Artist and Turner Glass Works owner Josh Turner is at ease behind his protective eyewear, methodically turning a glass pipette as it heats on a fiery table torch in his new gallery. Visitors peek in to see the show.
“Come on in and take a look,” Turner invites, not missing a twist as foot traffic comes in and out of the shop.
He shaped, cut and molded a blue glass cylinder into a glass goblet in less than an hour and managed polite conversation.
Turner Glass Studio has opened its doors at 3226 Harborview Drive this week as the first lampworking studio in Gig Harbor, allowing an up-close look at glass work in progress.
The gallery will carry works from Turner and other Northwest artists, and it will have a retail section for beads, accessories and other glass material.
The studio officially will open Saturday for the downtown Art Walk. There will be glass-blowing demonstrations from 1 to 7 p.m.
Turner has lived both in the Puget Sound region and in the Spokane while he was in high school, and he learned glass blowing after he took a class at the Spokane Art School. His teacher, glass artist William Hagy, became a mentor and friend.
“I worked for Hagy at his studio and was intrigued with how he was able to take a piece of glass and create a precise, thin goblet,” Turner said. “I became his apprentice four years as a lamp worker for the Northwest Glass Society.”
The lamp, or table torch, is used for smaller art pieces, such as the glassware and pendants Turner creates.
Turner also gained experience in a hot shop — the big furnace with a glory hole used for creating bigger, colorful glass platters by using a larger blow pipe.
The artist has been working in the retail industry, completing custom art pieces for clients as he searched for a location to open in Gig Harbor.
“The space across from Skansie Park, that was too good to pass up,” Turner said. “I wanted to go for it and be an artist full-time.”
A brown-and-green glass bonsai tree adorns a glass display shelf, one of the newer creations Turner will make to sell. Abstract-shaped glasswork pendants illuminate with the addition of dichro. He also creates glass beads and color-swirled paper weights, decorative platter and stemware.
Turner enjoys working with glass.
“Sometimes I create a series of items, other times the glass takes over and evolves in its own piece,” he said.
The art pieces range from $10 for a pendant to $270 for larger platters. Classes will be offered at the gallery and focus on basic to advanced lamp work, bead making, fused glass and other lessons. Other area artists will help teach classes, Turner said.
The gallery will feature other artists, such as Hagy. Turner also hopes to entice Gig Harbor resident Jeni Woock out of retirement and show some pieces.
Turner and Woock meet by chance, and he learned she had been a glass blower for 25 years. Woock herad about Glass Works and asked Turner to come to her home. Sitting unused were torches, glass supplies, a kiln — everything a new glass-blowing artist would need to start a gallery. They worked out a mutual settlement for the items.
“Meeting her was a huge blessing,” Turner said. “She was so generous.”
The materials are helping Turner get his gallery off the ground as an additional source of supplies he had on his own.
Woock is tickled someone could put it all to good use, Turner said.
Turner now calls her his “Fairy Glass Mother,” and he’s told Woock she can use the equipment and display her art any time.
The chance meeting, equipment and encouragement gave Turner a confidence boost.
“I feel it all came together, and I was meant to open here in the harbor,” he said.
The gallery has been unofficially open for the past few weeks, delayed in part from the weather and some construction, but that hasn’t stopped interested customers. Art enthusiasts already are asking about upcoming lessons.
Don Hanson came in with Elle Hebberstad of Minnesota to view Turner in action.
“This is great to have in the harbor,” Hanson said. “There’s nothing like it, unless you go to Tacoma.
“Glass blowing is an upscale art form,” he said. “I saw the sign and have been waiting for a chance to come in and watch.”
Turner’s gallery will be one of the new stops on the first Saturday art walks. He’ll participate in Ladies Night Out and plans to offer opportunities around the holidays to make hand-crafted ornaments.
Eventually, the gallery owner would like a bigger space for a hot spot and have the option for creating the larger art on site.