West Virginia blows. Art, that is.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Once upon a time, West Virginia was the glass capital of the world.
“At one point there were 474 glassmakers in West Virginia,” says Chip Turner. “We’re the only one left.”
Whatever your politics, the possible loss of an art form is sad. “Glass was such a way of life in this community that it was a class in high school,” he says.
The good news is that, thanks to Appalachian Glass Studio sticking around, its community can honestly claim that it’s made glass continuously since 1902.
Appalachian Glass Studio sells more than 500 different traditionally-produced glass products, from novelty items to elegant stemware, innovative and traditional designs. Everything is hand-crafted and mouth-blown at its studio in West Virginia.
Artisans include Chip Turner, his father Matt Turner (who, for decades before it closed, worked at West Virginia Glass) and, upon occasion, visiting glass artists.
You can shop at their studio, of course, and also watch demonstrations.
During my recent visit, Turner demonstrated making a traditional Appalachian friendship ball and a witch’s ball. “Both of these items have history,” he says. “Friendship balls are [baseball-sized] multi-colored globes that were passed to friends. The theory was that the ball had no beginning and no end, and the circle of giving meant the ball would eventually would return to the giver. The witch’s ball history goes back to New England more than 300 years. Early settlers would hang a witch’s ball in the window or corner of a door to ward off the witch’s spell. The ball could also be used as a stopper on a milk jug. The idea was to keep the witch’s spell from souring the milk. The strings inside the globe would catch the spell.”
Buy a treasure from Appalachian glass and help the tradition of West Virginian glass linger happily ever after.
Appalachian Glass Studio
499 US Highway 33 East
Weston, WV 26452
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
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