The Architourist: De-stress at this Schomberg glass studio

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The Architourist
De-stress at this Schomberg glass studio
photos by Dave LeBlanc/The Globe and Mail

Dave LeBlanc
Special to The Globe and Mail
October 6, 2017

In the former home of the village doctor, you’ll find Greg Locke and his Gotham Glassworks barn

It’s tempting to race right on up Highway 27 to get to where you’re going. Maybe you’re on your way to shed stress via golf-ball-whacking at one of the many clubs north of the 407; maybe you pine to drink in the fall colours from the dock before locking up the cottage.

But, should you come upon an exit for Dr. Kay Drive, do promise me you’ll signal, touch the brakes and take it: A stone’s throw away is Schomberg’s pretty little main drag, and there, at 344 Main St., in the former home of Doctor Amos F. Kay, who served as the village doctor and chief coroner for more than half a century, you’ll find Greg Locke.

Mr. Locke can help you de-stress, too. You see, he too was once forced to do his leaf peeping from the car window while parked on the Don Valley Parkway; he too was once was kept up at night by partiers in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Now, he manufactures a rainbow of calming, crystalline colours and forms in the former hayloft of a small, backyard barn called Gotham Glassworks.

While you’ll need an appointment to get inside, you won’t be disappointed. On display are Mr. Locke’s ropey “saddle lamps,” which he thinks would look great in a “roadhouse restaurant,” and tendril-like, brass pendant fixtures, which range from sleek mid-century modern-inspired confections to organic flower forms. Other kiln creations – his $5000 Cone Art Kiln sits hulking in the corner – include shield-like pieces, delicate curved sculptures and the moody, fused glass panels that trap both soothing waves and explosive tension in their rippling forms.
“I wanted it to be a gallery as well as a studio,” he explains. “I knew there was a studio tour [in the area] and I knew I’d want to have people here.”

And speaking of explosive tension, should you begin to think that Mr. Locke and his wife, Tracy, just moved into the good doctor’s home back in 2006 and effortlessly set up the glass studio in the old horse barn, the affable 6-foot-5 artist will quickly put the kibosh on your reverie: All of this peacefulness came at a cost.

When Mr. Locke first laid eyes on the 30-by-18-foot barn, it had two appendages – a potting shed tacked onto the front, and a chicken coop/pig pen running along one side – that had to come down. After he hacked them away and a fella was paid $800 to haul the debris off-site, the barn’s listing issue had to be addressed. Leaning dramatically to one side by about 16 inches, the couple discussed taking the whole thing down and building new, but the Township of King informed the Lockes that, while their home wasn’t on a flood plain, the barn was, and anything rising in its place would require engineering studies and expensive landscaping that redirected water.

So, it was back to saving the leaning, 90-year-old structure. A call was placed to St. Jacobs, Ont.-based Conestogo Carpenters while Mr. Locke rented a Ditch Witch and spent a week almost throwing out his back to run electrical, gas and computer cables to the future studio.

That’s when he discovered that, in decades past, folks buried the bigger garbage: “Waste concrete, two feet down!” he exclaims. “All the sudden, this massive machine would kick like a horse … I would fall over!”

Finally, after a month (Mennonites march to their own drummer), a company representative phoned to say he was in town and wanted to take some measurements. Then, a month after that, Mr. Locke received sketches and a price quote via fax. The cost? About $26,000, give or take. So, hands shook and papers were signed.

And then the snow fell.

“So when they actually had the roof off – it was kind of cool because you could stand up there and it was like you were on a big ark – we got a massive snowstorm,” Mr. Locke remembers, “and then a few days later it was freezing rain, so there was a half-inch coating of ice all over the floor that I had to scrape up.”

After Conestogo’s new post-and-beam structure had made everything true again, Mr. Locke took on the finishing work, which included muddying himself installing weeping tile and a vapour barrier, adding insulation, drywalling the ground floor (he got professionals to do the second floor studio), doing trim work around windows and floors, flooring, constructing a stair railing and, finally, installing eavestroughs and downspouts.
Materials, he says, brought the final total up to the $40,000 mark.

Once the studio was finished, Mr. Locke was finally able to build his dream: a nine-foot-long workbench using hemlock joists salvaged from the barn. “What I’ve never had is a really big bench that I could walk around, that has power, so I’m not tripping over a Shop-Vac and I can access it at any angle … and I also do the odd course so I can have as many as eight or nine people around the bench.”

About to celebrate his 10th anniversary in the space, Mr. Locke says he has no regrets; in fact, his efforts were rewarded when Gotham Glassworks was given the King Township Heritage Award for adaptive reuse and was also featured during the local Doors Open festival in 2012.

The only challenge, he says, is getting architects and interior designers to take a breath, take the Dr. Kay exit, grab a latte and cookie at the lovely Grackle Coffee Company and knock on his door.

I welcome your comments!