Glass tradie lives his dream
WORKING with glass tempers the frenetic pace of glazier Brian Hamley's retirement.
His new studio was meant to be just a hobby, but as a third-generation glazier, working hard is in his blood.
"I'm a tradesman,” Mr Hamley said. "I just keep working.
"But I'm not working to run a business, I'm working to make things I want to make out of glass.”
Mr Hamley ran commercial glass making business B&B Glass and Glazing in Brisbane for 30 years, selling it to his brother in 2011.
His grandfather was a lead lighter and glazier in England and he still uses the tools of his late father, also named Brian.
At his Glass Shokunin Studio at The Summit, Mr Hamley practices kiln formed glass artistry. He loves the unpredictability of the medium, he said.
"Glass is unpredictable ... glass and heat don't mix,” he said.
"Whatever you do with glass, you have to do it very slowly.”
It was his partner of eight years Junko Suzuki's idea to name his 'hobby' studio Glass Shokunin. The Japanese term 'shokunin' means 'tradesperson' or 'artisan'.
"It's someone who works with their hands. And 'shokunin' sounds a lot better than 'tradie',” Mr Hamley said.
Mr Hamley first visited Japan after selling his business. He took a one-week trip to celebrate the next chapter in his life, but on his return decided to move there indefinitely.
"My family thought I was mental...but it was the best thing I've ever done,” he said.
It was in Japan that he met Ms Suzuki. He was happy to remain in Japan long term but there were less "hoops to jump through” for Ms Suzuki to move to Australia and Mr Hamley had land in Stanthorpe, so they moved to The Summit.
"There was an opportunity to build a studio and do what I want to do,” he said.
"It's now sort of morphed into something much bigger than what I wanted it to be.
"I just keep pumping stuff out.”
He can't sit still, even in retirement, he said.
"I get bored. When you run a business for so long...I was always taught to be not one of the sheep but the leader.
"I just can't sit - I'm not a TV person, I've got to be doing something.”
The prolific artist is immersed in his time-intensive work every day.
He works with imported sheet and rod glass, and an electric kiln.
"I use kilns to manipulated the glass the way I want it to end up, as opposed to a blower who's using molten glass from the outset,” he said.
"Being a glazier, cutting glass is second nature to me.”
He cuts the glass sheets, makes his design, then it goes in the kiln and is fused (melted). A few days later he takes the piece out of the kiln, leaves it sitting in room temperature to make sure it's stable, and puts it back in the kiln to be shaped.
"Slumped or draped are the two terms...it can go in another two or three times, and each time it's in the kiln for anywhere between 10-15 hours,” he said.
"It's quite labour intensive.”
He spends "a day or two” cutting and designing for each piece before it's first stint in the kiln.
"By the end of just a standard plate, you could have spent 30-odd hours on it and I'm selling that for about $300 - so there's no labour in that at all, it's not about that.”
It would be a struggle to make a living as a career glass artist, Mr Hamley said.
"You'd have to back in the city to make a full-on living, and even then it'd be a struggle if you had mortgages.”
He said he was often asked that question, but at age 54 Mr Hamley says he's keen to live out his retirement in "peace and quiet” on his property, doing what he loves.
Mr Hamley's father Brian was a big influence on him and and his work. He still remembers the exact moment he found out his dad had passed away in 2008.
"He was very honest, ethical and very black-and white,” he said. "He didn't suffer fools.”
His studio at 25355 New England Way, The Summit, and is open Saturday - Wednesday, 10am-4pm.