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Glass Furnace

Groundbreaking Glass Project Breaks Ground
By Traci O'dea

In the April issue of Yacht Guide, I wrote an article about Charlotte McDevitt’s crusade to remove glass from the waste stream in the BVI. This month, a small battle was won by Green VI, the non-profit organization that Charlotte runs, when Governor McCleary broke ground for the glassblowing furnace in Cane Garden Bay, and four BVI apprentices were hired to learn the trade from an experienced glass artist.

The main purpose of the furnace building, soon to be erected in the parking lot across from Myett’s in Cane Garden Bay, will be to create artistic and practical items out of the glass provided by the waste of the local restaurants and residents. In addition, the studio will serve as a school for the apprentices and for visitors who would like to try glass blowing. The items created from the project will be for sale in Cane Garden Bay at Olivia’s Corner Store and throughout the islands at other retail outlets, and “whenever a cruise ship is in, we’ll set up a tent outside the studio and sell glassware on site,” said Jacob Barron, the glass artist who has been hired to run the studio.

One of the apprentices demonstrates glass artistry with the blowtorch.  All Photos by Traci O'Dea

Jacob has been blowing glass for twenty years, most recently at Maho Bay Resort in St John, which is how he met Charlotte McDevitt. “She took a glassblowing class with me, and it was there that she came up with the plan of trying something similar on Tortola,” he said as we stood in the shade of palm trees in Myett’s courtyard. “That was a year and a half ago, and ever since, we’ve been working towards this, and it’s finally becoming a reality.” Of Jake, Maho Bay’s website says, “His work is museum quality and watching him work is awe-inspiring.” He told me that the studio will create “everything from decorative bowls and vases to stemware, wineglasses, mugs, Caribbean things like tropical fish, starfish, jewellery.” I mentioned that they’d have plenty of green glass, from Heineken bottles, to make palm trees and flower stems.

Jake’s main purpose, though, is to teach the four BVI apprentices how to work with the glass as well as how to build and maintain the glass studio and the equipment. “I’m going to get them up to speed,” Jake said, “and then I’ll eventually take off to do other things, and these guys will run the whole show.”

The four apprentices seemed excited about their new endeavour. Leon “Sandman” Rhymer, a fixture in Cane Garden Bay, expressed his enthusiasm about handcrafting something in the BVI for visitors that they can take away with them. Travas Jack, called a natural artist by Ms. McDevitt, beamed as he spoke about this opportunity to “create.” As she held up a small glass piece, apprentice Cisne Benjamin, proclaimed a love for jewellery and mentioned that she wished the program would expand island-wide beyond Cane Garden Bay. Lastly, apprentice David Hodge spoke of how he’s seen glassworks in shops. He said, “I’ve always wondered how they do that, and now I actually get a chance to do it.” He also said that the environmental benefits are an added bonus.

At the groundbreaking, BVI Governor William Boyd McCleary pledged his support to Green VI’s efforts, a verbal commitment backed by monetary assistance from the Overseas Territory Environmental Program fund which donated to Green VI’s efforts. “We were delighted to provide a lot of the funding here for the project,” he said, “and we’re also delighted a lot of local companies have stepped in to sponsor this.” He added, “We have to find ways of living more effectively with our environment. We have to deal with our waste more effectively, and this is an example of how it can be done.”


Green VI board member Abby O’Neal said, “It’s little things like this that will become big things in the years to come.”

Glassblower Jacob Barron and his four apprentices.

Building a Glass Studio
Green VI cofounder Steve Fox shared the blueprints of the studio, a design that was donated by the architectural firm OBMI, where he is managing director. “We spent a lot of time discussing various options for sites,” he said. The group decided on Cane Garden Bay because of the availability of glass from local businesses, the fact that it’s a popular tourist destination and the community. “Myett’s have been very supportive,” he said.

The structure will have two walls that completely open up to allow visitors to watch but also to add increased airflow. The ventilation gap between the roof and the walls promotes natural cooling, eliminating the need for fans or air conditioning and keeping the running costs to a minimum. The intention is for the building to be constructed of concrete, reclaimed wood with finishing materials that incorporate glass waste. Steve said, “It’s simple, low cost, robust, open, and will hopefully feature some groovy glassy details and materials.”

Caribbean Colours, BVI, has donated VOC-free, GreenWise certified and LEED compliant Elements paints for the project. Elements is a brand of California Paints, a company committed to the environment. Their website claims, “California Paints recycles all of its wastewater and solvents, and has switched over to all recycled paint cans. The manufacturing facility is self-contained to eliminate any products from escaping out into the environment. In addition, the facility is located on a rail line which reduces the need for truck transport of supplies and materials to the manufacturing plant.”

Accenting the paint in the structure’s concrete walls will be glass bottles—to further emphasize the reusability of glass and to incorporate the building’s purpose with the design.

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