Back pain to window panes: How lead light helped heal a construction worker

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Willunga 5172
In his former trade as a dogman, Glenn Howlett at the State Bank building site in the 1980s. Glenn Howlett once soared above Adelaide’s tallest buildings, working as a dogman on various construction sites during the 1980s.He was quite literally on top of the world.Then things came crashing down when he tore a disc in his back.”I tried to rehabilitate [while still] in the construction industry by doing different things,” Mr Howlett told 891 ABC Adelaide’s Mornings program. (891 ABC Adelaide: Brett Williamson) Photo:
A class of students learn how to assemble lead light panes with Glenn Howlett. (891 ABC Adelaide: Brett Williamson)
The beauty and diversity of glass soon had Mr Howlett all but consumed.”I don’t think there is a medium as interactive as glass,” he said.”It can be a lead light or heated, fused and blown.”The dying trade of glass artisanMr Howlett’s son Kane now helps when the kilns are fired and glass is being blown, but the trade is not one he sees his son going into.”Lead light has definitely had a decline over the past 10 years, but everything has cycles of going in and out of vogue,” he said.Cheaper, mass-produced imported styles of glass and the lack of appreciation for handmade items would eventually see the demise of local producers, Mr Howlett said.”It’s really hard to make a living out of doing anything creative.”A lot of art really isn’t appreciated by a lot of people — most people just look at the price tag and go, ‘God, that much?’,” he said. Photo:
Over the years Glenn Howlett has taught himself how to work glass in a variety of ways. (Supplied)
He trained to operate one of the towering cranes but found the work only further inflamed his injury.”Looking down all the time didn’t do my back any good and climbing up and down the tower of the crane was hopeless,” he said.Seeing his window of opportunity closing in the construction industry, Mr Howlett turned to a window of a different kind — a stained glass lead light one.Career changeWanting to create lead lights for his own home, Mr Howlett had enrolled in a TAFE course to learn the craft just weeks before he was injured.”It was the first year that WorkCover came in, [and] the whole theme was to try and retrain people — that’s how it all started,” he said.During his 18-month rehabilitation, Mr Howlett turned his hand to creating lead lights full-time.His interest in glass grew and he soon learnt the arts of blowing and slumping.
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(891 ABC Adelaide: Brett Williamson) 891 ABC Adelaide


Brett Williamson


November 08, 2016 13:21:42

Glass artisan Glenn Howlett works on the layout of a lead light window at Willunga Glass Studio.
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