Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Glass Blowing Center

Years of caffeine abuse and a propensity for using volatile compounds without a breather mask came back to haunt me in the form of shaky hands Tuesday as the family and I set off to Hilliards PA to take an art glass making course at The Glass Blowing Center as an anniversary present.

Hilliards is one of those places that, if you've spent a lot of time in the area, you hear people mention and you nod your head sagely without really knowing where the hell they're talking about. Mapquest put it at 30 miles from my door, but estimated the trip at an hour and fifteen minutes. That's right - dirt roads the whole way.
But that was a minor concern once we got there. Tom and his wife have a beautiful center with a store, workspace, a demo area with seating for over 100, nice restrooms (you get older, these things are important...), and overall just an incredibly positive, patient manner -- a good thing in a teacher.

My wife and daughter took to it right away -- I was all thumbs, but that was cool too -- I had purchased these lessons for them as a gift and I was just along for the ride. I was happy with the strange sensation of watching the tip of a glass rod heat slowly and the suddenly start to move and ooze. Elemental and hypnotic, I couldn't stop staring at it as the heat blasted my forearms and face and my triceps strained to keep my arm canted and the rod rotating.

Their isolation is telling though. Tom is a first rate artist and organizer. Each year they host the longest running glass convention in the United States, called the Art Glass Invitational where glass blowers come to share their knowledge with their peers. The 2003 event brought 50 flame workers together from across the United States and Canada who participated in classes, lectures, and demonstrations. But I wonder how many of those artists are local or regional -- I get the feeling he's having trouble meeting other local artists and networking connections. So am I. So are all the working artists I know in the area.

The center offers demos for groups of all sizes, as well as lessons like ours and they're looking to display any (local) glass artifacts that can be loaned for display by the public. The western Pennsylvania region has a rich history of glass blowing that we would like to highlight in a special "glass heritage" event.

I also got to make a trippy mushroom necklace for my next Widespread Panic concert.

Tom told us that he rents bench space for glass artists and those learning the craft as well as providing supplies, so Amy will be back -- I'll just sit in the car. Do they have wi-fi in Hiliards?

Pete Greene mentioned in his column in the News Herald this morning that he has a blog. So drop by. It's a great resource, because the News Herald doesn't put his columns online, but he publishes them here. And of course, there's the kind-hearted plug for this site (although, yes I missed it on the first read. I've got to sleep more. Sorry and thank you Pete!)
The Clarion County Free Library is looking for artists to paint children's chairs to be auctioned off to support the summer reading program:
I don't want $10 for a chair. I want $75 or $100 for a chair.

I'm not a hunter, but wow! Boar hunting in my backyard? Sign me up! mmmmmm boar prosciutto, roast boar loin, boar ham, boar souse, french fried boar... Thank you Double Boar Ranch!

Let me get this straight, the Erie Art Museum is undergoing a huge capital campaign to add floor space, but they pay their publicist less than $30,000 a year. Hmmmm....

The 18th annual Erie Panegyri Greek Festival (no website) will be held at the July 7-9 at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, 4376 West Lake Road. For any info call (814) 838-8808

Harper Lee has written an essay about her childhood for next month's O magazine.

The Erie Times News lists their July calendar.

The Boston Phoenix runs a piece about Johnny Cash's new album.


Joann Wheeler said...

Your blog showed up in Peter Greene's column in the Derrick this morning --

I'm teetering on the brink of this new arts job and a priority is to pull together area artists to find out what we can do together -- cooperative marketing? cooperative purchasing of materials? mutual support? We have to get good at serving the artists who live here and I'd appreciate any feedback/suggestions from you and your readers --

Joann (Oil City Arts Revitalization)

Dittman said...

Good golly I am a doofus! I had the paper beside me as I wrote and still didn't see it the first, of, fifteen times I read it....
Great questions Joann! I'm running the interview with you tomorrow and I hope that will spark some conversation...

Jennifer said...

Thanks for doing this post. I've really wanted to learn more about glass blowing... and learning it... so now I know there someplace close-ish to Erie. I hope I get to check it out!

Dittman said...

It's worth the drive (and pretty simple from Erie 79 to 80 and about 6 miles from the Emlenton exit) -- Tom might be willing to do a workship in Erie as never hurts to ask, I guess!
Thanks for reading!