The sounds of an electronic Jazz-funk jam muffled by the exhaust vents set the tone as John Hudnut, Frisco, Colorado’s resident glass artist demonstrates his technique to the group of entranced onlookers who’ve gathered this evening. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, John opens up the doors of the GatherHouse Glass Studio and holds a free glass blowing demonstration for anyone who wanders in; some of whom are tourists, many of whom are John’s daily apprentices. John’s studio is set up to make the most comfortable atmosphere possible for those who want to learn.
“I run my appliances at a little lower temperature, I control the noise with the blowers out side; so we can remember our pleasantries and communicate and learn in an environment that isn’t scary. Because I learned in a few places that were… (he laughs) Okay, SCARY.”
He involves whoever is present in whatever capacity they’re capable of; whether it’s a regular student of John’s, a grandmother, or a little boy. First timers might get to help hold the heat shield or even heat the liquid glass in the “glory hole.” As a result, John has seen an entire local glass blowing community develop out of his shop.
John grew up in Northern California, but got his start glass blowing in 1990 at the University of Philadelphia. “It was my friend that said, ‘John, take this elective.’ It was highly sought after, the instructor was barely there, but there was this one guy there, Joey Pagano, and that’s right, he had studied in Venice. He was talented, so we all showed up at his booth spot and watched him and learned. In 1990 the best glasswork in the states came out of the evolution of team blowing. Where as the guys in Ohio in the 60’s, built small studios like this and they worked alone. You see how I work, on a team, Always! A team is better: someone muscles, someone blows, someone shields, someone shapes, it’s great!”
John leads a young girl to the furnace to show her up-close as he gathers a glob of molten hot glass, the consistency of honey, on the end of a long metal rod called a blowpipe. He shapes the ball and passes the pipe to another onlooker to “flash.” The apprentice places the pipe on the yoke and positions the ball of glass in the opening of the glory hole to re-soften it again for more shaping.
“Easy now,” John says, “like a ball of honey on the end of a spoon”
“Gabby, take the bench.” He passes me the glass
“Ok, now pull a pony…or a mermaid…or a snail…” John conducts the room like a maestro; constantly directing everyone’s movements.
Whether the ball of glass becomes a vase, pitcher, champagne flute, or bowl, the process is jaw dropping. Of course it’s not all actually as easy as John and his team make it look. It takes years of practice to hone such skills, but even a first timer can walk into John’s shop and leave feeling like they’ve made great progress.
When John’s not working in his shop, he lives the regular life of a Summit County local. “I do all the things you think I do. I cross country ski, I winter mountaineer, I mountain bike, I rock climb, I hike, I’m raising a daughter, I got a great wife and a house to take care of, just all the wonderful stuff. A lot of outdoors. At the same time I usually find myself in a metropolis once or twice a year, drinking in that inspiration from the other stuff I see out there. I get both sides. I learned to do this in Paris after all.”
Next time you’re in the Rocky Mountains for a day or skiing at Breck or Copper, make sure you stop in for a free glass blowing demo at the GatherHouse in Frisco. John’s a great teacher, and you won’t find a better place to take your first lesson, get back into glass, or just hang out on a Tuesday evening.
Check out John’s work at Gatherhouse.com or go to his shop at:
110 2nd Ave, Box 673, Frisco, CO 80443