2From the entry for George K. Epp (1924-1997) in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online.
3Coincidentally, George Epp’s glassblowing career began in the same year as the formal organization of the scientific glassblowing community in North America. The American Society of Scientific Glassblowers (ASGS) was formed in 1954 to “further the education of its membership through the gathering, promotion, and dissemination of technical and scientific information concerning all aspects of scientific glassblowing”, and a Canadian section of the ASGS would eventually form. An interesting article titled “The History of Glassblowing: Who was First?” can be found on the ASGS website.
6Compared to George Epp, Ian Ward’s other interests were decidedly non-academic: he became a ski bum in B.C., a cross-Canada traveler, a birder and a photographer. In 1979, after satisfying his youthful wanderlust, he enrolled in a drafting course at Red River Community College. He had already accepted a drafting job in Winnipeg when he saw the ad for a glassblower at the University of Manitoba. He decided to take a chance and apply, and then accepted an interview scheduled for the same day that he was supposed to show up for his new job at Versatile Manufacturing. He called them and gracefully declined the job. Luckily for him, the interview in the Chemistry Department went well!
7Scientific glassblowing in North America was in its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, when 'bucket' (or benchtop) chemistry was the norm. Most major research universities in Canada had at least one or two glassblowers on staff, often more. But research methods were changing, with increased use of instrumentation, computer modeling, microscale operations, and alternative materials such as stainless steel. This, along with greater availability of mass-produced glassware components, would lead to a steady decline in scientific glassblowing in Canada over the next few decades. Given funding pressures, this decline has been most evident at universities: of an estimated 30 to 35 scientific glassblowers remaining in Canada, fewer than 10 are in University shops.
8Apprenticeship and on-the-job training, often from a family member as in Lesa Cafferty’s case, is still the most common way to learn scientific glassblowing in Canada. Only one school in North America (Salem Community College in New Jersey) currently teaches scientific glass technology, and graduates about 20 to 30 students from its 2-year degree program.
9Before Ian Ward left Pinawa in June 1974, he recalls visiting with Jim Cafferty and his wife and meeting their baby daughter Lesa, born just months earlier in October 1973. Some 20 years later, Jim Cafferty would be sending him samples of glass apparatus made by Lesa during her Pinawa apprenticeship, so that Ian could make an independent assessment of her work.
10Their property also has facilities for Lesa’s other passion, horses. She is an accomplished horse trainer and competitor in dressage and jumping, and a certified English coach. Lesa was featured in “Coffee with a Co-worker” in UM Today Feb. 9, 2012 and more recently in an August 5, 2019 article in the Steinbach weekly, The Carillon.