A day in the life of a female glass blower

Gemma Truman is one of a handful of female glass blowers. She explains why it’s not all time spent in front of a furnace and how, even as a creative, the admin piles up

How did you get your job?
I’m self-employed, but started out working in a glass blowing studio. I got in touch with the studio to ask for a two-week work experience, which turned into a year-long placement. I did this alongside a part-time job in customer service and I eventually got a paid role which varied from two to six days a week depending on the workload of the studio. After five years I decided to bite the bullet and make my own work.

What does a typical day involve?
No day is the same. I can be doing any of the following; blowing, cutting, grinding or polishing glass, doing design work on a computer, emailing people, meeting with clients, sketching ideas and designs, experimenting with ideas. The ideal is to be making and being engaged in the creative side all the time.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The best part is the making. I love glass. I love making glass. I adore being sat on the bench working with the hot glass. The next best thing is having completed a piece and being happy with it, even better than that, a client being happy with it and paying for it.

The worst part is all the admin involved. I didn’t realise that I’d have to do so much when I started out. Constant emailing, application writing and computer based work. It’s my least favourite part, as it takes me away from my creative time.

Can you give us examples of any common stereotypes and misunderstandings?
People often assume I spend all day every day glass blowing or other wonderful things. While this would be awesome, and yes I do sometimes. I actually don’t get to blow glass as often as I like.

Each day in front of the furnace is expensive so the day has to be carefully planned to make sure I get the best out of my time in the studio. There is a lot of time before and after the blowing or sculpting of a piece of work. Designing and redesigning, cutting, many stages of grinding, polishing and also engraving. And the whole way through the process one small thing can destroy the piece and you need to start all over again. It can be quite stressful and emotional, especially when you invest so much of yourself into the work. But it is so worth it when you create something beautiful. Particularly when it is enjoyed by others.

How do we get more women into the field?
To get and keep more women in glass, I think we really just need to encourage and support each other. Glass blowing in particular lends itself well to this as most of the time you need at least one assistant, who tends to be someone looking to develop their skills further. I have people that assist me and I still assist others. It’s the perfect way to work and support others as well as develop your own skills.

To support women and to get more in the field, we need to invest in those that are doing it now. To be honest, glass and creative jobs are not particularly financially rewarding and those that do struggle on, do it for the pure love and passion for it. The support that is needed now is financial.

I’m not saying just give away money. I’m saying: buy that beautiful handmade piece of glass, commission a bespoke piece for a special occasion, for your home, for your office, pass on the details of something beautiful you have seen if you think you know someone else will like it. Support for those doing it now means those that could be doing it in the future can learn from them.

You can also help get more women into the field by buying that beautiful piece! Not only will you have something wonderful, you will have contributed to keeping the maker doing what they’re doing as well as making it possible for the future makers to learn from them.


Talk to us on Twitter via @GdnWomenLeaders and sign up to become a member of the Women in Leadership network and receive our newsletter.


Gemma Truman and Harriet Minter

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
'Every day involves thinking, dreaming, playing and singing'
Being a professional composer requires real mental and physical stamina, says British composer and musician Errollyn Wallen

Errollyn Wallen

04, Mar, 2016 @7:12 AM

Article image
Tina Brown: 'Our speakers have taken on bigger misogynists than Trump'
The founder of the Daily Beast explains how her Women in the World summit is tackling sexism and the importance of pausing before pressing send

Harriet Minter

07, Apr, 2016 @6:21 AM

Article image
A day in the life of an executive coach
‘My job is helping people become aware of their strengths and the mindsets that sabotage them.’

Harriet Minter

01, Jul, 2016 @7:06 AM

Article image
'We need a public education project about what it means to be European'
Julie Ward, MEP for the north west of England, explains why European politics is ‘grown-up’ politics and why she’s tired of the braying in Westminster

Jane Dudman and Julie Ward

06, May, 2016 @6:31 AM

Article image
How to navigate a mid-life career change
Moving away from an established career path can be intimidating. Patti Fletcher shares tips that helped one entrepreneur manage the transition

Dr Patti Fletcher

15, Apr, 2015 @7:00 AM

Article image
'I was one of the first women to qualify as a UK beer sommelier'
Meet the woman on a mission to show the world that beer is so much more than a boy’s club

Annabel Smith

23, Oct, 2015 @6:17 AM

Article image
Cheers to the women brewing (and drinking) beer
Beer-making is too often seen as a man’s world but times are changing, says Sue Cooper, co-owner of Yorkshire’s Little Valley Brewery

Sue Cooper

01, Apr, 2016 @7:31 AM

Article image
‘A typical day? Crawling out of a tent to find a fur seal staring at you’
Explorer Sally Poncet is one of the few women to be awarded the Polar medal. She shares the story of her amazing career path

Sally Poncet

13, Nov, 2015 @7:16 AM

Article image
From drug dealer to sausage celebrity: how one woman turned her life around
Tracy Mackness tells Sharon Wright about going from prisoner to entrepreneur, and how she is helping young people stay on track

Sharon Wright

16, Apr, 2015 @6:25 AM

Article image
Geena Davis: ‘I assumed sexism wasn't present in what we show to kids’
In family rated films and children’s television, just one in four speaking characters are female. Lottie O’Conor meets the Hollywood star on a mission to change this

Lottie O'Conor

19, Mar, 2015 @7:26 AM