Our Story - The Three of us did it, It's Incredible!
Everyone likes a good story, and our story is a great one! The idea for Glassblowing Houston was birthed in late 2012 when I contemplated retirement after 35 years as a geoscientist. My partner in life and husband, a sculptor, said that he had always wanted a glassblowing studio. With a quizzical look on my face, I questioned, “A what?”
The Beginning of Our Story
Our first step was to visit some studios, take a couple of short classes and see what it was all about. We both fell passionately in love with the process of gathering molten glass, shaping it, and adding your breath to form a piece. Think about it. Sand, heat, breath, and imagination are creating art. It’s magical. Since that moment, our lives have been all about boldly following that passion and building a glassblowing studio and business.
We searched for a location and finally purchased acreage with three buildings; one metal warehouse on the highway frontage (the Studio) and two back from the road. The larger one in the back is a house that acts as a gallery space, warm glass studio, and residence. Our Fabrication Studio is a smaller blue building. It contains our cold working shop. All of this forms a pastoral art campus that is available to the public.
Build It, and They Will Come
We found a studio owner who had built his equipment. Collaboratively working with him, we started construction. So we boldly went where we had never gone before, fabricating equipment we had barely even used. About that time, our son joined us. He was finishing up a degree in marketing and business management. He kept saying he wanted to do something with his hands. He took a one-week glass class at a Texas community college, and his passion for glass ignited. He didn’t want to market or manage; he wanted to make.
So as you can hear, our story starts with passion for glass and its magic, boldness in thinking, and creative ingenuity to fabricate and develop a family business and move it forward.
Our furnace’s initial charge (put raw glass in it and start its heating) occurred in early January 2014. After this, the first thing that happened was that we had to hot-swap one of the elements (replacing a part operating at 2000 degrees). We continually work together, enriching each other by sharing our knowledge and life experiences. Through these efforts, we developed the tagline for our business and what we wanted to achieve. We wanted others to experience the personal growth that we had individually found working together. “Enriching lives through artistic self-expression.”
Mighty Challenges in Our Story
Like any business endeavor, there are hills, valleys, and occasional potholes along the way. You could say that we have journeyed down a very bumpy road. Before we even got up and running, our copper electrical line was ripped out of the ground and stolen. Much to our dismay, this happened a second time. We built a deck at the studio to prevent further efforts, installed a steel casing at the pole, and added more security. In 2017 we lost power 17 times. That’s a big deal when you have a furnace that must be working 24/7. Now we have a huge backup generator that supports the studio.
There is a pot (crucible) in the furnace which holds the glass. When the power varies, and as it ages, it can develop cracks. When that happens, you are down for about 30 days. There are always challenges available that keep us busy with maintenance and repair. In all this adversity, we have an even stronger desire to provide a unique experience to people.
Our perseverance and the diverse strengths of all three of us combined are making this business work. Michael freely shares his academic and studio art background and design knowledge. Sally her business development, planning, and complexity thinking. Patrick provides an understanding of business management & marketing, combined with youthful exuberance. They all three combine to form a dynamic force, where they build on each other’s creativity.
Our Business Model
We have a business model that includes both services and products. We teach classes and experiences; we offer narrated demonstrations for groups (paid) and once a month free for the public. We host events for team-building, clubs, life celebrations, school kids, and seniors. Studio rental is available for experienced glassblowers and cold workers.
As you might imagine, making glass is a pretty intimate experience. It is hot and sometimes close. You share and blow into a pipe that someone else has been using and handling. Team glassblowing occurs in less than a six-foot space. We are very safety-oriented, and the pandemic expands the need for this.
Our Commodity is Creativity and Our Products Include:
Results, but Not the End of Our Story
Glassblowing Houston is the only open-access glassblowing studio in the greater Houston area. We exist as a creative center to share our knowledge and enthusiasm of glass and serve the public. We are a woman-led business that is family-operated. Each of us is developing our own voice, leading us down different avenues of creativity. We believe that the future requires continuously innovating and evolving to supply the public with enriching learning and artistic opportunities.