New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published June 14th 2017
Colour & beauty on the Kingston Foreshore
The Canberra Glassworks is located on the Kingston Foreshore, just a few minutes drive south of the city centre. This scenic area on Lake Burley Griffin is renowned for its café and restaurant scene, as well as for its attractions in the historical precinct, located further back from the water. One striking building that dominates the area is the Canberra Glassworks, where visitors can enjoy walking through the impressive, industrial building and watch glass being blown and created. Built in the early 1900's, the heritage-listed building was originally the Kingston Power House, which initially provided electricity to the workers who were building the city. At the front of the Canberra Glassworks is the popular Brodburger restaurant and next door is the heritage-listed Fitters Workshop (the location of the Three Sixty Fashion Markets), as well as the Old Bus Depot Markets.
The Kingston Foreshore area is a popular place to visit on weekends, as you can park your car in the centre and spend the day enjoying the sights. Although there are many unique and entertaining experiences when visiting the Canberra Glassworks, ensure you check out the following, colourful highlights...
Colour and beauty at the Canberra Glassworks. (Photo taken at the Winter Glass Market 2016). Source: Canberra Glassworks Facebook
When you first walk into the Canberra Glassworks, take the lift up to the first floor and visit the Hot Shop viewing platform. There is tiered seating, so visitors can take a seat and watch the professional artists at work - melting, blowing, firing, twisting and banging. Everything that is made in the Hot Shop is either sold in the shop downstairs or for one of the artists' exhibitions. On our recent visit, our family watched glass artists working together to make vases and sculptures, as well as a member of the public (who had paid for a private lesson), make and create his own colourful glass tumbler. If you are interested in having a private lesson in the Hot Shop, see here. Also see here for the Hotshop Calendar, to see which artists have booked the space on the day of your visit.
Allow plenty of time to watch the glass artists and enjoy the warmth from the hot kilns
Each Saturday there is a free Historical Tour of the building, to learn more about its origins as the Kingston Power House - the first public building in Canberra. Walk through the main areas and behind-the-scenes to admire and learn about the features of the building and the stories of what happened here during the last century. It is also interesting to hear about how the property laid empty for many years before it became the Canberra Glassworks that we see today. It was born from the need to have a place for glass artists to work, as local glass graduates from the Australian National University (ANU) would leave Canberra after their graduation, as there was nowhere here for them to continue creating their art form. Opened in 2007, the Canberra Glassworks is now an international facility for graduates, professional artists and those in training, to use. See here for how to book a tour. For a full article on Historical Tours of the Canberra Glassworks, see here.
Learn about the Kingston Power House on the Historical Tour
The Winter Glass Market is an annual event held each June which showcases a variety of glass sculptures and designs from local and national artists. The event starts in the afternoon and continues into the night, so glass exhibitions can be illuminated outside the building in a colourful display of neon artistry. There are also demonstrations, glass art to buy, European food stalls, mulled wine, face painting and much more. Kids will particularly enjoy the glass bead threading and other kids activities (for a gold coin donation) whilst staying warm inside. This is the highlight of the Canberra Glassworks event calendar - see the What's On calendar for details each year.
Demonstrations and lights at the Winter Glass Market 2016. Source: Original photos from the Canberra Glassworks Facebook
After watching and appreciating the effort that goes into making each piece of glass in the Hot Shop, why not browse the retail shop in the foyer and admire the work for sale. As well as larger pieces that have been lovingly created, there are small glass earrings, jewellery and keepsakes which make a memorable gift or souvenir of your visit. Although not cheap, due to the time it takes to create each piece, it is an inspiring and colourful shop to explore to appreciate the work - and support the work - of local artists. It is a particularly popular place for people to shop for one-of-a-kind, Canberra-made wedding gifts. See here for details.
The Canberra Glassworks is a unique venue, where each visitor has a different experience every time they visit. On some days you can sit at the Hot Shop and leisurely watch two glass artists work together to create a new glass creation, whereas other days it is literally buzzing with several artists working at once and the viewing platform is full. If you have kids, they will be fascinated by the hot kilns and watching the melting of glass to create something new. Afterwards, why not visit Brodburger at the front of the Glassworks for a juicy burger, chips and board games - most visitors to the Glassworks end up there!
With so many things to do in one location, you will discover something new, and beautiful, every time you visit.
Emu Egg by Joanna Bone (blown and coldworked glass). Source: Canberra Glassworks Facebook