Vancouver Glass Artist on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Art

Benjamin Kikkert says “it was a bit of a shock” to see the 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 studio’s original owners in 2013, where he formally took over and has run it ever since. She graduated from Sheridan College in the craft and design program and has been creating with her chosen material, glass, for over 20 years.

“I’m very grateful for the way they trained me. They trained me in a craft and design tradition,” Kikkert said. “So I find that to connect with what I offer to my clients and interact with the public, you’re really often operating as a designer, where you can bring different influences to the work, and it’s a matter of accurate representation.”

Glass is just the tool you have chosen to create and express what inspires you because your skill and passion for art is what turns the puddle of molten glass in the oven into beautiful creations that you use to represent places or experiences.

“I really tried to access the experience through texture, color, light, and by bringing those together, you create a dynamic out of one material, glass. For me personally, I’m really an artist. I went into glass to access that material … and use it as an expression of inspiration,” Kikkert said.

Rather than focus on the material, he hopes his work will be more representative. “Personally, the point of contention is ideally not the fact that it’s glass. But maybe it looks like a rocky shoreline or a waterfall.”

There is something special about the spaces that fill Granville Island as they allow outsiders to observe the artists and workers as they practice and create. Vancouver Studio Glass shares those characteristics of observing and interacting with artists in your area.

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

“It was kind of shocking. I compared it to a horror movie or something where you see deserted streets and no one around, it was a very strange feeling,” Kikkert recalled.

Kikkert was able to take some time for himself during the pandemic and used isolation to dig deeper and find out what his true inspiration is.

“It allowed me to do some introspection,” he said. “The advice I got from the previous owner was to keep doing what I’ve been doing to get to that point in my career, which means I shouldn’t adjust my practice, just because I was on Granville Island.”

During the pandemic, Kikkert counted on his “interest in innovation and experimentation and expression, in my work.”

“I can always develop and share my enthusiasm through my work with my audience. So with the pandemic, it allowed me to get off the merry-go-round, so to speak,” she said.

Visitors to Granville Island can see the performers in action

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

People stop in awe at the glowing red-hot orb and look through the windows or screen door where they can feel the heat from the oven and are feet away from the artist.

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

“I realized that obviously you can’t talk to everyone, but by sharing what I do in terms of processes, visually, you can see me practicing my craft and adapting it,” he said. “There’s something about perceiving a situation with your own eye and being able to see the balance and flow around the room.”

Vancouver Studio Glass features Kikkert’s art alongside that of many other glass artists.

“We’re all practicing and we’re all doing stuff,” he said, “and we really try to share that passion with people who come.”

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