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Glass artist Laura is lighting up lives

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Island inspired: Laura Smith designed the chandelier at the TABS store on Reid Street (Photograph by Nadia Hall)

Burns, nicks and gashes don’t faze Laura Smith. The glass artist is used to navigating extreme temperatures to create her decorative items.

Light fixtures, door knobs and vessels are all part of her range. She’s also developing a line of table lamps with a company in London.

“I’m trying to concentrate on lighting, adding that handmade quality to what I make in functional form,” she said. “A lot of my work is inspired by colours on the island. I’ve always drawn inspiration from Bermuda. It used to be objects in the water — buoys, rope — but now it’s a bit more functional.”

A chandelier in TABS, the men’s and women’s apparel store on Reid Street, is an example of her recent work. The glass knobs on the dressing room doors of the store are also hers.

“It’s cool to have something in a public space for people to see,” the 36-year-old said. “I’ve done a lot of private residences where only friends and family can see the work.”

Her art GCSE was the only indication of her future pursuits when she left Bermuda High School for boarding school in England.

“I was influenced in a different direction for a while and came back to art later,” Ms Smith said. “I guess it was not knowing or not having the confidence to say this is what I definitely want to do.

“In Bermuda you can be influenced towards the finance/business side of things and the realities of working in Bermuda. I couldn’t see my business working there just yet. London offers opportunities that Bermuda doesn’t always.”

She graduated from Edinburgh Art College in 2007 and moved to London to work under renowned glass artist Adam Aaronson. She spent her summers home from Edinburgh at Dockyard Glassworks, practising her technique and started her own company four years ago.

“The course in Edinburgh was very focused towards design and art and the making as such was secondary, which has its pros and cons,” she said.

“I was lucky because, working in Dockyard, I could have the practical experience.

“Your time at university is [meant] to be really creative and not be stymied; your imagination can run wild. I can understand why they focused more on ideas and drawings.”

Reality struck hard once she completed her studies.

“You don’t just have to make it, you have to sell it, finish it, ship it. You have to find clients, that sort of thing. So working for [Adam Aaronson] was very [helpful]. He did quite a lot of lighting for high-end hotels, which taught me quite a lot practically.”

What many don’t realise is how much strength is required, Ms Smith added.

“It’s one of the hardest physical jobs, making glass. It can be super heavy or delicate and light. It depends on your approach. People are always worried about breaking my pieces. It’s super resilient, blown glass, because it’s not thin like a wine glass or a machine-made bauble.”

She doesn’t just work with blown glass, she’s also intrigued by the history behind it.

“Within each discipline there are many techniques that have been developed over centuries. Glass has been around for thousands of years. They found glass beads from Bronze Age England, so 3,000 years old, which is pretty intriguing, but the Venetians began the more recent traditions.

“They’re held as the maestros of the glass world. Like the Bermuda triangle there’s some fact, but there’s mostly fiction.”

She was told that if you burn your finger, you should put it on the hot glass where you burnt it “to cancel out the pain”. She hasn’t tested the theory.

E-mail: www.laurasmithglass.com; Twitter: @laurasmithglass; Instagram: @laurasmithglass

On display: Laura Smith stands under her chandelier at TABS on Reid Street (Photograph supplied)
Work of art: Laura Smith’s TABS chandelier is inspired by the colours of Bermuda (Photograph by Nadia Hall)
Pretty and functional: the glass doorknobs at TABS are also by Laura Smith (Photograph by Nadia Hall)
Eye-catching design:'Submerged Atolls' by Laura Smith (Photograph by Shannon Toft)
Making a statement: Laura Smith’s ‘Palm’ chandelier at a residence in Tucker’s Town (Photograph by Ann Spurling)
Striking style: Laura Smith’s ‘Palm’ chandelier at a residence in Tucker’s Town (Photograph by Ann Spurling)
Bermuda blues: Laura Smith’s ‘Palm’ chandelier at a residence in Tucker’s Town (Photograph by Ann Spurling)
Touch of glass: Laura Smith’s ‘Submerged Buoy’ (Photograph by Shannon Toft)