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Blow your own glass creation at the beach

Colors available to add to glass pieces on display at The Hot Shop of Coastal Art Center in Orange Beach. Photos by Michelle Rolls-Thomas.
Colors available to add to glass pieces on display at The Hot Shop of Coastal Art Center in Orange Beach. Photos by Michelle Rolls-Thomas.

By Lori Quiller

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The phrase “blowing glass” may sound strange, but it’s precisely what Orange Beach glass artists Adam Burges and Kerry Parks do to create spellbinding works of art with swirls of rich, vibrant colors.

As resident artists for The Hot Shop, Alabama’s only public-access hot glass studio located in the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach, Burges and Parks work together to create the stunning creations. So, what’s their secret?

“I’ve had people say that it’s like painting on a 3D canvas. That’s true, but with glass, the canvas is a little less forgiving,” Burges says with a laugh.

Kerry Parks and Adam Burges, resident artists, instruct a class at The Hot Shop. Photo by Michelle Rolls-Thomas.
Kerry Parks and Adam Burges, resident artists, instruct a class at The Hot Shop. Photo by Michelle Rolls-Thomas.

According to Burges, who has been the resident glass artist with The Hot Shop since 2012, the key to working with glass is not only being able to “see” in your mind what you want the glass to do, but to be patient enough with the often temperamental substance to make it yield to your vision.

Burges was studying for his fine arts degree at the University of South Alabama, specializing in sculpture, until USA began a glass program that limited the courses available in sculpting. Because the glasswork would be considered three dimensional, the glass courses would be applied toward his degree, so Burges decided to give it a try — and he never looked back. In fact, Burges furthered his training for a time in Murano, Italy, where families perfected the art of glassblowing for generations.

“I love working with glass,” Burges explains. “There’s just something about it that draws me in. It’s an experience that I truly enjoy sharing with others, so that’s why I enjoy teaching it as well.”

What makes The Hot Shop special is not only the artists’ dedication to the fine art of glasswork, but also their camaraderie with patrons who visit the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach either to watch projects being made or to take part in a class.

We teach about 90 percent of the time because we want our visitors to get involved and have fun playing with the glass and make something of their own…

“We teach about 90 percent of the time because we want our visitors to get involved and have fun playing with the glass and make something of their own,” Burges said. “It’s really all about having a unique experience you can’t do anywhere else in Alabama. Classes are popular and book quickly with families vacationing in the area looking for something interesting to do.”

Burges said the beginner Make Your Own Glass Class is the perfect introduction to learn how to blow glass and make something of your own. The hands-on class includes glass, tools, personal instruction and the opportunity to make a choice of beginner glass creations. A favorite for children, the Make Your Own Glass Class does require that you leave your artwork at the facility overnight to cool, but you can pick it up the next day. Burges also offers one-on-one classes for more adventurous patrons.

“We love having kids in the studio!” he says. “It’s so much fun watching their faces when we’re working with the glass. Their faces say it all. We feel the same way!”

The Hot Shop offers classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and the gallery is open on Saturdays. Because classes book quickly, advance reservations are recommended. Call (251) 981-2787or visit www.coastalartscenter.com.