Our Open Hearts
At the beginning of my career in glass, I held a part-time job at Greenfield Village, the collection of historic buildings that’s part of the museum complex now known as the Henry Ford Museum. Within Greenfield Village’s 40 acres of outdoor historical park, there was a craft area that featured textiles, ceramics, a print shop, and a glass shop. At that glass shop, I was introduced to glassblowing. It was there that I honed my skills in both business and glassblowing, before my husband and I opened our own glass shop just five miles down the street Dearborn.
Visitors to Greenfield Village would linger in the hot shop and listen to our explanations of the process. For many, it was their first exposure to glassblowing. Because they didn’t know the medium, they’d stay and watch us make historical early American glassware. BORING! The demos were cool and educational but so slow—and the items we were making then were ugly, thick, and uninspiring. It was a painfully slow process to describe to our share of the park’s 1.2 million visitors per year.
On my lunch hours, when I was alone entertaining visitors, I had time to practice and perfect my personal glassblowing skills. Reviewing notes from the previous summer’s lessons at various art camps, I would deconstruct ideas to practice on one aspect of the craft. For example, if I’d seen a demo of a goblet with a fancy stem, I’d practice only one part of the stem, learning quickly through repetition, rather than trying to complete a full item. I could focus on a specific skill set and work through details, helping my technical skill to advance in short bursts.
During one of these practice sessions, the Open Heart was born.
Making an Open Heart is a real challenge. The first step, drawing out an even thickness in a rope of hot glass, is a skill in itself. Then bending, snipping, and getting it to stick together while it’s hot is a whole different skill. Producing gentle curves, grace, and beauty with no chill marks or tool marks is yet another difficult trick to pull off.
I love our Open Hearts. They’re an item that requires a lot of skill, yet they’re quick enough to produce that they remain affordable to all of our customers. And because I designed them, they’re truly unique to the Glass Academy.
I’ve taken the skills and techniques I learned many years ago at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine, under the tutelage of Lino Tagliapietra, to the craftsmen of the Glass Academy here in Dearborn. It’s a way of passing on the traditions of Italian glassmaking, which are not always practiced in modern day. With their simple design, and a little bit of love in each one, our Open Hearts make me smile every day!