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Kārlis the artist to wow Stourbridge glass festival with unique piano - with video

By Heather Large | Stourbridge | Entertainment | Published:

Glass may seem like a fragile material but artist and skateboarder Kārlis Bogustovs is out to prove that it can also be both strong and versatile.

Kārlis Bogustovs with his glass piano in Stourbridge for the International Festival of Glass

He has made a name for himself thanks to a unique piano constructed from recycled window panes.

But the 27-year-old Latvian is also making waves - quite literally - in the skateboarding world thanks to the curvy, glass ramps he uses for his tricks.

His piano, made from stacked sheets of glass welded together, was one of 15 featured in the Play Me, I’m Yours exhibition in Canary Wharf in 2015.

WATCH Karlis and the glass piano in action:

Kārlis Bogustovs shows off his glass piano

They were each created by different artists and community groups and Kārlis’ creation, which is set to be a highlight of Stourbridge’s International Festival of Glass, proved a huge hit with passers-by.

“There was an open call for artists to build pianos so I put forward my idea for a piano made from glass with no idea of how I was going to do it,” says Kārlis, who was living in Southall, London at the time while on an internship at Factory Media.

As well as being an artist, Kārlis is a talented skateboarder

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“It was many times more difficult than I could ever have imagined. It’s made from glass that was no longer wanted. I used to go out in the neighbourhood looking for glass on the streets and roll it back home on my skateboard.

“I hired a van to pick up old windows but once you have removed the glass from the frames there isn’t as much as you think. It took four months to make but a lot of the time was spent preparing the glass.

“I didn’t have a workshop so I had to make it at home. There were rules like not having any candles in case of fire but there I was welding and hoping no one would know what I was doing,” he said.

“I was definitely pleased with how it turned out and it seemed to please people playing it,” added Kārlis.

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WATCH: Piano proves popular in Canary Wharf

"The Sound of Architecture" by Kārlis Bogustovs

Sadly two years in storage has taken its toll on the instrument, which came as a shock to Kārlis when went to pick it up to transport it to Stourbridge for this weekend’s event.

But he has been busy making the necessary repairs and visitors to the event will be able to play a tune and one may even choose to take it home if it takes their fancy.

“This is the last time people will have the chance to play it. I have no plans to take it back to Latvia because it’s too difficult to transport that far.

“I hope someone finds it soothing and wants to take it home. I feel it’s time to let it go,” explains Kārlis.

Visitors to the glass festival will be able to try out the instrument

During the festival he will also be demonstrating his skateboarding talents with a new glass ramp made especially for the event.

His creations are nod to the past taking inspiration from skateboarding’s surfing roots.

“Skateboarding started from surfing in the 1960s and when you put a skateboarder on glass it looks like they are going over a wave.

“I’ve been skateboarding for 14 years so I’ve been able to bring these two interests together. I have been experimenting with how much the ramps can hold,” said Kārlis.

“You can build the ramp so it’s really strong and can hold the weight. It can also be built so it’s fragile and shatters as the rider goes over which adds more drama. There is something interesting about being creative and destructive.

Kārlis made the piano while living in London and put it on display at Canary Wharf

“I think if you build something yourself then you are allowed to destroy it yourself. I always use recycled glass that would be going to the skip so this gives it another life,” he adds.

Although he originally studied sculpture and design at Riga Design and Art School, Kārlis, who lives in Latvia’s capital Riga, developed a passion for glassmaking. He went on to study this specialism at the Art Academy of Latvia.

“There was something about glass that pulled me in. You can make anything from it and I love that about it.

“I think I’m just at the beginning of my glass journey. There is so much still to learn and do. I’m really grateful to be asked to be involved in this event.”

The piano stool is also made out of glass

Festival director Janine Christley said: “Kārlis is one of the new wave of glassmakers who is really expanding people’s conceptions of what you can do with glass.

“When people think of glass they may think of windows and drinking glasses but they are unlikely to think of a piano or skateboard ramps.

“It’s great to have this youthful energy at the festival and show people that there is so much more to glass than they may have thought and helps to draw people in.”

The International Festival of Glass runs from tomorrow until Monday.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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