Beyond the sights and sips, Asheville, North Carolina, is home to a growing glass-art scene that’s steeped in history

By Marisa Spyker
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In his 10-plus years of glassblowing, Hayden Wilson's most valuable lesson is one that might make other artists cringe: Destruction is inevitable. "Things break, and it's not something to get too upset about," he says. "But I might have that perspective because I've been breaking glass since I was a child."

Glass blower Hayden Wilson in Studio
Hayden Wilson in his studio

A second-generation glassblower, Wilson grew up in a "houseful of glass" tucked away in the scenic mountains of western North Carolina. It's a region where the claim to fame would likely be the incredible vistas were it not for the unique concentration of glassblowers (including Wilson's father, David) who call it home. They're lured by the community (glassblowing is a "team sport," says Wilson); the world-renowned Penland School of Craft about an hour from Asheville; and, yes, the killer views. These artists have been settling here since the sixties, and now even more are finding their way to the city.

Orange and blue blown glass pendant by Kathryn Adams
Credit: Jack Sorokin

That's the story with Kathryn Adams, known for her captivating light fixtures doused in her signature "earthy jewel tone" palette. Originally from Connecticut, Adams once helmed the studio at the North Carolina Glass Center (an Asheville nonprofit that hosts educational programs and makes the medium more accessible to burgeoning artists) before leaving to pursue her craft full-time. "Glass is just magical to me," says Adams. "It's super challenging and physical, and then the final product is inherently stunning."

Blown glass bottles against window at Lexington Glassworks
A view at Lexington Glassworks
| Credit: Courtesy Lexington Glassworks

That beauty—coupled with the 2,000-degree furnace spewing red-hot molten glass—can be a spectacle to observe. Artists Billy Guilford and Geoff Koslow banked on that when they opened their own studio and gallery six years ago. Centered around a massive furnace, Lexington Glassworks offers space for guests to watch the process and even see the occasional misstep. "In order to become good at glassblowing, you have to spend a lifetime doing it," says Guilford.

Blue shades of blown glass bowls and a pendant
A bottle (left) by Hayden Wilson; a pair of Bubble Collection Bowls (above and below) from Lexington Glassworks
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Mary Beth Wetzel