Glass artists visit Americus
Editor’s note: As the majority of Americus’ residents are likely aware, the city held its inaugural Hot Glass and Craft Beer Festival Saturday downtown. Nearly everyone that attended the festival agreed that the event was a huge success, with its combination of Georgia-crafted, small-batch libations, live music by local artists, and the way that it showcased Americus’ rich history of glass art.
With so many wonderful facets of this festival working together to make it successful, the editors at the Times-Recorder thought that it would be best to cover the event in installments, each one highlighting one of the exciting aspects of the festival.
The initial installment deals with the glassblowing aspect of the event.
By Michael Murray
AMERICUS — The first annual Americus Hot Glass and Craft Beer Festival, which was held in conjunction with local business, Mobile Glassblowing, LLC, saw over 20 visiting artists come together in downtown Americus to conduct demonstrations for an audience of about 1,000 patrons from all over.
The artists came from all corners of the United States to display their skills on six Baby Dragon Furnaces, the flagship produce of Mobile Glassblowing, LLC.
Festivalgoers who purchased VIP tickets to the event also received a special
treat, a hand-blown sampling glass blown by local artist, Devan Cole. Each of the hand-blown vessels, all different from the others, was adorned with a decorative flourish, proudly proclaiming, “Made in Americus”.
Phil Vinson, co-owner of the local company, spoke with the Times-Recorder at the event. Asked how he felt the festival had turned out, Vinson said, “The turnout and the response has been phenomenal. The support that the community has shown for the arts and for glass … It’s really overwhelming … I actually saw all of these furnaces fired up this morning. Everybody left after we got it set up and I just sat back and got an emotional tear. It’s astounding. It’s such a big deal to put on and it’s a big deal for this town. Glass has such a long history here … To be able to come up with this idea and get so much community support for it is just incredible.”
Vinson went on to say that each of the furnaces displayed had been brought to the event by Mobile Glassblowing, LLC’s customers.
“We reached out to all of our customers and invited everyone to participate and do demonstrations,” he said. “I’ve had this vision since we’ve been building these furnaces. We’ve sold over 50 of them. They’re all over the world. What I’ve always imagined is this gathering where everybody brings them back home, kind of like a family reunion.”
He went on to state that the idea originated when he and his business partner, Charles Wells, were considering how they could allow the business’s patrons a way to get together and communicate with one another and share their concerns and experiences with the Mobile Glassblowing, LLC’s staff.
“We’d like to provide a forum so that they can talk to each other and, kind of work through some issues and let us know what’s working for them and what’s not and what we can provide more support for as a company,” Vinson said. “What can we do to help them? What do they need?”
Vinson went on to credit longtime local glassblower, Ralph Harvey, for, over a period of more than 30 years, helping to establish a glassblowing community in Americus as a professor of Fine Arts at Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW).
“Ralph is having a blast with us,” he said. “And it’s really a celebration of, kind of, what he has established in his time at the college. He’s had such a powerful impact on everyone who has gone to GSW. So, the town, itself, is very in tune to the idea of handmade glass. It’s just part of the culture and the community here. It’s quite a tribute to him.”
Vinson concluded the interview, saying that, with the success of the inaugural festival, he would like to see it become an annual event.
“That’s the intention,” he said. “My personal intention with it has been to turn it into a larger, longer-term festival where there’s multiple days of events. I’d like to get more glass artists to come in from around the country and around the world.”
Artists were featured at the event from states all across the country, including Ohio, North Carolina, Nebraska, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.
One demonstrator, Phil Taylor, from Cincinnati, Ohio, also spoke with the Times-Recorder at the event.
“It’s just amazing that they were able to get this many furnaces from people who have purchased them to bring them back here and actually do the demos,” said Taylor, who learned the art of glassblowing as a student in Americus. “It’s pretty neat that they were able to do that.”
Taylor, who currently works as a warm glass instructor at Queen City Clay, in Cincinnati, went on to say that, despite his extensive history with the art form, he had not previously attended a festival that pulled together so many varied influences that worked so well together.
“You’re not going to see something like this happening very often …,” he told the Times-Recorder. “It took a lot of coordination from a lot of people to get this to happen … It’s a pretty awesome event …”
Taylor went on to say that he has heard of collaborations between artists and artisans who specialize in glass and brewing, but had never seen it presented in a festival atmosphere as effectively as it was in Americus on April 8.
“The fact that they were able to get the combination of glassblowing and beer together … I, personally, haven’t seen happen at a festival like this yet,” he said. “You have craft brewers that use different-shaped glasses for the different types of beer, depending on how they want to concentrate the aroma and all of those kinds of things …”
Taylor said that he was interested in taking some of the ideas that he had picked up at the event and encouraging similar collaborations among his colleagues in Ohio. “I’m definitely going to use my contacts with people in the Cincinnati craft beer scene to figure out something different to do for Cincinnati as far as getting the glass community working with the craft beer community,” he concluded.
Amy Springer, an artist from Red Cloud, Nebraska, attended the event as a visiting artist. Springer has recently commissioned a custom furnace from Mobile Glass, LLC which will be permanently installed on a trailer.
Asked about her impressions of the festival, Springer said she hadn’t had the chance to do any demonstrations yet. “I’ve mostly just been watching and it’s been really interesting. I’m just taking it all in … watching people in action. It’s really been a great event, especially for a first festival. There’s a lot going on. It’s really cool.”
Local artist, Nick Daglis, also spoke with the Times-Recorder to discuss his impressions of the event. Daglis had offered use of his furnace, which he helped build through an internship with Mobile Glassblowing, LLC while a student at GSW, stating that he was very happy to have the opportunity to showcase his skills at the event on his own furnace while having the opportunity to work alongside so many artists from all over the country.
In the near future, Daglis will be taking his furnace to Jacksonville, Alabama, and Moultrie to showcase his talents with his start-up company, Ground Up Glass.
Furnaces belonging to the GSW Fine Arts Department, the Devan Cole Hot Glass Academy (Americus), Bee Creative Glass (Creedmoor, N.C.), Ground Up Glass (Americus), and Calvary Glass (Lawrenceville, Ga.) were showcased at the festival, as the furnaces’ owners demonstrated their skills.
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