety as well as the technical and artistic perfection of his creations.  Thanks also to Donald Robertson, internationally recognized expert in the most difficult of all the glass techniques, lost wax casting, Espace Verre students profit from a training of the highest standard.

Thus you can admire in this exhibition, glass art of an extraordinary variety: blown at the furnace, at the lamp, slumped, cast in sand and in the lost wax technique.  Espace Verre has come a long way since its inception more than 30 years ago to arrive at its present excellence and this is a unique chance to see the fruits of this labor of love.

Elena Lee

PS: 1985 – 1999, Elena Lee was on the Board of Directors of Espace Verre  (Centre  des métiers du Verre du Québec à Montréal)