Artists cultivate glass at upcounty barn
Aside from the two barn cats, the large cinderblock barn with its tin roof and two empty silos on Hawkins Creamery Road in Laytonsville is unlike any rural farm. Instead of rows of dairy cows, there are shelves of colorful art glass, produced there for the last 10 years by Art of Fire Contemporary Glass Studio.
The barn studio, celebrating its 25th year, has a gallery of handmade pieces and a "hot shop" where Art of Fire artists create stock and custom pieces and host classes, said co-founder Foster Holcombe.
Holcombe discovered the art of glass blowing while attending a glass camp in 1978.
"[Glass] is something we take for granted in our everyday lives," he said. "But the molten glass — it's magic."
Holcombe was working at a glassblowing studio at the Texas Renaissance Festival in 1984 when he founded Art of Fire with wife, Theda Hansen.
They moved to Savage in 1986 after being invited to open the glass blowing booth at the Maryland Renaissance Festival.
Eleven years later, they bought the farm on Hawkins Creamery Road. Its 3,600 square feet made it an ideal place to set up shop, which opened in 1999, he said.
The style of Art of Fire's glass art is contemporary and functional, said Todd Hansen, Holcombe's stepson and studio manager. Their pieces, including stemware, vases, Christmas ornaments and pitchers, come in a variety of colors and styles and can be custom-made.
The amount of time put into handcrafting a piece of glass corresponds with the price tag. Simpler pieces may take 10 minutes, however complicated pieces can take hours. Prices range from $28 to several hundred dollars, Hansen said.
The studio has three fulltime artists: Holcombe, studio manager Hansen and former Art of Fire student, Josh Ries. Other artists use the studio part time, exchanging teaching time for furnace rental time.
About 100 students take class to learn about the art of glass blowing, Holcombe said.
"A lot of the allure of the glass is once you get that glass on the end of your iron, you're paying 110 percent attention to it," Holcombe said.
Art of Fire will be participating in a studio tour and open house as a part of the Patuxent River Art Guild on 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit patuxentriverartguild.org. For more on Art of Fire, visit artoffire.com or the studio at 7901 Hawkins Creamery Road, Laytonsville.