Mind-Blown: Wyoming’s First Glass Blowing Studio Opens in Casper, Grand Opening Friday
When Sam and Alicia Watt, owners of Platte Hemp Company, decided that they wanted to start a glass blowing company - one that would not only create works of art, but that would also teach others the art of glass blowing - they knew just the guy to call.
He goes by RTV Glass, but his friends (and students) call him 'Reg the Veg.' He's been a glass blowing artist, and teacher, for many years. And when Sam and Alicia called him to ask if he'd be interested in being their artist-for-hire for the newly created PH Glass Studios, he didn't hesitate.
"We own Platte Hemp Company, and over the course of the last couple years, we've been around the U.S. going to different trade shows, and we've met a lot of glass artists," Alicia Watt said. "And we've taken a big interest into how it works. And there's nothing in Wyoming that offers anything of this medium."
Alicia stated that she and Sam took a class in Colorado Springs and almost immediately agreed that they should bring something like it to Wyoming.
"We need this in Casper," Alicia remembered saying. "We need this outlet for this medium so people can learn how to do it. It's just a medium and a skill that you really need a lot of setup for, with ventilation, the torches, equipment, kiln, etc. And it's really hard to do by yourself. So we just wanted to bring this to Casper and have it available for people to learn, to just build the art community here."
Reg the Veg has been working with glass for many years and, he said, it's one of his favorite mediums to work in. He said he fell in love with it, for a variety of reasons.
"I think it has partly to do with the fact that glass is impermanent," he stated. "It's a breakable medium. It's always sad when glass breaks but, when it doesn't break, it's even cooler. The thing that drew me to glass mostly is that there's always a treasure left after you're done. When you come back the next day, open the kiln after it's cooled down, there's always something awesome. It's like Christmas every day."
And now, Reg and Sam and Alicia want to share Christmas with Casper.
"I've always enjoyed teaching other people, whether it was glass or anything else," Reg stated. "But it just made sense, after doing glass for so long, that this is something that people are interested in. And I definitely think there's a huge community of untapped possibility here in Wyoming. I feel like the underground art scene here is just huge. People don't even know."
But Sam and Alicia know, which is why they started the company and brought Reg the Veg aboard.
"So, how it's set up is Reg is the Lwocal Glassblower," Sam stated. "We've partnered with him and he does all the work, so to speak. He does all the classroom training. He's the instructor and we've got the building, which we're calling PH Glass Studios. And we buy all the equipment for students. So it's kind of a win-win for everybody."
The biggest winners, however, will be the students.
Once you get the hang of it, glass blowing isn't hard, per say. But it does require concentration and repetition. It also requires a good teacher. Like Reg.
"So, you get your raw materials," Reg started. "Glass comes in rods and tubes of varying sizes. And then you have a torch that sits on your bench or the tabletop working surface. And you stand behind your torch and manipulate it in the flame."
Reg said that was a pretty basic description, but it was an apt one. Glass blowing, like painting or drawing or sculpting, is an art. And, like every other form of art, once you get the basics down, you're free to explore and create pieces that speak to you.
Artists can make a myriad of different items, from Christmas ornaments to pendants, marbles, statues, and so much more. This brand new world is open to anyone who wants to learn, and this art form is all at the tips of their fingers.
"The sky's the limit on what you can do," Sam stated. "It all falls back to you. The industry is challenging to the artist and there's always more you can learn. That's why Alicia and I like Reg; he's constantly saying that he's always wanting to learn and to grow in his knowledge, and that's pretty important to me."
It's important to Reg, too. He enjoys the challenge of new projects and he's constantly evolving as an artist and as a teacher.
"This weekend, we've got the Booze and Bacon Festival," Reg stated. "So they decided I should make some bacon for the festival, so I made some glass bacon last night."
PH Glass Studios has begun offering individual and group classes and it's an experience that has to be seen (and felt) to be believed.
"The first class features me going through a bunch of safety and shop rules so people understand how to work the glass shop itself," Reg stated. "But once that's over, I try to get them the torch for the remainder of the time, so they can feel the glass and try to develop that sense of what's going on. Because as much as I can tell them, there's some things about glass that I can't convey. You just have to get in there and experience it and see what happens."
Reg said that safety is his number-one priority but, following that, he said he wants to give students a basic understanding of how glass works."
With these classes, there's no set times and dates. And that's by design. Reg said that he wants students, and even other artists, to come in when the mood strikes, or when they have some time to kill.
"The way scheduling works is, I kind of want to leave it open," he said. "So if somebody has free time on a Tuesday evening from 3-7, they can schedule a class at their convenience, as long as we're open. I've been doing solo classes at the moment so I can give people the most attention, but I will have an apprentice here soon, so I can be teaching multiple people at a time."
Sam also stated that the company is currently in the midst of talking with some pretty big-name glass blowing artists about coming to Casper and putting on a show/workshop from time to time.
"We're very fortunate that they have reached out to us, and we're just on Cloud 9 that this is all coming together," Sam offered. "It's been a dream of Alicia's and, as I like to say, 'happy wife, happy life.'
Likewise, Happy artists, happy...something that rhymes with artists. The point is, this is just the latest artform to present itself in Casper and it's one that will catch on very quickly. It's a very unique experience and it's one that will appeal to people of all ages.
"The idea was to have the opportunity for people to actually learn this stuff," Alicia said. "I've wanted to learn this for 20 years and it was never even seen in the state I was in. It's just huge for artists to be able to get together. I know there's a lot of women artists that are loking forward to glass blowing. It's just empowering. And it's kind of scary, but this is a safe way to learn that, to control it, and to do this amazing art. It's really just an opportunity for everyone. I'm excited for people to have it, young to old; to just develop a skill, because it's not something that's common and it's really beneficial and exciting."
Sam said that glass blowing is beneficial to veterans, as well, which is why they chose Veterans Day to host their grand opening.
"I'm a veteran," Sam revealed. "And we've had one student already that is a retired veteran. And to see those guys come out and explore that side, to help them maintain their life - it's pretty impactful. Anything and everything about the military, you've got my heart."
Sam said that the art of glass blowing, for him, is extremely soothing and meditative. As Wyoming's first, and so far only, glass blowing studio, PH Glass Studios offers veterans a chance to get outside of their heads a little bit; to focus on working with their hands and creating something that they can keep for the rest of their lives.
PH Glass Studios is holding their grand opening on Friday, November 11 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Skull Tree Brewing and the Bourgeois Pig will be on-hand offering up beverages, and there will be door prizes and live demos, as well as pendants and art work for sale.
This is the newest art form to hit Casper and it's going to kick some glass.
"I like to see how glass is manipulated," Reg the Veg stated. "And I always see something new. All the time, I'm like 'How did they do that?' Even though I have 10 years of experience blowing glass, I still get blown away all the time."
Photos from the studio, and examples of the work that it put out, can be seen below: