Green VI Glass Studio, Cane Garden Bay
This not for profit organization has caused quite a stir on Tortola and has introduced the island to the first meaningful application of recycling, albeit on a small scale. Perhaps some day, we will have a full blown recycling programme in place.
To produce its products, Green VI uses 100% recycled glass that otherwise would have become landfill. They use approximately 400 pounds of discarded green and clear beer bottles per week.
They are also using biofuels, which is a fancy term for waste vegetable oil collected from various restaurants in Cane Garden Bay and Road Town. The biofuel supplies approximately 40% of the energy required to fuel their furnaces.
And to demonstrate how strongly they believe in recycling, their bags are made from discarded clothing and their gift boxes are made from recycled pallets.
The artist inserts the blowpipe or punty into the furnace (below) and winds the molten glass onto the pipe.
Green Vi Furnace
Coloured Glass Beads
Different colours of little glass beads (above) are available for the artists to add colour, depth and interest to their creations. The molten glass is dipped into stainless steel trays and then it is rolled on the marver (fireproof surface) to incorporate the colours into their piece.
Molten Glass Being Rolled on the Marver
Garret Wheeler (above) is Green VI's master glassblower who works with apprentices, Lion McLean and Andrew Skerritt, both of whom were born and raised on Tortola.
Garret is making a glass seahorse while Andrew assists. This is an intricate design that requires many different steps to complete. I lost count around 30.
Garret Reheats the Glass Seahorse
Garrett and Andrew Working Together
While working on various items, the artist must keep the glass malleable and in a semi molten state. To accomplish this, he may make several trips back and forth from the glory hole (seen above) to the work bench with its extended metal arms. The more intricate the piece, the more trips to the glory hole are required.
In the photo above, Garrett and Andrew work together to add eyes to the Seahorse. Andrew uses a blow torch to heat the seahorse while Garret uses the flame to melt the tip of the small glass rod to make the eyes.
Garrett Puts the Finishing Touches
After many, many more steps and several trips to the glory hole, Garrett puts the finishing touches on his seahorse.
Now Ready for the Annealing Oven
The organization aims to demonstrate and educate visitors and Virgin Islanders alike regarding the benefits of sustainable living by putting the reduce > reuse > recycle
concept into practice as widely as possible throughout the BVI. Turning trash to treasure is their motto.
Andrew uses a pair of tweezers to shape his starfish. I find the various tools used in glass making fascinating. Straight shears, diamond shears, jacks, blocks, paddles, crimps, torches, etc. They are all pretty awesome. One mistake with any of the tools, and the artist has to start from scratch. This is very precise work and the level of concentration required is amazing.
Heating the Starfish
Applying the BVI Stamp
In the photos above, Andrew reheats the starfish and adds the BVI stamp to the top of his starfish. Once the stamp has been applied, the product is ready to go into the annealing oven, which allows the products to slowly cool down so that no fractures occur as a result of thermal shock.
The organization sells their products on site at the studio. They makes great presents to take home as gifts and mementos of your visit. Every piece is unique.
Green VI Glass Products
More Green Vi Products
The British Virgin Islands have been a little slow to adopt many widely accepted "green" practices. We still aren't able to use solar power in our homes and in fact, it is illegal to do so. The current government seems interested in moving in that direction, but the wheels are turning very, very slowly.
Many grocery stores now charge for plastic bags and sell reusable grocery bags instead. This initiative was started by Green VI and it's a good one! Plastic bags were once the single biggest culprit amongst litter found throughout the islands.
There could be a nice little cottage industry developed around manufacturing reusable grocery bags for some enterprising young designer. Hint, hint! I'd like mine to be the zip up cooler type please. I live in West End and need to keep my food cold on the way home.
I can think of several products that could prevent plastics from ending up in our landfill that could be manufactured right here in the British Virgin Islands. However, it would mean government would have to begin a proper recycling programme, requiring residents to separate their trash. That could be a long time coming but hopefully we will get there some day. :)
Open Daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ...
unless it's been raining heavily, in which case they will be closed due to flooding
Contact Charlotte McDevitt at: (284) 495-3344