Fire in the Mountains

Fire in the Mountains: Vermont’s Glassblowing Studios

By Samantha Kolber

Little River Hot Glass

Glassblowers study for years to learn the art and skill of blowing glass in fire-producing furnaces. Many perform apprenticeships with renowned artisans all over the world, cached in high-heat studios, shaping lava-like molten glass. Through this artistic process, original pieces of glassware take shape: from the functional wine glass or paperweight to the collectible sculpture or holiday ornament.

In Vermont, the first glassmaking factory, originally designed to make glass windows, opened in the summer of 1813 on the shores of Lake Dunmore. Today, many Vermont glass artists open their studio doors and share their expertise, offering public tours and classes in this hands-on, ancient art form.

Spend a day witnessing, and maybe even creating a glass object, from the fires in our Green Mountains. Visit any of the glassblowing studios and galleries from all corners of the state for a unique arts experience. Please be sure to visit the websites listed for hours and directions.

Northern Vermont

Burlington is home to many artists, including the glassblowers Rich Arentzen and Tove Ohlander, who together run the workshop Arentzen Ohlander Glass, or AO Glass. AO Glass utilizes the creative process known as the Swedish Graal technique, a blend of visual art and glassblowing. The glass pieces, such as bowls, plates, or vases, often look as if they were painted. Arentzen and Ohlander also have a social mission to change the world through their art, and have partnered with Polar Bear International in creating glass polar bear ornaments to raise awareness about conservation.

Husband and wife team Harry and Wendy Besett run the Vermont Glass Workshop in Hardwick. They use traditional, contemporary and innovative glassblowing techniques to craft handmade glass candlesticks, bowls, marbles, stemware, urns and vases, to name a few. Workshops are available one-on-one with Harry.

View glassblowing in action in the Stowe area at: Zeimke Glassblowing Studio, featuring feather-pull glass fish sculptures, ruffle bowls and vases, among many other pieces. While in Stowe also visit Little River Hotglass Studio where Michael Trimpol creates vortex bowls and vases, perfume bottles, and more.

Central Vermont

A popular destination for its glass, pottery, and fine dining restaurant, Simon Pearce, with two locations in Quechee and Windsor, is celebrating 40 years of original designs. Made-in-Vermont favorites such as glass Vermont Evergreen Trees, stemware like the Essex Collection, and the Woodbury collection of glass bowls, are available at the Simon Pearce studio or online. They also have glassblowing workshops open to the public as well as self-guided tours.

Find distinctive glass art pieces and classes at the Route 4 Glass Blowing Studio, on Route 4 in the Quechee Gorge Village. This studio is run by artisan glassblower Lada Bohac, who was trained in the Czech Republic. Lada creates a variety of custom pieces, from hand blown shot glasses and glass teapots, to hummingbird feeders and glass jewelry.

The Mad River Glass Gallery, located in the heart of the Green Mountains on the banks of the Mad River in Waitsfield, features a spacious display area as well as the working studio of David and Melanie Leppla. Visitors can view the artists working from an observation window overlooking the hot glass facility. Also view original pieces for purchase in the gallery.

Southern Vermont

Built in a 100-year-old mill building, the Readsboro Glass Studio in Readsboro features the works of Mary Angus, and also works by her husband, glass artist K. William LeQuier. At the studio you will find Mary’s hand blown glass candy canes and perfume bottles, in which the color is created from a thin layer of powdered glass.

Robert Burch Glass in Putney welcomes visitors by appointment, with a chance to work in the studio to make your own paperweight. Robert has been blowing glass for over 30 years. His specialty is silver glass, with delicate bubble and organic webbing patterns, crafting pieces such as hearts, vases, paperweights, and commissioned sculptures.

In the quaint village of Manchester is Manchester Hot Glass Studio & Gallery, offering classes for all ages and gifts such as tea light candle holders, vases, bowls, and custom hand blown glass lighting fixtures to illuminate one’s home. Reservations for classes may be made at any time to fit your schedule.

Along the Connecticut River is Sherwin Art Glass in Bellows Falls. Chris Sherwin, who first apprenticed with Vermont’s Simon Pearce Glass in 1993, uses a specialized “on-the-pipe” torchwork design to create animal sculptures, paperweights, vases, and more. In addition to regular tours, this studio is usually open for glassblowing demonstrations on the third Friday of each month from 6 to 8 pm for the Bellows Falls’ “3rd Friday Art Walk.”

Beautiful glass pieces, such as ornaments, vessels, vases, lamps and jewelry, are created by artists all throughout the Green Mountains. Enjoy this unique art form as you step onto the blowing floor, hear the roar of the furnaces, and feel the heat. Watch as molten glass takes shape in the hands of the skilled and talented glassblower, who, with breath and muscle, creates some of the finest Vermont art.

Samantha Kolber is a poet and art lover living in Montpelier, VT.