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By Allyson Ansusinha News 28 comment16/November Chatting With Lexington Glassworks
Last year for the very first Artisan Series Honey Project, we worked with John Almaguer, a local glassblower out of Asheville, NC. This year for the second edition we had the privilege of working with Billy and Geoff of Lexington Glassworks, also of Asheville, NC. I recently visited Lexington Glassworks and watched as they crafted the beautiful jars that would hold our Wildflower Honey. Afterwards I interviewed the dynamic duo. Check out what they had to say about Asheville, art and Echoview below.
Allyson: Why did you choose to open your gallery in this community?
Jeff: I think both Billy and myself were introduced to Asheville after visiting the Penland School of Crafts, which is about 45 minutes northeast from here. A well-renowned craft school - people travel there from all over the world. After going to Penland, I had the opportunity to come down to Asheville and check it out, hang out with some artist friends that I had met up there, and I instantly fell in love with the community of makers in Asheville.
Billy: Yeah, we thought Asheville would be a perfect place to open a business like this, where we invite the public to watch, witness, and experience art being made. As opposed to deep down in the River Arts District-- we thought downtown Asheville would be really a great place for people to experience arts.
Jeff: But Asheville has a community of makers that is really conducive to being creative. As a young artist, that's really appealing to come here and join the community and so I embraced it. As well as the scenery here is absolutely beautiful [chuckles]. Who wouldn't?
Allyson: How has Asheville influenced you creatively, and what do you love about Asheville?
Billy: Asheville, as a whole, is just a great place to live. It's very community-oriented, very green-friendly, environmentally-friendly place. So it was kind of a no-brainer when we were like, "Oh, we want to move there and start a company." Then quickly we realized how much we were influenced by the area, the whole Appalachian culture. I grew up in Ohio, Jeff grew up in Virginia, so we weren't really experienced to the whole Western North Carolina. It was just weeks at a time at Penland, and then finally moving here the culture is really, really deep-rooted in the Appalachian culture so we find it appearing in our work more often than not. A lot of our classic vessel lines, some of them are called the Appalachia series, because we see them as very reminiscent of the past--all of the kinds of glass that's been originated here throughout the years.
Allyson: How did you get interested in glassblowing? How long have you been blowing glass, and why do you love it?
Jeff: I got interested in glassblowing at a young age. I got to see people making glass and I instantly fell in love with the process. Now I've been working with glass for the past 12, 13 years and it's really exciting. Every day stepping into our glassblowing studio and trying to do things and learning and letting the material shape [and] create the pieces that we make using furnaces and fire - the molten process of making glass. It's just as much inspiration for me as any other part of the process.
Billy: Well, myself and Jeff, we met in college. So that's where we really started blowing glass. So at Alfred University, we were exposed to what we call furnace working or off-hand glassblowing. So we were fortunate enough to attend a university that has a world-renowned glassblowing program. And from there your class starts with about 30 kids and quickly dwindles down to about 15 or 20, because you're either going to love it or you're going to hate it. The heat is really intense, the process is really intense, but both myself and Jeff, we were drawn to that process and quickly we found ourselves spending all of our time working on glass, studying glass, and kind of perfecting technique. Then ten years later, we find ourselves in Asheville, owning the Lexington Glassworks.
Billy: Glassblowing is really a team sport. You can't blow glass by yourself. So it really takes a team of people to create all the work that we create.
Allyson: How did you first hear about Echoview? Or did you already know what they do/stand for? And how did that impact your decision to work with them?
Billy: We were pre-exposed to Echoview before starting this project. Quickly we understood that their mission statement is [to support] sustainable agriculture, sustainable products, and about bringing [products] back to American-made, keeping things within the States, and supporting the local community that make the textiles, that produce the honey, that do all of these things that are just in our backyards. Our mission statement too is kind of bringing everything back and making it handmade in America. Because 100 years ago, that's just the way things were. And we see the big movement really starting [now] and Echoview being a big part of that movement.
Jeff: Yeah, we see both of our interests in handmade, local, and sustainable production. That's how the Lexington Glassworks and Echoview align. Our mission statements are aligned. It is a perfect match. We believe in American-made products and being sustainable and so does Echoview, and Echoview is a part of the community of makers and believes in the community and supports the community.
Allyson: What inspired you to create this year's Echoview honey jar? What was your design inspiration? How does the design relate to honey? To Echoview?
Billy: So when Echoview approached us, the designs were open-ended. They just asked for a few different designs. In our head you're thinking honey, that golden, rich, amber color. We wanted to showcase that. We didn't want to use any color in the glass. We just wanted to use clear glass. Then we thought a little element of design which would be pure silver leafing on the bottom as kind of an almost stylized mountain range, [to bring] it back to Western North Carolina. We wanted to add some element of the Blue Ridge Mountains because those are so iconic of the area. Then just the simple shape…
Jeff: Yeah, the vessel was really inspired by a traditional honey jar - a traditional vessel for holding honey. So we wanted to stick to that kind of classic form. Also, Molten glass is a lot like honey, it's fluidity. The drips of the molten glass mimic the drips of honey coming off a ladle/spoon.
Billy: The stipulations, they get a little tougher when they started talking about fluid ounces. Because to a glass blower, we're artists.
Jeff: We’re really not used to working in these kind of specifications.
Billy: No. So, quickly we had to start dialing it back and figuring out the right measurements. But once we got the measurements dialed in, the product we're really happy with. We haven't seen it with the honey in there yet, but we're excited to see it with that honey in it.
Allyson: Yeah, it’s beautiful. What does being Made in America mean to you?
Billy: Made in America, it's kind of an exciting movement right now. Because Made in America, it seems like it's taking on a younger generation. We're part of that generation where everybody's in their early 30s, really bringing everything back to handmade shoes, handmade belts, handmade home goods. Our whole business is based around American-made. You know there are some products we need to buy for the glass industry that aren't made in the States, but hopefully one day, they will be. We like to spend our dollars in Asheville. We like to support everything in Asheville, from our printing to our shipping - you name it - because we think it's important to keep your money going through the economy that you're involved in.
Jeff: Well, I think it's really important that there's an understanding and appreciation that at Echoview, all the products are handmade in America, and all of our products are handmade in our shop, right here where people can see it, where people can interact with artist, and feel the heat off our furnaces, and I think it's one of the best, [most] important things just looking back in production in this area. We're trying to bring that back. And us, and Echoview, and all the other artists and makers in the area, are working their hardest to show that Western North Carolina produces some of the highest quality products in the country, if not the world.
Billy: And slowly you can see people responding to it. People are excited to support things locally made - Made in America - because they can build that relationship between the products and the company, instead of buying something off-the-shelf where you have no idea where it's made, no idea who, what is making it. We see it every day within our studio gallery that people really appreciate that understanding, and just that familiarity. You're talking with someone that takes pride in making that product.
To order your Artisan Series Honey 2017, visit here.