The glass blower carefully placed the stick with the hot glob of glass perched on the end into the blazing oven and twirled it carefully, carefully trying to get it to just the right size, consistency, and temperature. Those of us watching, including two small blonde little girls, waited quietly to see what would emerge from the oven.
We were all in a small audience seated on wooden benches in the open air Hot Shop of the Coastal Arts Center in Orange Beach where glass blowers not only create amazing works of art but cheerfully demonstrate their amazing abilities to anyone who would like to watch.
I was at the Coastal Arts Center for the morning to check out this interesting place. Located right on Wolf Bay which provides an amazingly scenic venue, the Center is actually located in what was the city’s first hotel. Built in 1923, the hotel featured 11 bedrooms and one half bath upstairs (imagine sharing that bathroom!) while the family that owned the hotel lived downstairs. With no roads in the area, guests accessed the charming hotel via boat on the canal. In the late 1940’s, Canal Road was completed and provided easier access.
The hotel was taken over by the Friends of the Arts nonprofit group and became an Orange Beach city facility in 2013. The city still works with the Friends of the Arts to make the center an interesting place for patrons of the arts. “The Mission of the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach is to enrich the experience of our community and the experience of our visitors through educational and interactive experiences and the exhibition of fine arts. The Center cherishes its place in the rich history of our region while bringing new and innovative ideas in the arts all in a warm and welcoming environment.”
It was a beautiful summer day and the perfect time to visit the center.
The Hot Shop is where Adam Burges, the glass artist in residence, demonstrates his glass blowing expertise. Adam is a recent sculpture graduate from the University of South Alabama and drawing and painting on glass allows him to personalize his works of art with his own original imagery. Established in 2009, the Hot Shop is the only public access glass studio in Alabama. In addition to demonstrations, they offer glass blowing lessons, field trips, and public art exhibitions.
I got a short video of Adam working just to give you an idea of what glass blowing is like. It was too noisy to pick up any audio.
After spending a sufficient amount of time being amazed by the glass blowing, I headed to the Clay Studio for a demonstration by Abby Leach, a Birmingham native who graduated from the University of Montevallo with a degree in Art, mainly concentrating on clay and sculpture. Abby offers classes in hand building with clay, wheel throwing, and mold making as well as field trips and parties.
I got some video of Abby working to show just how much work and talent goes into making pottery.
In the main building is an extensive gallery of work for sale by local and regional artists. All artwork is available for purchase.
Stroll through the rooms full of art and you will end up on the back screened-in porch which leads to the lovely back yard on the bay.
What a great place for a wedding or outdoor event, which they do indeed offer!
The next time you are in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, take a morning or afternoon to stop by the Coastal Arts Center. Take a class, spend some time watching the artists at work, or pick up a piece of original art to take home. It’s a great way to spend a little time away from the beach – and take home a truly unique souvenir!