A stop at a hot shop offers a behind-the-scenes look at molten glass and how it moves from the furnace to finished art. Groups can observe the process via demonstrations or step-in with actual gloves-on help. While the process captures the imagination and skill of the artist, it mesmerizes onlookers. Magic? Maybe. But seeing is believing at any of these fabulous five glass havens in the United States.
1.Corning Museum of Glass
Corning, New York
Groups should be prepared to be awestruck by breathtaking pieces of glass as art, history, technology and craft at the Corning Museum of Art. Located in Corning, New York, the world’s largest glass museum displays 35 centuries of glass history and houses over 50,000 objects. A Fun with Glass experience (extra fee) leads groups through steps to create blown glass ornaments, shape molten glass into flowers, fuse glass into a sun catcher or sandblast a drinking glass. More than 40 demonstrations are offered daily.
“Our live Hot Glass show allows guests to watch art being created, and is often the highlight of the visit,” said Sally K. Berry, CMP, CTP, tourism sales and marketing manager for the museum. “I know I never get tired of watching our gaffers, or glassblowers entertain and delight our group tour customers!”
Docent-led tours complete an adventure-filled stop as part of a Finger Lakes region itinerary.
2.Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Fine Art Gallery
Groups visiting Grapevine, Texas, enjoy the city’s rich history, a vintage Texas experience and have an opportunity to create a work of glass to show-and-tell at home. Located in the historic downtown, Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Fine Art Gallery provides guests with the opportunity to watch artists in a state-of-the-art working studio from a seated gallery. Groups can help create a treasure or simply visit the Fine Art Gallery to select a one-of-a-kind glass memento of their visit. The gallery is filled with professionally crafted art.
“We welcome the aspiring glassblower in everyone to help create something as unique as the craft itself,” said David Gappa, Vetro founder. “With various events throughout the year, guests can work alongside our artists to help create everything from Valentine’s glass hearts to festive fall pumpkins, and even keepsake Christmas ornaments,”
There are live glassblowing demonstrations and hands-on opportunities for groups to choose from.
3.Chihuly Garden and Glass
At Chihuly Garden and Glass, three environments provide the background for the most comprehensive exhibition of the work of internationally recognized glass artist Dale Chihuly. The 1½-acre site at the base of Seattle’s Space Needle includes glass art from Chihuly’s illustrious 50-plus year career. The location is big; the installations are big and among his most significant. These include the Glass Forest, a Chandelier Room and other masterpieces installed in the property’s eight galleries.
Tours move from the galleries to the Glass House, which has long-term installations suspended above event space, into the gardens. There are 30-minutes guided tours, independent audio tours and short Spotlight Talks manned by exhibition hosts at various points spotted throughout the galleries. Check the website for night hours; the glass installations, the Glass House and the gardens provide a different perspective when illuminated.
4.Zimmerman Art Glass Factory
Corydon & Harrison County, Indiana
Winding west along the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, group tours make plans to pull over in the rolling hills of Indiana’s hometown, Historic Corydon and Harrison County. For 75 years, the Zimmerman family has been making history of its own as glass artists. Zimmerman Art Glass creates handmade glass products that range from paper weights to lamps, even olive oil bottles. A fifth–generation business, they still use the tools they learned to use as children.
“When a group arrives, owner Kerry Zimmerman will lead them through the process of how pieces are made,” said Melanie Uhl, group sales manager for Zimmerman’s. “We set aside a few minutes after the demonstration for questions.”
In all, there are 110 different pieces made at the glass factory. The inventory grows throughout the year; there are glass decorator items, fruit and holiday ornaments vases, baskets and specialty items.
5.Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach
Orange Beach, Alabama
Groups travel to Alabama’s beautiful beaches for a waterfront experience at the shore. The recently rebuilt Coastal Arts Center campus overlooks Wolf Bay and offers many artistic activities with a breathtaking view.
“We are home to The Hot Shop, Alabama’s premier hot glass blowing studio where you can make your own glass piece,” said Desiree Blackwell, director. “The Coastal Arts Center cherishes its place in the rich history of our area while bringing new and innovative ideas in the arts — all in a warm and welcoming environment of Southern hospitality.”
The Art Center creative options include hot glass demonstrations and Make-Your-Own fused/blown glass in The Hot Shop, as well as pottery classes in The Clay Studio. Inside the fine arts gallery, the gift shop offers many glass art pieces as well as other two-dimensional and three-dimensional artwork by artists from the Gulf Coast area.