Published on Jul 5, 2021

In the Workshop of Glass Artist Catherine Labonté

Stepping inside her Bedford Lofts workshop is like entering a universe overflowing with creativity and colour. Between the melting ovens and the shelves stocked with adorable animal figures, the artist and her assistants are methodically hard at work. What constitutes a typical week in the lair of this glass virtuoso with 20 years of experience? Well, for sure there’s a lot of action!

By Natalie Sicard

This is where she creates all the pieces that will be sent to several points of sale. In fact, 75% of her production is destined for the United States. The first name that appears on her mailing list is that of the prestigious Corning Museum of Glass Boutique, in the state of New York, where every year she’s invited to offer a public demonstration of her art. Her pedagogical functions aren’t limited to this event; Each Wednesday she teaches at Espace Verre in the Vieux-Montréal and presides the institution’s governing board. The other days of the week, including Saturdays and Sundays, she dedicates to managing her business.

Monday Morning: Filling the Furnace

She pours, by herself, and every hour, four to five 50-pound bags of glass powder in the oven’s cavity which will be heated at 1,280 o Celsius the entire day. In the afternoon, she takes care of her orders, her clients, and manages her employees who’ll help her, each their turn, throughout the week with different tasks.

Tuesdays and Thursdays: Creating Glass Blown Sculptures

Her specialty: a selection of 26 brightly coloured, translucent glass animal models. Her special expertise? Her great ability for adding details (ears, eyes, legs) by meticulously balancing actions when fusing these tiny elements (no glue ever used). A penguin sculpture will take her four hours to complete. This artist, who wanted to be a veterinarian when she was young, and who was fascinated by cartoon characters, first registered at the Cégep du Vieux-Montréal’s Arts Program. She loves drawing cartoon-style animals, but never thought they would one day become three-dimensional. When, purely by chance, she took a glassblowing class, she had an epiphany: She felt like a fish in water! “It was a truly magical encounter, this material allowed me to really express myself.” She then studied at Espace Verre for two more years and when she finished in 2002, at the age of 22, she launched her company.

Friday: Administration Day

Such a business requires a lot of administrative and practical work; Her tasks include processing orders, packaging, raw material management and maintaining all the tools and equipment…

Saturdays or Sundays: Creating the Solid Glass “Minis”

In order to spend more time with her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, the artist delegates this operation to glassblower David Frigon who’s been working with her for the last 6 years and his assistant. Each day is dedicated to the production of one specific model: a penguin, a cat, a pig, an octopus, a rabbit. The artisans produce 100 animals every 6 hours. Each little creature takes 3 to 4 minutes to be created and comes with its own birth certificate when they are purchased on her website!

Catherine moved to the Eastern Townships in 2020 and established her glassblowing workshop inside the Bedford Lofts building. The presence of other craft art artisans is very stimulating. Next autumn, she plans to offer guided visits for small groups. To be continued!

For more information and to explore her online boutique:

Her Address Book

  • Le Sillon, in Dunham: What used to be the Maple Syrup Museum beside the Brasserie Dunham has recently been converted into a vinyl record store. She loves to come here and stock up on funk and indie pop.

  • La Pataterie at 66 Rue Cyr in Bedford: “The best poutine and the best steamed, all-dressed hotdog!”

  • Frelighsburg’s Municipal Park Trails: 17 km of trails along the Rivière aux brochets that will take you up to a point of view overlooking the town and of Mount Pinacle. The first trail head is located on Chemin St-Armand in front of the water treatment plant.

  • Parc de la nature in Cowansville : A lovely place where we find walking and cycling paths, a skate park, many games (shuffleboard, horseshoe, pétanque), a baseball field, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts. All this, and a beach, water sports, water games and a snack bar.

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