Smelt Glass Studio was founded by artists Mike Hyam and Martli J van Rensburg in 2014 to promote the innovation and exploration of glass. Mike and Martli graduated from TUT with a fine art degree and studied glass design and blowing at Kalmar University’s Design School in Sweden. Bongani Dlamini, the main glass blower also qualified from TUT with a fine art degree.
YN: How did your business start?
Mike: Martli was consulting with Craig McLeary on the establishment of The Factory development in Norwood. She had previously had a studio in Melville and she and I (Mike) had been talking about opening one together, but the start-up costs were quite expensive. Craig offered us a space in The Factory and agreed to invest by helping us out with start-up costs.
YN: Why did you choose this area to set up shop?
Mike: My and Martli’s vision was to have a studio in a public space where the public could experience the process and learn about the value of handmade glass art and designed functional objects. The Factory on Grant Avenue was a new centre offering that possibility and Craig McLeary the developer of the centre stepped in to make the setup of the studio possible.
YN: How did you find your premises?
Mike: The opportunity presented itself at The Factory, and it was very convenient for me because I live about a kilometre away.
YN: Why are the premises ideally suited to your business?
Mike: The Factory offers a space which allows people to enjoy a meal or drink at Vovo Telo while watching the glass blowers at work, and we have enough space to run workshops and team-building events.
YN: Who are your neighbours?
Mike: The centre provides an interesting mix of stores including fashion outlets, an art gallery, a used furniture store and Vovo Telo.
YN: What are the shop rental/sales prices like in this area?
Mike: The rental is higher than the street-facing stores in Norwood, but The Factory offers the benefits of being a destination in its own right with a great deal of foot traffic.
YN: How many people go through your store each day?
Mike: It can range from two or three to 100 people in a day. Clients are attracted to the centre through the coffee shop and its open-air space, and then linger and view the various shops, and particularly the glass studio. Mealtimes and weekends are busy times in the centre.
YN: Do you have any expansion plans?
Mike: Smelt Glass Studio has experienced massive growth in clients, especially large commissions. As our business grows our need for better equipment increases, so we are constantly upgrading to accommodate the size of the orders.
YN: Do you operate online as well?
Mike: We update our followers about upcoming events, exhibitions in our gallery and new projects through our Facebook page: facebook.com/smeltglass.
YN: What’s your most popular item?
Mike: We have a large variety of individually handmade objects, but our “make your own paperweight” is very popular.
Experience it for yourself:
082 457 1674 or 082 652 4490
Words: Georgina Guedes