Henk Nel and his twin brother, Frans, work as a team in Henk’s glass blowing studio at Backsberg Estate Cellars on the Klapmuts/Simondium Road. (Between Paarl and Franschhoek.)

The small studio is alive with all the vibrant colours of the rainbow in hand-blown glass art pieces, décor items and jewellery. No two items look alike and neither do the 28 year old brothers! (Henk has dark hair and brown eyes and Frans has fair hair and blue eyes.)

However, the intuitive mental connection they have with one-another makes Henk’s arduous and sometimes dangerous job of glass blowing, possible. “When you are working with temperatures of up to 1150 degrees Celsius in the kiln, there is little room for miscommunication!” Henk explains.   “A Glass Blower is only as good as his assistant”.

Henk got started in this unusual art-form while still at school in Worcester. His friend’s Dad was David Reade the Glass Blower, and Henk spent many hours hanging around his studio, fascinated by the whole process. He was soon working there part-time, and in 1999 he started as a full-time apprentice, the day after finishing his matric!

This was followed by 5 years with another Glass Blowing Studio in the area, where Henk was exposed to Glassmakers from around the world who came to work there due to a shortage of these skills in South Africa. These artists also passed on their expertise to him.

A six month spell with a friend who is a goldsmith was added to this experience. Here Henk learned to combine silver and glass. This he has put to good use in the development of “Nel Beads”, his own unique glass beads that can be strung together as selected by the client.

Glass comprises of 50% sand and 50% chemicals, all of which need to be measured out with careful precision.   All the tools and materials needed for the process are imported from overseas, so a great deal of planning and preparation goes into the production of each item.

Each piece that is created is signed and dated by the artist. Much of his work is specifically commissioned by clients who are encouraged to come to the studio as the item is being created to choose the colours they want and to experience it being made.

Henk enjoys making something out of nothing, as well as the heat and intensity of the creation process. He gets his inspiration from the shapes, forms and colours of the world around him, and has found that his mind is busy with designing new pieces, even as he sleeps. He often wakes up to record a design he has dreamed about!

The studio on the Backsberg wine estate is open daily from 9am to 4pm, and a visit to the Backsberg Restaurant and to the Wine Cellars, would not be complete without calling here as well.

Glass blowing demonstrations are only by prior arrangement. Contact (084) 259-1090 or visit www.henknelglass.co.za for more information.

For other places of interest to visit nearby, go to www.capecountrycalls.co.za, and plan a fun day out in the area. (Or call Cape Country Calls on (084) 575-5525 for more information.)

Web Design by Pixagraphics Toolbox