Studio turns glass, air into art
November 09, 2011 - To most people, glass is just something that holds beverages or separates their indoors from the great outdoors.
Dave Hilty blows air into a bubble of molten glass. (click for larger version)
But to Oxford resident Dave Hilty, glass is an art form – both the process of making it and the finished product.
And what good is art if it's not shared with others?
That's why for five years now the local glassblower's been hosting a free Open Studio event at his 1040 S. Coats Rd. home. This last one was held over the weekend.
"It's a real successful business model to have people be able to see and touch and feel the glass as it's being made," said Hilty, who owns Pine Lake Glassworks. "People get more excited about it."
Over the course of two days, an estimated 200 to 300 people visit the small studio behind Hilty's home to watch him and others inflate, with the aid of blowpipes, and shape molten glass into everything from vases and bowls to cute little polar bears wearing red scarves.
"When you see the finished product, you're only appreciating the art from one side," he said.
Hilty noted a lot of people have seen glassblowing on television, watched videos on the subject or even seen it done at places like Greenfield Village, but that doesn't begin to compare to watching the process up close in a small studio while feeling the heat from the two furnaces, the temperatures of which range from 2,000 to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hilty's love affair with glass began when he was about 14 or 15 years old and his father took him on a tour of the Eli Lilly and Company laboratory in Indiana.
He was fascinated by the all the intricate and delicate glass chemistry apparatus that was specially made for the lab by its lampworking department.
"That always stayed in my head," Hilty said.
Many years later, in 1985, his wife, Ann Marie O'Neill, signed him up for a glassblowing class as a Christmas gift.
"I got thrilled about being able to make stuff," Hilty said. "I got thrilled about the medium . . . I'm a glass junky, I guess."
In 1997, he built his own studio, in which he now creates unique pieces to sell including glass pumpkins, oil bottles, Christmas ornaments and his version of amphoras (vase-shaped containers once widely used in the ancient Mediterranean world).
"I am very gratified when people buy something," Hilty said. "Even if they don't buy it, but say, 'Wow, I like that.'"
From his studio, Hilty also teaches classes. One is forming right now and is scheduled to begin during the third week of November.
The cost is $525 for eight, three-hour sessions in a class with only four other students, so it's a very intimate and hands-on learning environment.
Learning to blow glass is primarily about perseverance, in Hilty's view.
Often, the process involves making the same piece over and over again until you get the glass "to do what you want it to."
"A lot of times you end up doing what the glass wants to do," Hilty noted. In these instances, it's best to just "go with it" and "find a way to make it nice, even though it's not exactly what you wanted."
Not many people know this, but Hilty is the owner of the old grain elevator, located at 33 Pleasant St. in Oxford Village. Years ago, he had planned to turn it into a combination gallery and studio, but when the economy tanked, he put the plan on hold.
Although the property is for sale, Hilty said it's still in the back of his mind that someday this vacant building could be a thriving home for his glassblowing.
But for now, he's content with his small studio and the lovely view it has of the secluded Pine Lake.
For more information about Pine Lake Glassworks' products or classes, please visit www.pinelakeglass.com.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.