There are few art forms more energy intensive than glassblowing.
Typically, three different furnaces (running upwards of 1000 degrees Celsius) are required to melt the glass, manipulate it, and then slowly cool it down.
It’s an expensive exercise, which is why Setsuko Ogishi says her glass studio in the New South Wales Hunter Valley is one of only a handful in Australia.
“Most of our expense goes to energy. That’s why there are not many studios existing.”
It also makes her one of the few female glassblowers in Australia too.
At 64, Setsuko has been a glassblower for more than 30 years, though she trained as a painter in Japan first.
She came to Australia to learn English and fell in love with the country. She then trained in glassblowing in Adelaide, and fell in love with the art.
With her husband, she now runs the Ogishi Craft Centre.
Soaring energy costs
But with energy prices rising – 10.2 per cent last year alone in New South Wales – many businesses are feeling the squeeze.
That’s prompted the Council of Small Business to label the situation a crisis.
To cope, a few years ago Setsuko stopped running her kilns all year round.
Now she squeezes all of her production into six months.
Additional revenue is raised through the glassblowing workshops she runs (during her six months in operation), her onsite gallery, and the holiday accommodation she manages on the property.
And a foray into a new and unusual product line has also helped boost business. Her glass memorials offer a unique way for people to keep the ashes of loved ones who've passed.
“People bring here or send by mail about three tablespoons of ashes. I prepare colours and they choose the shape,” Setsuko explains. “I started only a year ago but already I’ve had a quite a few orders.”
As she finds new ways to keep the business afloat, there's some relief in store on energy prices: they're expected to fall about six per cent this year, according to the Australia Energy Market Commission.
That’s no doubt good news for Setsuko – and small businesses in general.
Watch this story at the top of the page, or catch the full episode on SBS On Demand.