Firehouse Gallery heats up as artists shape glass

Published 5:39 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Thirty-seven individuals decided they could take the heat and signed up for the glass forming classes offered for the first time at the Firehouse Arts Center Monday and Tuesday of this week. They were greeted by instructor, Kelly Robertson, and plenty of heat from a red hot portable furnace.

Robertson lives in Lawrenceville and works in downtown Atlanta, but he is no stranger to Bainbridge. He is married to the former Valerie Yeats, daughter of Lucy and Richard Yeats, and is a graduate of Georgia Southwestern University, where he majored in art and met his future wife, also an art major. He has studied with several famous artists in Corning, New York, and has shown in several galleries in New York. On a more local note, he has received first place awards two years in a row at the Thomasville Invitational Showcase.

Robertson works full-time as an artist at Spruill Center for the Arts in Atlanta, and also teaches classes in arts centers in communities surrounding Atlanta. He has designed several traveling workshops for beginners, such as the one he brought to Bainbridge. It requires transporting his “Baby Dragon,” a downsized mobile glass blowing studio manufactured in Americus, Georgia.

Email newsletter signup

Robertson first explained the process to the individual classes, then demonstrated how it was done before asking for volunteers from the five attendees in the Monday afternoon class.

The first brave soul to step forward was Misty Kelly, who donned safety glasses, chose the color she wanted for the flower she would make, and proceeded to stand with the hot metal rod inserted into the blast furnace until the glass was molten and pliable. After dipping the hot glass bubble into her chosen color, she heated it again, then proceeded to learn to shape the petals of the flower, pulling the glass corners out and upward. She smiled with delight as she saw it begin to look like a flower; and after more heat and a few more adjustments, she was equally amazed and pleased to see it turn from an orangey/yellow to the blue color she had selected.

With help, the glass tube was cut, forming a stem and it was placed in a bowl of Fiber Frax, a ceramic fiber blanket that looks like cotton, where it was sealed with a blowtorch, then placed in a cooler to cure overnight.

“I love it,” she exclaimed. “I was scared at first, but it is so much fun. I plan to use it as a paperweight.”

Robertson said he was well pleased with the response from Bainbridge and has plans to return again, possibly around Christmas, where attendees can make their own ornaments.