By Dan Shryock
The work space is open and unadorned. There are artisan glassblowers at work but your focus is drawn to the molten hot-red furnace that is the centerpiece of all that takes place at The Glass Forge.
You are welcome here. You have an open invitation to look around, ask questions, and stay as long as you like. The Glass Forge is a business but Lee Wassink and his co-workers will treat you as guests.
“We invite people to come in and look around,” Lee says. “They meander out to the floor and we start explaining different things about glass. They can stay and watch for as long as they want. Sometimes we get on a first-name basis with our visitors while we talk about the process we’re doing at the time.”
The Glass Forge | 501 SW G Street | Grants Pass | 541-955-0815
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Lee and co-founder Nathan Sheafor established The Glass Forge in 1998 on G Street in downtown Grants Pass. The workshop primarily produces pieces for wholesale clients yet they still find time to create works of art on display in the shop gallery.
“Our gallery space has been open as long as we’ve been here and it got people curious about what we do,” Lee says. “Grants Pass has been very good to us and people have been open and welcoming.”
Anyone visiting The Glass Forge should set aside some time to browse the gallery for objects small and large. The real fun, however, is in front of the furnace where you watch and talk with the glassblowers. If you want to take a more hands-on approach, Lee says you can sign up and blow your own glass.
“We have a puff-up ‘make your own’ program,” he says. “We’re happy when people call ahead because there are times when we’re pretty busy. Most of the time we can handle walk-ins. They stand behind the bench and do all the blowing while we do all the work. They usually make an ornament or a float.”
For many visitors, it’s the first time they’ve actually witnessed an art form that dates back to the ancient Romans more than 3,000 years ago. “People say ‘I’ve seen this on television’ but it’s nothing like seeing it in person,” Lee says.
Lee finds another reward in showing people his art.
“I get to meet the people who are buying my work. I get to know they appreciate it, that my glass items are getting a good home. There’s a connection there,” he says. “When you come to our studio, you will talk with the people who make your art.”
Here's a live video cam inside The Glass Forge.
Dan Shryock is an Oregon-based journalist and travel writer. When he's not visiting Southern Oregon or sampling local wines, he can be found cycling throughout the state.