Awards and Commissions
Why Custom Awards Matter
When celebrating an exemplary individual it just doesn't make sense to present them with a generic off the shelf award. This is a person who has gone above and beyond the call of their profession or duties, someone you've decided to celebrate for bringing something special to your organization. They deserve something different, something special, something made with them in mind from the beginning of the design process to the moment it leaves your hands into theirs. They deserve to have their award, not "award type 27" from a manufacturer. The award should reflect the organization presenting it, demonstrating something of its values, principles, and strong respect for the people working within them.
That's what I offer: custom handmade awards for your organization to present to those who've earned the recognition of peers and superiors alike. As a current Hamilton Tiger-Cat said after receiving an award I made: "you've given me a piece of art that I can be proud to display in my home." I'm truly honoured when an organization chooses me to create their awards, because I know how important they are to the organization as well as the recipient. That's why each and every piece receives the same high level of effort, craftsmanship and design: because it just plain matters.
Award Pictured: McMaster University - Internal Medicine Award
I've been a professional glassblower for over thirteen years, during which time I've designed and created a great number of awards destined for Canadians of all walks of life. My work has been presented to political leaders (including a Prime Minister or two), world renowned musicians and entertainers, top scientists and medical professionals, and many hard working employees from companies and organizations from all across Canada.
I have experience working within a wide range of budgets, and have a lifetime of professional working relationships with suppliers and service providers to ensure that each dollar goes as far as it can possibly go towards ensuring a fantastic finished piece. I do not cut corners, and I am always honest and upfront about what can and cannot be done both within a budget and in the design of a piece.
The most important piece of wisdom I hold myself to when designing and making awards is simple: it's your
award, not mine. It's my job to make an award that represents and does your organization proud, one that will be treasured by presenters and recipients alike. To be sure this happens I must listen carefully to what is wanted, ask questions if I'm not sure, and at all times keep in mind what your wishes are. Communication, honesty, and careful planning on my part makes everyone's life easier.
For more information about me or my career, please visit the "About Kelly" page of this website.
Award Pictured: Maclean's Parliamentarians of the Year Awards
Designing Your Award
The first thing of course is to contact me
so that we can discuss where you want to go with the award. I'm open to being contacted through either email or telephone, and promptly respond to both. Depending on the complexity of the piece sometimes it's much easier to sit down in my studio together to discuss exactly what you have in mind, to look at some sample pieces I've made for this purpose to give you a better idea of what can and cannot be done with glass, and generally get to a point where we're both happy with what type of award you'd like to make. If you're at all uncomfortable with this process keep in mind that I've done it many times, and am more than happy to walk you through options, so it's not necessary for you come come with anything but the idea that you'd like to make an award.
I will work as closely with you during the design process as you desire: some people prefer to give a rough outline and let me handle the rest myself, while others prefer to be more involved to ensure the piece better represents their organization. I am comfortable working with both styles, and everything in between - basically I'm flexible, and while I have the utmost confidence in my work, I promise you I do not have an ego you will clash with. In the end it's about making the best piece; and the best ideas come when you're open to hearing them.
Depending on the size of the order and what you need, it's possible for me to make several sample ideas for you to take back and present to your organization. For example, recently I was asked to design the McMaster University Internal Medicine Award, and the samples I created were: a red solid glass globe that when you allowed light to shine through the light was distorted by hundreds of tiny color masses creating an effect similar to red blood cells in the blood stream, a standing human body twisted in a way reminiscent of DNA strands, and a solid glass orb with thin strands of webbed color structured similar to a neuron in the brain. Each was my own unique design, with the goal to create something that would fit the character of the award and the organization presenting it. I spent time both designing and researching to ensure the design was correct, as the structure of brain neurons wasn't exactly on the curriculum when I studied glassblowing at Sheridan!
Award Pictured: Canadian Employee Relocation Council - Sue Ryan Memorial Award
Creating Your Piece
So the design process went well, and we've both agreed that we're ready to move on to the actual creation of your award. So what happens now?
As a glassblower my work primarily takes place within a "hotshop" - a workshop dominated by a primary furnace filled with molten glass, a secondary furnace for reheating the piece during creation to keep it within the necessary temperature range for blowing/sculpting, some benches and tables, and a few annealers - a type of glassblowing kiln. There are obviously a few other things within the shop, but glassblowing is actually a quite low tech endevour: much of the sculpting is done by hand, with only a thin piece of material between me and the near liquid glass, and glassblowing actually does involve me blowing through a metal rod into the midst of hot glass to blow it out like a bubble. Like most things in life work in the hotshop comes down to experience: you learn over the years what amount of colour is going to get what result, how fast of a spin on a piece will keep it from drooping and how fast will send it flying everywhere, or how long a piece needs to be left in the secondary furnace to bring it back up to the temperature you want. There's no timers, no warning lights to tell you if something is going wrong - all you have is your own skills and experience to rely on. I love every second of it.
Everything I make is entirely handmade, involving no molds or other such aids. Molten glass is pulled from the main furnace, which is kept at 1150 degrees Celsius - roughly 1/5th the surface temperature of the Sun - to be blown, sculpted and shaped into the design we agreed on. Sometimes it's necessary to do more than one pull, usually colour is added during this stage. Basically by the time that piece leaves my hands the glass portion of your award is nearly complete: it still has to be slowly cooled in the annealer for roughly 24 hours to ensure the glass is incredibly strong and will last pretty much forever, and some "coldworking" needs to be done, but the hot part is finished.
