The Art of Glass Making

Long known for producing glass, West Virginia inspires artists who shatter the mold.
Karen Lingo

A delicate bowl caught in elegant midflow shimmers at the end of Marilyn Holt's glassblowing pipe. More bowls grace the shelves in her studio, and paperweights flecked with goldstone reflect ribbons of red, blue, and yellow. It's hard to pick just one to take home.

More than an hour's drive away, I admire a "cosmic burst," an orb of copper wire studded with myriad shapes and colors of glass. Seated at her worktable, Kathy M. Hanby fashions jewel-like glass into yet another one-of-a-kind creation.

New Breed of Artists
Marilyn and Kathy rank among West Virginia's finest artists, inspired by a once-thriving glass industry. When factories across the state began closing, small studios sprouted in the mountains.

In her workshop, Marilyn blows and spins molten glass to fashion her distinctive designs (prices range from $35 to more than $200). Originally a watercolorist, she put away her paints after visiting a hot shop for the first time.

Kathy, on the other hand, likes to work with iridescent glass. Using her decorative soldering technique, she makes every work look like a piece of jewelry, often incorporating antique gems or colored glass stones as accents (prices range from $49 to $2,500).

Showcases for Art
Works by West Virginia glass artists are found at Tamarack, the state's center for handmade crafts and art in Beckley; www.tamarackwv.com or 1-888-262-7225. To contact Marilyn Holt, visit www.glassbymarilyn.com, or call (304) 965-0213. To contact Kathy M. Hanby, call (304) 745-4838.

West Virginia Glass
 Blenko Glass Company, Inc.: Fairgrounds Road, Milton; www.blenkoglass.com or 1-877-425-3656. Watch craftspeople at work at the visitors center, which also serves as a sales outlet. Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Glassblowing demonstrations 8 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Catherine Miller Designs: Seven Cloverleaf Lane, Buckhannon; www.catherinemillerdesigns.com or (304) 472-6664. Glass artist Catherine Miller has created three Christmas ornaments for the White House. She engraves original designs into glass using a stone wheel. Catch her at work, and you're in for a treat. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday or by appointment.

Fenton Art Glass: 700 Elizabeth Street, Williamstown; www.fentonartglass.com or (304) 375-6122. Free factory tours are offered 8:15 a.m.-2:30 p.m most weekdays. It includes a museum and gift shop.

Fostoria Glass Museum: Sixth Street at Tomlinson Avenue, Moundsville; www.fostoriaglass.org or (304) 845-9188. Housed in a Victorian home, the collection includes glassware produced by the Fostoria Glass Company, which ceased operation in 1986. Hours: 1-4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday March-November.

Ron Hinkle Glass: Sago Road, Buckhannon; www.hinklesglass.com (304) 472-7963. Watch art glass being made at this small studio, and purchase finished pieces in the gallery. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Demonstrations are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Masterpiece Crystal: Trolley Street, Jane Lew; 1-800-624-3114. This small factory produces glassware for restaurants and offers it for sale in the gift shop. Look also for the paperweights made by glassblower Doug Roupagle. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Free tours are offered 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday.

Tamarack: Exit 45 off I-77/I-64 in Beckley; www.tamarackwv.com and 1-888-262-7225. Shop for works by the best artists and craftspeople in the state. Glassblowing demonstrations are occasionally offered. Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily April-December, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. daily January-March.

West Virginia Museum of American Glass: Main Avenue and Second Street, Weston; (304) 269-5006. A small but beautiful collection of glass made during the first half of the 20th century. Hours: noon-4 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday.

"The Art of Glass" is from the December 2006 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.