The town of Wardensville, West Virginia is a small town with the population of around 381 people. The city is in Hardy County, West Virginia. Wardensville is a city that a lot of “city folk” enjoy traveling through.
While the locals don’t necessarily find as much joy in it, there are many tourist attractions such as the Wardensville Garden Market. The Wardensville Garden Market supports Appalachian youth by introducing them to farming that is organic; they focus on land conservation and community reinvestment. Along with these, the Garden Market supports smaller efforts, such as Dakota Glass Works.
Dakota Glass Works
Dakota Glass Works offers community-based teaching skills to preserve the ancient art form of glassblowing. Dakota Glass Works uses the junior crew along with other staff members to make intricate artwork to sell at the Wardensville Garden Market, as well as at the Lost River Trading Post.
Not only do they use glasswork to make the art itself, but Dakota Glass Works also teaches market staff and the community about the art. Dakota Glass Works focuses on the Italian style of glass working, but there are many other styles.
The History of Glass Working
Glass work is a technique that humans have used to shape glass since the first century B.C. The ancient Syrians first started the invention of glassblowing as it has been around for a long time.
Before glassblowing, artisans were restricted to creating opaque bowls that were made of a metal-like material. In doing so, these bowls would contain bubbles that would turn yellow or green due to the impurities in the firing process. Glass blowing was very popular in The Jamestown Colony during the 17th century.
Dakota Glass Works is a great organization to teach the community and travelers about the art of glassblowing. Two staff members, Noah Lang and Kollin Quarles explained that “glassblowing is truly an art that is time consuming and a great commitment.”
Noah and Kollin have both worked in The Dakota Glass Works part of the Wardensville Garden Market for the past eight months but have been a part of the market itself since they were young high school students at East Hardy High School.
Noah and Kollin were both part of the Junior Crew, but Noah has since moved up as the “Studio Assistant,” and “Market Assistant.” I decided to ask them each how they felt about glass blowing and what they’ve since learned from it.
Noah has grown to love glassblowing and plans to explore more styles of glass as he is excited for the knowledge that he is able to gain through the community of glass work. Noah explained that his main goal through glassblowing is “to learn the most that I can to become more comfortable and confident in my art.”
While there can be many challenges in glassblowing, as the process is difficult, Noah claimed that “learning new styles is one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to do while working with glass.” Glassblowing is something that you can’t perfect in one day, it takes time and patience.
When I asked Kollin if he expected anything in the future with glassblowing, he stated “I could see myself doing this in the future, it’s not something you can get bored with very easily.” Kollin has the goal of “mastering different glass objects and styles.”
Glassblowing is something that also is very rewarding. Kollin said that “the best part is when a piece takes forever to work on, and it finally is finished and turns out just as you planned.” While the job may be hard work, the reward makes it worth the effort.
The Process of Glassblowing
The process of glassblowing is pretty much the same as it was with the ancient artisans. The artisans used tools, gravity, and air to form the glass into the desired shape and cooled the glass, just as the process is now.
The glass is made from sand, and occasionally contains other ingredients like lime, potash and borax. To make colored glass, other ingredients have to be added, like silver, copper, or manganese. Glass blowers have to be careful as to what additives they use as it affects the way the glass will behave when heated and formed.
Glassblowing is a unique profession with the potential to produce beautiful pieces. It’s inspirational how our society now can keep using the same techniques as ancient artisans used.