The Art And Beauty Of Glassblowing In Asheville, North Carolina

Beyond the sights and sips, Asheville, North Carolina, is a home to glassblowing, the artful practice steeped in history.

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."

Blown glass bottles against window at Lexington Glassworks
A view at Lexington Glassworks.

Courtesy Lexington Glassworks

Carrying The Torch

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 who call it home. His focus on glass as a profession came after he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he earned his BFA in sculpture.

Wilson's glassblowing practice is a legacy, as his own father David also creates blown glass. 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.

Glass blower Hayden Wilson in Studio
Hayden Wilson in his studio.

An Artful Draw

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."

Orange and blue blown glass pendant by Kathryn Adams
Jack Sorokin

Witness The Process

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. Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Mary Beth Wetzel

Taking A Turn At Glass

The Museum of Glass invites visitors to create their own art at their education studio with a variety of hands-on workshops. Your inspiration lies within the Museum’s current exhibitions, the season, ongoing events, and more. This is a visitor's chance to work on the floor of the hot shop as glass art is being made. You will be assisted by Hilltop Artists, and these workshops feature a variety of choices in objects such as flowers, birds, or ornaments. You will perform as the gaffer, and be able to select colors, block and shape the glass, and add your own stamp to what you are working on.

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