Andreas Tziamalis is the founder and director of Nemea Handmade Glass in the Old Town district of Paphos. A native of Paphos, he says that he fell into the glass business by luck. About ten years ago he was running a furniture shop and was looking for some quality niche home accessories to add to his inventory. In the course of this search, he was visiting a glass factory in Malta and he saw how various glass items were being made. And the thought occurred to him, ‘How difficult would it be to get a kiln and make these items myself?’
Now glass making can look easy when an expert is doing it, and Andreas admits that at that time, he did not realise all the intricate work which would be involved. However, he had always had an interest in art and design, and so the idea of doing something creative did not go away. And then one day his glass supplier from Greece got in touch. He was selling up his entire business, including the all important kiln. Was Andreas interested?
As well as being artistic, Andreas, being Greek, is quite a philosophical man. And one of his key life principles is that if you have the opportunity to do something exciting, then take advantage of it. After all, we only have one life. He sums this idea up in these three little words, “Life is short.” So the kiln and the supplies and the controls were shipped over from Greece. They were then set up in a warehouse in Paphos, and Andreas found himself in the glass business.
Fusion glass is a real challenge to the person who designs and makes it. For a start, each ‘fusing’ is unique. You take several sheets of plain glass and you sprinkle coloured glass in between these sheets. Then you put these sheets into the kiln so that the colours melt into the plain sheets and become part of one new flat piece of coloured glass. Then, when you have this new piece of coloured glass, and after it has cooled down and been cleaned up, you take it and stick it back in the kiln. But this time, the flat coloured glass is placed over a handmade mould. This mould will have been made out of ceramics or maybe stainless steel. The idea is that the glass will melt, or ‘slump’ into the shape of the mould, and produce the bowl or the vase or the washbasin that you want. But there are many variables connected to all of this, depending upon the length of the process and the temperature of the firing.
Andreas admits that it’s more or less a case of ‘trial and error.’ For a start, since it takes place in an electric kiln, you cannot see what’s going on inside. So you have to wait until it’s all finished to know what you’ve got. And if it’s not quite right, then you have to do it again, and you have to try and discern what happened and how you can put it right the next time.
As he looks at his business, Andreas feels very happy that he’s involved with something creative and interesting. He also enjoys the aspect of dealing with the general public, although he doesn’t have too much time for this aspect these days. Most of his sales are in Cyprus, and he has shop outlets run by others at “The Place” in Paphos and also in Nicosia.
Andreas likes doing something that he’s good at, and he feels that he has an instinct for producing good glasswork. This is quite an advantage, considering that ‘trial and error’ is a big part of the process. But he’s happy to be producing something which, as he points out, “was not previously here on the earth”. He really means this, and he says that he is genuinely sad when he goes to sell what he has made. “In a perfect world I would keep them all,” he says. “But then, I’d need a lot more space.”
And so, what about the future? He would say that he’s not religious, but he does feel that somehow he’s being guided by some ‘Higher Power’ which is leading him in his career. On a more ‘down to earth’ level, there are tentative plans next year for a big exhibition in Paphos. However, no matter what happens, Andreas is determined not to forget that ‘life is short.’ With this in mind, his current goal is to, “work hard, but then to relax very hard.”