Award Pictured: McMaster University Internal Medicine Sponsor Award
After the Hot Stuff: Coldworking
After your piece(s) have cooled, they still need to be "coldworked". The surface of the glass is naturally smooth due to the way in which the glass is worked, with the exception of where the "punty" - a fancy name we glassblowers use for what is essentially a metal rod - was attached to allow me to sculpt/work on the piece without burning myself. Coldworking is in its essence finishing the piece by grinding away any sharp areas of glass left by the punty. Properly ground down this area has a chalky texture and appearance, and since this area is usually on the bottom or the back of the piece, most glassblowers tend to leave it that way. I believe that the piece should be enjoyed from every angle, and so I continue to work on my pieces using finer and finer grits before moving on to polishing cloths. The final result is a piece completely smooth and beautifully transparent from all angles - including the one where the punty was attached.
At this point the glass portion of your award is complete, needing only to be attached to a proper base and engraved with the name of your recipient.
Award Pictured: Sunnybrook Rose Award
Base and Engraving
Most awards I make are eventually mounted upon bases for display purposes. The base can be made from a variety of materials, including glass, slate, marble and granite. During the design process I will suggest which materials work best with the artistic vision of your piece, as well which will fit within your budget.
The base is also (usually) the location for any text you wish to include: your organization and award's name, the year, the recipient's name and so on. Please remember that the space available for this text is limited, obviously dependent on the size of the base you've ordered. I'll let you know what can fit once we know the size of the base, so you'll have plenty of time to decide what you'd like to include.
The engraving is done professionally to ensure the quality of the award is consistent throughout. It's also possible to etch, sandblast or waterjet cut logos, designs or text or onto the piece at this stage If this was incorporated into the working design.
The engraving and any other such design considerations are all handled by me, and the costs associated with them are included in the price we agree on before work begins. This applies for all things: the price we agree upon is the price for the entire finished award, with no added or surprise costs at the end or during the process. The only exception would be if there are any major design revisions on your part after the final price has been agreed upon, but in such an instance I will notify you of any cost changes prior to your committing to proceeding.
Award Pictured: IABC Toronto Ovation Award of Excellence
It's impossible for me to give a proper estimate on this page of how much time is needed from the point of initial contact to the finished piece being in your hands: it all depends on my current workload, the size of your order, the complexity of the design, and many other factors. What I can promise is that I will make every effort possible to have your awards ready as quickly as possible, and if I commit to a date I *will* meet that commitment. As an experienced glassblower who has done this for well over a decade I am confident in my ability to estimate job completion dates once I'm familiar with what the order will entail, and stand proudly by my reputation for never missing a due date.
That said, obviously the more notice I have the better. This allows me to plan for your piece accordingly, ensuring that each step of the process is as painless as possible. Please keep in mind that I am not simply plucking finished pieces off a shelf to engrave and send your way: at the moment your award sits as a pool of molten glass in a very large furnace waiting for me to come and shape it into something solid. This takes time, but it's also part of the magic of why you've chosen to go with an artist made award and not merely a premade manufactured piece.
Award Pictured: CUMIS Apple
I handle a full range of order sizes: I often design and create awards meant to honour a single individual, while my largest orders involve hundreds of pieces to be presented at very large events. In fact, if you happen to watch award shows on television you've probably seen examples of my work being presented, and speeches being given by the recipient as they hold the award I've made.
The same level of care goes into the design and creation of each award regardless of the size of the order; to ensure that it is unique, interesting, has artistic merit, and will be something the recipient can display with pride within their home. There are obvious logistical details that will be different between an order for a hundred pieces or an order for a single piece, but suffice it to say that I am very experienced in handling both and will ensure the process runs as smoothly and painlessly as possible for everyone involved.
Also, it goes without saying that regardless of an order's size the pieces are still fully handmade in the same fashion I've detailed here on this page.
Award Pictured: VON Master's Gold Tournament Awards
But I don't want an award, I want a ________!
I did say awards AND commissions, didn't I? Well, that's because the same details that go for creating and making an award go for other custom orders. For example, I do and have done in the past:
-Individual unique pieces of art
-Art pieces based on a concept or idea
-Unique pieces of art purchased from my studio gallery
-Many other custom works
Many times I'm approached by an event organizer with the idea that they'd like to do something, but they're not really quite sure what I can offer. In such cases I'm able to explain what I'm capable of doing within the budget they have, show a few samples and make a few suggestions as to what could work well for their event. Sometimes we decide that their event and my work is a natural fit; other times we decide that we'll work together on something else in the future. It's about what's best for the event and those attending, and I'm always open to discussions of this type.
Award Pictured: Eco Film Festival - Artist of the Year Award
Thanks for Reading!
(Also, Sample Gallery Link)
I assume if you've made it this far, then... well, you might need a nap. That's okay, I wrote a bit of a novel, and you're a trooper for sticking it through to the end. But even with the novel written here you might have questions for me that I didn't answer - that's okay, I'm more than willing to answer any you might have. To contact me please use either of the following methods:
Or you can see my Contact and Studio Location
page for more information.
Lastly, thank you for considering hiring an artist to design and create your organization's awards. If it wasn't for individuals such as yourself, artists like me couldn't dedicate themselves full time to their chosen passion. Again, thank you.
Now I believe I promised you a Sample Gallery
- Kelly Lowe