One-of-a-kind art form makes career, gifts

Anna Riggenbach

It’s that time of the year. Snow is falling, mall parking lots are increasingly more crowded and you still can’t figure out what to get everyone for the holidays.

Making a gift can be an irreplaceable alternative to what is found in every store in the mall. Local craftsmen, like Pat Longo, see increasingly more business during the holidays. Her business, Imagine That Studio, offers pottery, glass and ceramic painting.

“We have a couple of different mediums,” she said. “Anything that can be fired in a kiln.”

A kiln is a furnace used for firing pottery and the other mediums she offers. In addition to just giving gifts this holiday season, you can treat your friends and family to gifts you’ve made in one of Longo’s classes.

“The classes are really for anyone who comes in,” Longo said. “I give them all the basics they need to know.”

Longo offers different classes, many of which are available to children. She said the children like the glass classes because they are fascinated by the colors.

Ken Carter, another local craftsman, has a studio in downtown Canton that he has owned since 2001. His specialty is in glassblowing.

Carter got involved with glass when he worked in a stained glass studio as an after-school job while he attended McKinley High School. He eventually got a degree in ceramics from Alfred University in New York and also attended the Columbus College of Art and Design.

He said sculptural donut shapes are his specialty because no one else makes them, but if he had to pick one thing to make every day it would be a goblet.

“If I had free gas, free glass and free assistants, I’d make goblets all day,” Carter says.

Carter recently held a glassblowing demonstration at his studio and Chad Smith, a friend of Carter’s, described what happens to the glass as it is being formed.

“It is a process of heating and cooling to get the shape formed,” Smith says.

The pipe can then be put into the glory hole, a second furnace used to reheat a piece of glass. Different colors of glass can also be added. The colors, called frit, are made up of small, broken pieces of glass. Smith says this could be glass that had been already worked with, but did not form correctly.

The furnace is kept at about 2200 degrees. Some of the bigger pieces of glass can take up to an hour to an hour and a half to get the desired shape.

Once the glass is formed in the desired shape, it is put into the annealer. This will slowly cool the glass. It starts out at 1000 degrees and a computer gradually takes the temperature down which helps align the molecules in the glass.

Donovan Lloyd, a local craftsman and friend of Carter’s, is a sculptor who has been working with Carter for three years. Lloyd has dabbled in different areas of glassmaking and makes flowers, dogs and drinking glasses.

“It is hardest to control the heat,” Lloyd says. “The hot parts will expand and the coolest parts don’t move.”

This is why it is important to constantly move the glass piece.

Longo says because the glassmaking is a longer process abbreviated classes are offered.

“Glass takes time,” she said. “It is time consuming and people want things right away.”

It was only within the last three and a half years that Longo added glass ceramics to her store. She tries to keep adding new things to keep customers coming, but there are only so many pieces out there, she says.

“I like to invent pieces around the kiln,” she says. “We have to keep inventing things to keep the client base.”

In the future, Longo says she may be adding precious medal clay, or PMC, for jewelry.

The constant challenges that come with glass-making is what Carter says he enjoys the most about working with glass.

“The process has a lot of alchemy in it,” he says. “It is a fun and challenging material to work with.”

Only a few minor burns have come Carter’s way while working with the hot glass. He also had a chunk of glass once fly into his eye, which he fully recovered from; but the worst injuries he has will be the long-term effects to his tendons and joints.

Carter says he hopes to perfect his art with four or five more years of work.

“I still feel I have mountains to learn,” he says.

Kent State offers a bachelor’s degree in crafts with a specialty in glass. The School of Art recently hosted Australian glass artist Nick Mount as part of its Glass Artist in Residence Program.

Contact features correspondent Anna Riggenbach at [email protected].

More Information:

Imagine That Studio offers Warm Glass classes on Tuesday’s from 7-9 p.m. with different levels ranging from $15-$40 depending on what you create.

A Pottery Wheel class is also offered. Participants are asked to schedule ahead of time. This class is $30.

Store hours are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 1-9 p.m. and Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The store is located at 4056 Fishcreek Road in Stow. Call 330-688-2444 or e-mail imagine at [email protected] for more information.

KC Glass Studio offers two glass blowing classes. It is asked that participants call or e-mail for a class schedule.

The gallery is open every weekend in December from noon until 6 p.m. with demonstrations. The studio is located at 1925 Fremont Place in Canton. Call 330-454-8330 or e-mail [email protected] for more information.