We went to Bristol Blue Glass factory on Saturday, as part of the excellent 'Bristol Doors Open' annual event. Having seen lots of Bristol blue glass for sale I had always imagined that there was a small army of glass blowers puffing away in the wilds of Brislington. Not so. The man who did the talky bit of the demonstration said that there were four of them who produced most of the BBG, 2 assistants and 2 craftsmen (yes, they were all men) working in 2 teams. Apparently it takes around 7 years to train up a craftsman. I reckon that's longer than it takes for a doctor to train to be a surgeon (thinking of another job that requires painstaking skill with the hands!) It takes 4 years just to be able to assist properly - to execute the seamless dance that involves moving the irons around the kilns, blowing at the right moment, adding the right size blob of glass to make a handle, a stopper or whatever, whilst the craftman shapes and coaxes the molten glass into a recognisable and perfect form.
Apparently recruitment is a problem. They don't seem to have many up-and-coming apprentices to fill the slots, should any of those 4 decide to chuck it all in. It's not a nice job in the summer, when the heat from the sun makes the kiln heat unbearable. And whilst it must be wonderful to be able to create beauty from such an unpromising start, in order to be able to do so one must undertake the creation in an exacting and repetitive fashion, so that all the joy must get sucked out of it.
We came away feeling strangely anxious about the whole thing.