Glassblowing enjoys a renaissance
Hotspot Glass Studio owners Dylan Cotton and Chris DeMott begin the process of molding and shaping the molten glass into unique designs.
Glassblowing may just be your new favorite hobby. It’s working with a molten mix of silica, sodium, and calcium that hardens into something delicate and breakable. You can add colors or twist and shape it into anything you want. There’s a little danger involved too, adding to the excitement of it.
Last spring, Hotspot Glass Studio opened here in Fairfield next to Tazza Osteria. In a little over a year, owners Dylan Cotton and Chris DeMott have gained a successful following. They regularly offer Groupons for introductory classes and they have sessions for kids and adults. “I think people are starting to become more aware of glassblowing,” says DeMott. “Once people try it, they think it’s cool and get hooked.”
DeMott and Cotton are “The Odd Couple” of glassblowing. DeMott comes to the art with a technical fastidiousness. Cotton’s linear thoughts get derailed in favor of whimsical playfulness. He even calls himself the “kooky one.” “We work really well together,” DeMott explains. “We can incorporate the wacky stuff in a technical style.”
Joe Massari and his wife Michele got married at the end of March and have their own Hotspot memory. They wanted something different for their special day. Friends and family considered purchasing Champagne flutes. But after a quick web search, Joe found the Fairfield shop and the couple decided to make their own wedding glasses.
“We were there for three hours but it felt like 20 minutes,” Joe recalls. “Once they started, they really took off. Executed it perfectly—the shaping, the blowing, the stretching. This is something we will remember for the rest of our lives.”
Stefani Calvano and her husband used their Groupon last summer for date night. When Calvano’s father died in January, her husband suggested going to Hotspot to make an urn. DeMott and Cotton were thrilled to do something so meaningful. “It was a great experience for what we had to do,” she says. “They turned something ordinary into a piece of art.”
During the process of making the urn, they included some of the ashes in the glass. Calvano plans to incorporate some of the cremains into a few commemorative pieces to give to other family members.
But there is more to glasswork than making a wine glass or two. Dorothy Hafner, an artist who has worked in several different mediums over the years, has a studio in South Norwalk. After taking an “art sabbatical” in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, she became fascinated by the extraordinary play of color and light in the water. She vowed to paint once she returned home only to find that painting just didn’t evoke the visual acuity she was looking for.
“I couldn’t get that same luminous color or transparency,” she says. “I got introduced to glassblowing, and it was love at first sight.”
Along the way, she discovered a different form of glasswork. She now fuses sheets of glass together in a collage to form two-dimensional installations. Fusing gives her an artistic medium to work with that allows for creative space. She can pause and reflect—something you can’t do with standard glassblowing. She offers one-day, three-day, and six-week fusing workshops.
Peter Greenwood, who owns a studio in Riverton near Barkhamsted, holds workshops for kids and adults. About ten years ago, he came across what was formerly the Hitchcock Chair Museum in an abandoned church. He jumped at the chance to have his own studio. He offers classes for every skill level, birthday parties, and team corporate events. You can even get just a 15-minute demonstration on glassblowing if you’re short on time.
“The biggest challenge is working the glass but keeping it under control,” he says. “You have to move it constantly, keep it rotating so it doesn’t sag to the floor. It’s about eye/hand coordination.”
As far as he’s concerned, everybody should have the experience of stretching, pulling and cutting a hot piece of glass off a blowing pipe.
Mickey Morris, the director at Buck’s Rock Creative and Performing Arts Camp in New Milford, holds summer sessions for kids aged nine to 17. They offer every artistic medium under the sun—from puppetry to Clown Improv to spelunking. One of the sessions that kids really enjoy is the glassblowing.
“We started offering glassblowing in the ’70s,” he says. “It’s open to any camper, and they can carry over other artistic mediums along the way. We’ve had some kids who have gone on to do it professionally.”
Young or not so young, you can find a glassblowing opportunity in almost every corner of Connecticut. The Brookfield Craft Center in Brookfield offers glassblowing workshops and Art Glass by Mathews in Branford also holds classes along with a unique commodity: a patented glass putter. Consider that the next time you need a gift for the avid golfer in your life. Who needs a wine glass when you can improve your game?
GLASS FROM THE PAST
In the early days of glassblowing, the knowledge of the craft was highly coveted—handed down from glasssmith to apprentice. In the first century A.D., Phoenician glassworkers were forbidden from traveling but Venetian glassblowers had it the worst— leaving the island of Murano was a crime, punishable by death.