Photo Essay

An Eternal Flame

By Hiba Al Mondalek

Caroline Ouellette and Patrick Primeau, a glassmaking couple based in Frelighsburg since 2021, founded their studio “Welmo” in 2004 in St-Julie.

Growing up in the same little small town in Montreal’s South Shore, Caroline and Patrick had never crossed paths. They met on accident in Amsterdam in 1997 and found out they were both registered to take courses at Espace Verre- a training center for glassblowers- upon their return to Montreal.

Ouellette comes from a family of glass makers. But while her parents specialize in door and window making, the prospect of going into the family business did not seem very appealing to her. However, and as much as she wanted to fight the idea of falling into this business, glass making came naturally to her. She had always been artistic and liked the idea of creating something lively, 3d pieces, something you can actually touch and enjoy. Seeing an artist on the street blowing glass made her realize that this profession encapsulated everything she was looking for. She travelled to France and Australia to finish her education and got a PhD in Philosophy, specializing in Art Glass.   

Primeau on the other hand stumbled one day into a glassblowing studio in Old Quebec. He instantly fell in love with the art and realized that he wanted this life for himself. Following his studies, he worked all over Canada and the US. He also spent a year in Marseilles where he worked at Centre International de Recherche sur les arts Verriers (CIRVA).

In 2018, Patrick participated in Netflix’s glassblowing competition reality show “Blown Away” for a chance to win $60,000 and a residency at the Corning Museum of Glass. Primeau ended up in 4th place. Nevertheless, Patrick and Caroline are very well represented in the glasss making community as some of their pieces are featured in many private and public collections, including Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Qeuebec.

One of the main challenges in the show was to work with a different assistant each week. Some people do not realize how important it is to have great communication and chemistry with your team in order to succeed. Welmo consists of a team of five people who have worked together for years. The three other members followed Patrick and Caroline to Frelighsburg where they now live and work. One of the couple’s business goal is to break away the fear of touching glass art. Therefore, they create pieces that are appealing and irresistible to touch. One of their creations for instance is glass in the form of zip-locks. This ‘everyday aspect’ makes their product familiar so that people wouldn’t be afraid to touch and enjoy it.

Ouellette and Primeau’s house is located 20 steps away from the studio. In order to save on energy costs, they re-use the heat given off by the studio to warm their home. Balancing a business and family life is sometimes challenging for them as their business takes up a lot of their time, especially since they also have a 7-year-old daughter to take care of. Nevertheless, their love for one another and for the art of glassblowing is what makes their business a magical space full of creativity.

Patrick Primeau and Caroline Ouellette go into their glassblowing studio. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Patrick Primeau and Caroline Ouellette work with their glassblowing team in their studio. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Caroline Ouellette uses tweezers to pull the molten glass. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Caroline Ouellette uses tweezers to pull the molten glass. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Patrick Primeau oxidises the glass surface with a flame. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Patrick Primeau oxidises the glass surface with a flame. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Patrick Primeau reheats his piece in the furnace. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Patrick Primeau and Caroline Ouellette cool down their piece with water. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Patrick Primeau uses the tip of the blowpipe to blow air into his piece. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Patrick Primeau and Caroline Ouellette detach their piece from the punty. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Caroline Ouellette holds one of her creations. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Caroline Ouellette arranges the display of the pieces in the studio. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Glass pieces resembling zip-locks are diplayed in Welmo Studio. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia
Patrick Primeau and Caroline Ouellette pose in their studio after a long day at work. Primeau and Ouellette are a glassmaking couple, owners of Welmo Studio in Frelighsburg, Quebec November 25, 2021. Hiba Al Mondalek/Concordia