A minute off the highway, but it took seven years to get there.
For years, driving the Malahat between Duncan and Victoria, I’ve noticed the blue road-side Tourist Attraction sign with the letters GBS on it. I’ve noticed it, but kept on driving, though curious what GBS stands for.
Last Saturday, I was on my way to Victoria to a friend’s wedding shower, giftless. Wondering what to give her, I passed the now huge road-side sign, yelling at me in capital letters, GBS GLASS BLOWING, TOURIST ATTRACTION. Obediently, I turned right onto South Shawnigan Lake Road, and after about a minute’s drive came upon GBS’s landscaped parking lot.
Owners Ann and Grahame moved from the UK to the Cowichan Valley, having vacationed here and, as we all do, fell in love with the place. They closed their business in North-East England, where they employed several glass blowers, and opened a smaller operation in Shawnigan Lake.
“Grahame’s been blowing glass 43 years now,” Ann said, as she gave me the Studio tour. She showed me their oil lamps, wine glasses, ornaments and specialty glassware. She explained how they use industrial-grade pyrex for all their work. So durable you can bake a cake right in the glass. Hard to believe all that delicate glass could be so tough.
After the tour, I was treated to Grahame’s glass-blowing demonstration. Right before my eyes what started as a chemistry measuring cylinder morphed into a beautiful wine glass. “You’ve turned science into art,” I say to him. Grahame tells me he doesn’t think of himself as an artist. I scanned all of the twinkling glass showcased in the Studio. If that’s not art, I don’t know what is.
You can find GBS oil lamps in restaurants around the Valley, including the Masthead in Cowichan Bay. Ann and Grahame contribute to local events, including hosting an event at this year’s MS Ride. And, it turns out, they are participants at the Cowichan Valley Wine & Culinary Festival.
So I got to know another of this year’s participants and I bought a gorgeous coloured-glass pendant for my friend.
Halfway back to my car, I turned around and walked back into the Studio. “Grahame,” I said, “What does GBS stand for?” He smirked, “Glass Blowing Studio.”
How to get there: