Gilmor Glass: Glassy Eyed in Millerton
What would turn someone from a pre-med student to a career in ceramics, and, eventually, hand-blown glass? “Fire,” says Jon Gilmor, owner of Millerton’s Gilmor Glass, with a glint in his eye. “I got to play with fire. It’s [also] working with my hands. It’s working with fire. It’s a challenge almost everyday, so it keeps it interesting.” Gilmor Glass produces one-of-a-kind stemware, bowls, vases, and objets d’art — all made by hand using mouth-blown and pressed-glass techniques, one at a time. Each takes hours to create.
For most, a glassblower’s components make for a fickle master: The furnace can go out at any time, as it did during our visit, the crucible (the bowl that holds 600 lbs of molten glass inside the furnace) can crack at the most inconvenient time, as one did at Gilmor right before the holidays. “You learn very quickly what to touch and what not to touch,” Jon’s wife, Jan Gilmor, says from experience. “It’s the nature of glass. It sometimes has a mind of its own. An idea may be good, but it’s too hard to make or not cost effective. It’s not an easy venture, furnaces run 24/7, hours can be spent on a piece that cracks without reason.”
Artistry and teamwork are strong components of the Gilmors’ approach to design. They, along with their three-person staff of design artists, produce provocative, unique glass. All the pieces are made by hand and every step in the glass-making process, from the melting of the sand and other raw materials to the design and execution of each piece, is done in the Gilmor studio. The couple works in conjunction: Jan will design and John will blow.
The touch of the artist’s hand is clearly recognizable in the subtle variations from piece to piece. Gilmor Glass’s teams have traveled extensively to learn how to best synthesize many techniques and styles of glassblowing; from Czech and Italian, to English, Irish, and Swedish (and good old homegrown North American bastardizations of each). They ultimately combine many methods of blowing glass to use the most efficient techniques possible. “We are fortunate enough to have come up in a time when the movement of artisan work was on an uphill trajectory. And as a consequence, you have to become more business-like and come up with a way of making the work more affordable,” Jan Gilmor says. “We started well off the beaten path in our old studio in Pine Plains, and that became a sort of craft collective and we sold predominantly to high-end wholesalers. But you have to be a business person and be practical.”
Glassblowing was once a secretive, tight-knit community, prone to beheading and exile. “The Italians have always been very secretive about the making-the-glass process,” Jan Gilmor explains. “It was intentionally done on an island (Murano) so that everything was contained. They would behead glass blowers for sharing their secrets.” Danger has always been part of handblown glass — a glass worker needs to wear natural fibers, for one thing. “They take longer to burn,” Gilmor says.
John and Jan Gilmor (pictured at right with glass designer Heather Blass) established Gilmor Glass in Pine Plains, New York in the late 1970s, and moved to their current space in Millerton about twenty years ago. The Gilmors’ shared an auspicious start — their first collaborative efforts toured America, London, Paris, and Tokyo in the Corning Museum’s prestigious “New Glass” exhibition. Subsequent designs by Gilmor Glass can be found in discriminating shops and international collections including those of a number of American presidents.
This winter Gilmor Glass is offering a series of workshops and continues to add to the studio, often going beyond glass, “We have trunk shows and pop-up shops,” Jan Gilmor says. Hammertown has been in the 100-year-old space since July, Annie Walwyn-Jones clothing holds court in a sunlit corner, and the Madder Hatter’s hand-crafted chapeaus are interspersed with Gilmor’s one-of-a-kind handblown pieces, functional glass (like stemware, tumblers, goblets and vases) mix with unique glass jewelry and glass objets d’art.— Dale Stewart
Semi-private classes, $100/hr./person, 2 hour minimum.
January 19th & 20th 9AM - 4PM - Love Fest – “Make all your honeys a heart!” - With the guidance of an experienced glassblower make a heart or hearts.
February 16th & 16th - Hop into Spring - Make egg shaped glass for Easter and Spring.
Length of time is variable, allow up to 40 minutes, $50/ heart with prepaid reservation, $58/heart walk-ins, ALL AGES WELCOME - children under 12 accompanied by an adult.
Experience Hot Glass 8-week class - with the guidance of a skilled glassblower learn the rudiments of glass technique over the course of 8 weeks. Lecture, demo as well as hands-on , 8 weeks - weekday evening (TBD), $750., limited to 8 students
Thereafter classes instruction will be offered on the third weekend of each month as well as an 8-week night class for those who want to go deeper into the process.
Two Main Street, P.O. Box 961
Millerton, NY 12546
Closed Tuesday & Wednesday (by appointment only)
Monday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday, 10:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
January 19th - Love Fest – “Make all your honeys a heart!” can witness the age-old techniques. Students will have a chance to get a hands-on experience with handblown glass.
February 16th - Hop into Spring - Make glass shaped Easter eggs.
Further class instruction will be offered on the third Saturday of each month as well as an 8-week night class for those who want to go deeper into the process.
Semi-private classes, $100/hr./person, 2 hour minimum.