IF DAVID READE were made of glass, he'd have bead eyes, chandelier hair and a heart filled with African sky crystals. The 43-year-old South African glass artist loves his continent. He says Africa is the joy and inspiration reflected in his translucent glass artwork that's exhibited in galleries from New York to Johannesburg. It will be on display for the first time in Hong Kong this week, at Bark Modern Art gallery and Gaffer Studio Glass. 'I've never felt more at home anywhere in the world than I do here,' says Reade, sitting in his studio in Worcester, about two hours from Cape Town. 'Africa has something special.' It's this special ingredient that characterises Reade's glass art. From vases with terracotta-shade swirls to two-metre wall installations and water fountains, his work is a marriage of classical and kaleidoscopic, reflecting a personal voyage as varied as his art. His unusual use of colour suggests a talent born as much from studied apprenticeship as from a passionate embrace of the African aesthetic. 'This is something that has developed in me since I've been here,' he says. 'I use colour in unusual ways and patterns, which makes a piece difficult to control.' Born on England's Isle of Wight, Reade learned his glass-blowing skills in a British production studio. He also spent a year in Scandinavia, visiting several Swedish glass masters whose techniques helped forge his own style, before he settled down in the small town of Worcester, where he now lives with his wife and young daughter, surrounded by towering mountains. 'It's like that with glass,' he says. 'If you see something that you like, you incorporate it into your own work'. From relatively humble beginnings, Reade was soon experimenting, trying out new forms and colours and constantly refining his attention to detail, partly inspired by his wife's painting techniques. 'I used to love making classical forms, but I really struggle with those these days,' Reade says. 'These days, I look at detail more, and I take three or four times longer. Now, I find it quite soul destroying to make pieces that I don't feel passionate about.' As his crafts became more artistic, his activities multiplied. Reade designed and installed an African-motif wall for an airport lounge. He's also busy with two architectural projects involving the complete interior design of two clients' homes. However, his focus remains on his Worcester studio, where he works with three apprentices. He plans to boost production by opening a second studio for his trainees, some of whom are fast developing valuable skills in this technically demanding field. 'Part of the fascination for glass is its fragility,' he says. 'Drop a piece and it's gone. You can't stick it back together again. Glass also has the ability to take on its environment. It reacts to everything around it.' Then, there's the glass-making process itself. Reade and his team go through three tons of high quality sand at a time, trucked in from the windswept Cape Flats region adjoining Table Mountain. The melting process takes 24 hours at 1,300 degrees Celsius, and involves 10 chemicals. Then, comes the colour, either in powder form or solid rods, melted in the furnace and added to the clear glass with expert care. 'I apply them one at a time in liquid form, moving them over the surface of the clear glass and manipulating it,' says Reade. 'That aspect of my work is quite difficult.' Finally, the glass is blown - shaped and polished to match a preconceived design. It's a complex process that, combined with Reade's love of organic colour and form, helps explain the success of his work: an ability to represent the world in microcosm, and to marvel at embalmed waves of colour mixed up like an African landscape, like the shifting surfaces between light and dark in one of Reade's favourite destinations, the Namib Desert. 'He literally goes into the desert and disappears,' says his wife, Lorna. 'David has had European training, but the African feel is in his glass.' The same translucent quality is in Reade's eyes when they reflect the light shining through his studio windows. 'I'm really enjoying doing what I do with my glass,' he says. 'I can't really see myself ever doing anything else.' Heat Waves, with David Reade and Craig Pamaby, opens Wed, 6.30pm-8.30pm, Bark Modern Art, 1/F 13-14 Lan Kwai Fong, Central. Inquiries: 2537 7271. Until June 30. Reade's works also available at Gaffer Studio Glass, Unit 5A, 15/F The Centrium, Central. Inquiries: 2521 1770.