European Flame Off in Irún: the festival of borosilicate

2016-01-05 - The great double victory of Heliox Glass

In the latest Expogrow Irún, we had the privilege of attending a European Functional Flame Off, a glassblowers’ event where contestants engaged intensely in showing the best of their art.

For the second time in Europe and the first in Spain, a ‘Flame Off’ contest between the best blowers of borosilicate was held. Blowers blew glass live in front of an audience charmed by the show of blazing glass and flames.

The event is owed to the efforts of Lars Svanstrøm, the organiser and owner of Smoking Gear, a Danish shop of smoking paraphernalia. Lars has a steadfast love for borosilicate. Undoubtedly, his constancy and passion were behind the creation of a key event on the European scene of glassblowing.

As the name ‘European Flame Off’ says, all contestants were European. The jury, instead, was made up of five American blowers. Prizes were also awarded to contestants that had received the highest number of votes from the public jury. Indeed, the show was followed with much interest by the audience. Rules were simple, all artists brought their tools and received the same quantity of coloured glass. With these materials they had to create their own works from Friday to Saturday. The same time was assigned to all contestants. In addition to following the blowers’ show live, the audience could also visit an exhibition of various works made by the same artists and other borosilicate objects.

The local contestants in attendance included the two best blowers of Hispania Cannabicum, the pioneer Red Bubble Glass and his most talented pupil, Heliox Glass. Their weekend experience was great together with other first-class European representatives. In actual fact, the contest was not so much based on mutual rivalry or unspeakable secrets, but rather on a spirit of healthy comradeship, with contestants sharing information and enjoying their time during the show.

The two days of the contest were hard and involved great sacrifice for blowers. E.g. Heliox Glass showed us on Sunday morning his wounds of war, his hand had been severely cut and he could not even stop during his performance to heal it, as he had to work on his blazing piece of glass without running the risk of breaking it. In the other hand he had a huge blister which had been caused by his keeping his hand several hours close to the fire; although he was wearing a protection glove, it had little by little been burnt by the heat.

On Sunday the members of the jury voted. Assistants collected results from the public jury. The main jury was made up of four first-class US blowers, Marble Slinger, J.A.G. (Just Another Glassblower), JD Maplesden and Doshworld. Original Glass won the first prize, followed by Dok Glass, second, and Heliox Glass, third. In the public jury category, the first prize was won by Heliox Glass, the second by Katsu_Sure and the third by Hive Glass.

The double prize awarded to Heliox Glass was awesome, as he was the only contestant to win a prize in the two categories. He celebrated this victory by giving an emotional hug to his partner. The second anniversary of his glassblower career will be in November; in only two years he has managed to grow from a young apprentice to a twice European champion. With this astounding success, he will give plenty to talk about on the borosilicate scene in the next few years. About the European Flame Off event, Heliox commented: “I enjoyed the full event with much enthusiasm and I feel much gratified. When I started blowing glass in a course delivered by Red Bubble Glass, I already saw myself blowing glass in front of an audience, now my dream has come true”. No doubt Lars, the organiser, made the dream of many people come true. Here in Spain we were all anxious to see a European Flame Off show live.

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