By Jenn Watt
When the world slowed down earlier this year to help mitigate the coronavirus threat, Tory Hill artists Terry Craig and Jenn Wanless-Craig did too. They modified their glassblowing schedule and took on projects they normally wouldn’t have had time for. They added honeybees, ducks and hens to their backyard.
Things have been different, but they’re taking it in stride, said Wanless-Craig, in an interview just weeks before the couple and their daughter Anabelle open The Hot Shop by Artech Studios for The Studio Tour.
“This year, we’re pretending we were where we were 10, 15 years ago … We’re trying to remember what it was like then, just operating like that. A bit smaller,” she said. This summer, Artech took on more custom work, too.
And because there was less travel and more time around home, they decided to get the chickens and bees they’d been thinking about.
“We had a lot more time this spring, and our daughter is home, [so we built] a really beautiful chicken coop. We have 20 hens and we sell fresh eggs,” she said. “And we have ducks … for pets. We raised them in our bathtub and they just wander in the backyard quacking. And we have two beehives. We’ve already harvested our honey.”
With The Hot Shop right on the corner of Highway 118 and County Road 503, attracting waves of cyclists each summer, Terry Craig embraced his passion for bicycles and offered repairs and rentals.
“That’s my husband’s passion. He was a BMXer when he was younger and he was a bike courier in Toronto and he likes biking and likes repairing bikes,” Wanless-Craig said.
All of this on top of a three-weeks on, three-weeks off schedule of glassblowing.
Because Artech Studios is a year-round business, the family always keeps their popular items stocked up, meaning there hasn’t been a scramble to prepare for The Studio Tour. Having been in business for the last 16 years, they know what products sell faster than others and produce them accordingly.
In particular, demand is high for the glasses, made from upcycled beer bottles. Over the years, they’ve diversified their offerings, expanding what’s available for purchase.
“We make honeypots; we get clear beer bottles and put gold bees on them [and add] corks. You wouldn’t even know they were a beer bottle. But we’ve really expanded what we can do with recycled beer bottles,” Wanless-Craig said.
Customers have shown a particular interest in recycled products. Most recently the LCBO Food and Drink magazine asked Artech Studios to feature their whiskey glasses – made from upcycled beer bottles.
The couple also does some collaborative work with other artists as well as commissions.
During the two weekends of The Studio Tour, Wanless-Craig said The Hot Shop by Artech Studios will be offering demonstrations, an opportunity to make something yourself, refreshments and, of course, a wide range of glass art. COVID-19 protocols are in place.
“Basically everything on our website we’ll have [at the studio] and then we make some fun kind of Canadiana animals, like we do loons and beavers and moose. They’re not on our website, we just have them at our shop, kind of a special thing. This year we added [glass] bumblebees,” she said. “… We also make [glass] pumpkins … just for Studio Tour. We don’t sell them anywhere else.”
You can see the wide range of glasswork available at The Hot Shop by Artech Studios by viewing their website artechstudios.ca or visiting their Instagram account @artech_thehotshop. Contact them at 705-448-9522 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their studio is at 18639 Highway 118 in Tory Hill. The Studio Tour is Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 3 and 4, 10 and 11, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.