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Photos: Vancouver glass artist reflects on the pandemic and what it's like to work on Granville Island

Benjamin Kikkert says "it was a bit of a shock" to see popular Granville Island deserted at the height of COVID-19 restrictions.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Benjamin Kikkert is a local artist who calls Granville Island home for his workshop and gallery, Vancouver Studio Glass.

He joined the original owners of the studio in 2013, where he formally took it over and has been running it ever since. He graduated from Sheridan College in the craft and design program and has been creating with his choice of material, glass, for over 20 years.

"The way I was trained, I'm very thankful for. I was trained in a craft and design tradition," said Kikkert. "So, I find that to connect with what I offer my clients and interacting with the public, you are actually often functioning as a designer, where you can bring different influences into the work, and it's a matter of accurate representation."

Glass is just the tool that he has chosen to create and express what inspires him because his skill and passion for art is what turns the puddle of molten glass in the furnace into beautiful creations that he uses to represent places or experiences.

"I really tried to access the experience through texture, colour, light, and bringing those together, you build a dynamic, out of a material, glass. For me personally, I really am an artist. I came into glass to access that material and to use it as an expression for inspiration," said Kikkert.

Instead of focusing on the material, he hopes his work is more representative. "Personally, the discussion point ideally is not the fact that it is glass. But maybe that it looks like a rocky shoreline or a waterfall."

There is something special about the spaces which fill Granville Island as they allow outsiders to look upon artists and workers as they practice and create. Vancouver Studio Glass shares those characteristics of watching and interacting with artists in their zone.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, the number of people visiting Granville Island plummeted. It became a ghost town.

"It was a bit of a shock. I likened it to a horror movie or something where you see deserted streets and just nobody around, it was a very alien feeling," recalled Kikkert.

Kikkert was able to take time to himself during the pandemic, and he used the isolation to really dig down deep and find what his true inspiration is.

"It allowed me to do some introspection," he said. "The advice I've received from the previous owner was to keep doing what I had been doing to get to that point in my career, meaning that I shouldn't adjust my practice, just because I was on Granville Island."

During the pandemic, Kikkert relied on his "interest in innovation and experimentation and expression, in my work."

"I can always develop in and share my enthusiasm through my work with my audience. So, with the pandemic, it let me step off the merry-go-round if you will," he said.

Visitors to Granville Island can watch the artists at work

With relaxed restrictions and a more regular flow of visitors to Granville Island, Vancouver Studio Glass continues again to welcome more visitors to the gallery and watch as either Kikkert or other artists work in the studio.

People stop amazed at the red-hot glowing orb and peer through windows or the screen door where you can feel the furnace's heat and are feet away from the artist.

This studio is unique because you get to experience that process with the artist.

"I realized that you obviously can't talk to everybody, but by sharing what I do process-wise, visually, you get to see me practising my craft and adapting it," he said. "There is something about perceiving a situation with your own eye and being able to see the balance and the flow around the room."

Vancouver Studio Glass features Kikkert's art along with that of many other glass artists.

"We're all practising, and we're all making things," he said, "and we really try to share that passion with the people who come by."