For imaginative glass art in North Alabama, Orbix Hot Glass is the premier choice. This unique art studio even lets you experience making your own glass creation, like a blown glass ornament, with the guidance of a professional.
Tucked away in the trees of Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne, Alabama is as small, unassuming glass making studio. Cal and Christy Breed started Orbix Hot Glass in 2002, picking out a 26 acre plot bordering Little River Canyon National Preserve not far from where the couple first met. Orbix Hot Glass may be out of the way, but they’re not unknown; their work has been featured in magazines like Southern Living and they get visitors daily.
The studio creates refined handmade glassware like pitchers, tumblers, vases, bottles, wine carafes, and wall pieces. Orbix is one of the few places in Alabama where you can see glass artists at work. And the studio’s real treat is letting you make your own glass creation.
They offer a Tumbler Class where you’ll make your own small tumbler cup, a Sculpt Your Own Flower class, a Paperweight Class, and a Blow Your Own Ornament class. Their ornament session is the studio’s most popular activities and is the one I got to experience.
Blow Your Own Glass Ornament
Orbix Hot Glass offers their Blow Your Own Glass Ornament class on select Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year. Those ages 5 and up can participate in blowing their own glass ornament with the help of one of the studio’s glass artists.
Since it is their most popular event, reservations are required and the sessions can sometimes get busy. When I went, there were only a few people ahead of me and I didn’t have to wait long.
While you wait, you can watch others blow their ornaments and watch the studio’s glass artists make other creations. I watched mesmerized as the owner made glass flower petals. The melted glass looked so soft and malleable that I had to remind myself that it just came out of a 2000 degree furnace and was not something I could play with like those slime putty toys.
When it came my turn, I donned some protective glasses from their selection of fashionable eyewear; some sort of eyewear is required for your protection, whether it’s your own eye glasses or the studio’s funky lenses. Since I already wear glasses, I didn’t technically have to wear theirs, but the glasses all just looked like so much fun that I couldn’t resist.
The artist dipped a bulb of melting glass into shards of the colors I had chosen – pale rose first and then purple. He rolled the bulb into an orb, and then prepped my creation by blowing an air bubble into the pipe it was attached to. He then gave me the end of the pipe to blow into while he rolled the ornament into shape.
It’s Harder Than You Think
The glass blowing process is surprisingly challenging because you have to blow softly into the end while he continuously rolls the glass into shape, but it really doesn’t feel like you’re blowing at all. And all the while the artist is telling you to blow faster, slower, harder, softer, and to stop or start again as he shapes the glass in front of you.
When the ornament was fully shaped, the artist set it in a little nest, put a glob of melted glass over the hole, pulled up a tail of melted glass, and folded that over to make the loop for the ornament hook. All of this solidified in seconds. He could then grab it with his own hook and put it away into a kiln to keep it warm while everything finished fusing together.
The entire process of blowing the ornament doesn’t take but a few minutes. But your ornament does have to sit overnight in the kiln. You can either come back to pick it up or you can have it shipped to you.
Visit Orbix Hot Glass
Orbix Hot Glass is a must-visit when in North Alabama! Stop in to shop their collection or reserve a spot to blow your own glass ornament. The whole team at the studio is very friendly, and the artists are happy to talk you through everything that they’re doing and answer any questions.
The Gallery and Hot Shop are open every Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Hot Shop is closed during their lunch hour, typically from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Visit the studio’s website for more info on their classes:
- Blow Your Own Ornament is available by reservation on select Fridays and Saturdays. This event costs $39 per ornament, and shipping is extra.
- Their Tumbler Class is available by reservation on select dates from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and costs $170 per person.
- The 1-hour Sculpt Your Own Flower class is available by reservation for select dates and times and costs $85 per person.
- The Paperweight Class is available by reservation on select dates from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and costs $170 per person.
This article was written by Paige Watts of Paige Minds the Gap.