There are many things one expects to find in a leafy Mill Hill garden, but a Jewish glassblower isn’t one of them.
Yet it is here, between his neighbours’ conventional plots filled with trampolines, climbing frames and potting sheds, that Jason Blair makes beautiful bespoke glass gifts, under the label Ahava Glass, which is purchased by customers across the globe.
In the age of mass production, there is obvious appeal to a skilled craftsman making every piece by hand, but, to fully appreciate Blair’s talents you have to see him at work.
The furnace is in his workroom, along with all his tools, and that is where the magic happens.
Pipe, stringer, frit and marver are all in the glassblowing glossary for a process that is often a two-man job, or even a team production.
It is the weight of the pipe – more than 40lbs – that is the issue, as it has to be held up and turned simultaneously for hours, but Blair does it alone and he has the biceps to prove it.
Creating Judaica in colours beyond the rainbow is the focus of his work and his speciality is turning smashed chuppah glass into a keepsake.
“You see, I am also a chazan,” says Blair, who trained as an actor and singer.
“At all the weddings I witnessed, it always troubled me that the glass used under the chuppah was often nothing more than an old lightbulb – yet the ritual itself has so much significance and meaning. So I decided to create something that reflected that.”
Now in place of a 40 watt bulb, Blair offers handblown glass in a silk bag, which, once smashed is sent back to him and then fused into something special for use in a Jewish home, such as a mezuzah or Kiddush cup. “Or a framed heart,” adds Blair.
That he now sells his ‘Love Glasses’ to Israel is a testament to their appeal and boxes marked “handle with care” are posted to the US on a weekly basis.
But what made this chazan with a list of stage and TV credits so keen on glassblowing? “It was my grandfather,” Blair explains. “As a child, I was always interested in his workshop in the East End. He was a master craftsman, who put precision and care into every piece he made and I spent many hours sitting at the end of the workbench watching him.”
He grew up loving art and was good at it, but, during a tour of a glass factory in 2012, he persuaded a glassblower to let him have a go and was hooked.
An inspired Blair then went searching for an apprenticeship and found it with Jon Lewis, the resident glassblower at Parndon Mill in Harlow.
Now in his own workshop, he embraces every bespoke commission, including the chance t
o create a seder plate designed by Year 5 pupils at Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School.
“To make something of significance that conjures up a memory is the joy of the job,” says the man who brought Murano to Mill Hill. Now you just
have to guess which garden is his.