Not one, but two glassblowing businesses are opening up this week in the Asheville area. Crucible Glassworks celebrates its grand opening on Friday, Jan. 16, from 5 to 7 p.m. in its new location at 60 Clarks Chapel Rd in Weaverville; Lexington Glassworks, located at 81 S. Lexington Ave., holds an opening reception on Friday, Jan. 23 from 5 to 8 p.m.
Lexington Avenue is home once again to downtown Asheville’s only working glassblowing hot shop — the last studio relocated in 2009 (see Crucible Glassworks below). Glass artists Billy Guilford and Geoff Koslow opened Lexington Glassworks on Saturday, Jan. 10 in the old Brown’s Automotive building, a former full-service garage located on South Lexington Ave., near the Aloft Hotel.
Guilford and Koslow designed the layout to specifically accommodate heavy foot traffic and audience-driven demonstrations. The roughly 5000-square-foot studio space has three bay doors that open up into a gallery. The furnace, gloryhole and torch equipment, meanwhile, are huddled underneath a large stainless steel hood that runs along the back right side of the building, leaving the back left of the building open as a viewing platform.
“The general public will be able to interact directly with the artists, and hopefully get a one-of-a-kind experience,” Guilford and Koslow say. “We want people to view us as a unique destination location when they are planing their Asheville vacations.”
They also see this as an opportunity to educate visitors on the regional aspects of the craft. “The studio glass movement started in Western North Carolina,” Koslow says. “We want to be a part of the glass community in this area and to help grow WNC’s reputation as the birthplace of studio glass by inviting the public to experience the art of glassblowing.”
Both Guilford and Koslow were introduced to Asheville while attending workshops at Penland School of Crafts. They also had glassblowing friends in the area, and both had helped to run glass shops in the past — though neither had ever started one.
“This is their maiden voyage,” says Lexington Glassworks marketing manager Ashleigh Hardes. “The plan was to come to Asheville and figure out a spot, figure out how to make it happen. They made it come together really quickly.”
“We were attracted to Asheville because of the strong arts community, appreciation for the arts here and the resources for artists in the area. Not to mention the rich quality of life here and atmosphere of this town,” says Guilford. “We see Asheville as the cultural heart of WNC, and we want to be right in the middle of it.”
Lexington Glassworks, located at 81 S. Lexington Ave., is open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. The studio will hold an official opening reception on Friday, Jan. 23 from 5 to 8 p.m. For a look at the work or for more information, visit lexingtonglassworks.com.
From 1998 to 2009, Crucible Glassworks was a neighborhood fixture on the northern-most block of Lexington Avenue The glassblowing studio and shop, owned by artist Michael Hatch and his wife Hilary, was located in the same space now occupied by The Crow and Quill. The pair left in 2009 after their 10 year lease ended. Now, after a 3-year residency at the Bakersville EnergyXchange and another year or two of studio-hopping, Crucible is reopening in a new, permanent home just north of downtown Weaverville.
“In our hearts we always wanted to be in Weaverville, but we couldn’t find the right property or the right zoning,” says Hilary. The Hatchs began construction on the studio last October. “It’s a new place,” says Michael, “but it’s kind of like coming home.”
The building, which features a fine arts gallery in the front with Michael’s studio and office at the back, is both an extension and an evolution of the old space. “It was nice having a new building and designing it around what my needs were going to be,” he says. In past spaces the couple had to work with the space they had, squeezing in the bulky furnaces and ventilation systems into corners that were never intended to hold such equipment. That was particularly the case with the Lexington Avenue location.
“We could only make glass in the fall and winter there,” Michael says “Here, we’ve got high ceilings, a huge garage on one side and French doors on the other that keep the air moving. So we can blow glass all year long and not get too hot.”
Michael will also host workshops, offer private instruction and rent studio space and time to other artists. “That was a big part of what we did downtown,” he says. The old location was also a hangout spot for artists, friends and visitors alike. Both Michael and Hilary aim to continue that same neighborhood appeal in the new location, but with a rural influence. “We’re right off main street, but you feel like you’re in the middle of the country,” says Hilary, “the idea is that anybody can come in and be among friends in a welcoming environment.”
Crucible Glassworks celebrates its grand opening on Friday, Jan. 16, from 5 to 7 p.m. in its new location at 60 Clarks Chapel Rd in Weaverville. The opening reception will feature live music, refreshments, glass blowing demos and a ribbon cutting ceremony with Weaverville Mayor Dottie Sherrill. On Saturday, Crucible will host the first of its workshops, with eight slots available for participants. For more information, visit crucibleglassworks.com.
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While Mr. Kaslow is correct that the studio glass movement has strong Western North Carolina connections, the founder of the movement, Harvey Littleton, began it in June 1962 with workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art and then nurtured it at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, before moving to Spruce Pine in 1977.