One cold and dark Thursday evening in Frisco, near the corner of Second and Main, a swirl of wind dishevels the curls of a tourist from Utah. Her husband, having nearly no hair, shivers. On Second, they spy an inviting storefront: GatherHouse, where an assortment of colorful and delicate handmade glass dinnerware, vases, and sculptures are illuminated in a window. But more to the point, a glassblowing studio implies a furnace blazing at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the melting point of glass. That means warmth, so they step inside.
Shopkeeper John Hudnut sets down his beer and shakes their hands.
“Please come here,” he beckons. “Grab this hot pipe. Don’t touch where it’s red.”
And before the couple can manage a “Well, I don’t know!” they’re blowing lava-hot glass into art. Of course the Utahns love it; of course they will buy the glass cup they helped make. Because it’s not just a cup: it’s a conversation piece, a story for friends, about an unexpected turn of events on a night spent wandering around in Frisco, Colorado.
Hudnut wears a Star Wars belt buckle, sports a shaved head, and affects the goofy demeanor a 5-year-old boy. Ask him about himself, and he’ll provide answers, a few of which may even address the question you asked. “In Tiburon,” he’ll say, “My brother’n me’d abseil down erratics with just a swami belt and a hemp rope.” Or: “In Paris, I was blowing in these hot shops with these gypsy-cigarette-smoking gaffers who, if they didn’t like some bagarre—that was their word, bagarre!—they’d chase ’im down with a hot punty.” Or even: “We got a job carving Pierre Cardin toilet seats in Corning, New York. Well, they was having some trouble with their two-liter bottle and the glug-glug. We got it reshaped so there weren’t no glug-glug.”
Hudnut’s operation in Summit, now nearly 20 years old, thrives on volunteers, of which he has at least a dozen. Sure, volunteers do annoying things: they swill Abita, roast pork in the glass furnace, gut trout in the bathroom, and shatter glass all over the shop. Hudnut doesn’t mind. “If I blow all the glass myself, it ends up being, like, perfect!” he says, spitting out “perfect” as though it were a swear word. “I’d rather have the hot mess of art and humanity.”
At the moment he’s referring particularly to Jared Clauer, a local kid who was just in fifth grade when he stepped into Hudnut’s shop for the first time. “Watch him now, six years later,” Hudnut raves. “He’s in three-dimensional time and space, trying not to drip on the sill!”
It’s true. A teenage Clauer is standing at the glory hole right now. As smoothly as you’d roll an apple in hot caramel, he dips a pipe into molten glass, then fashions it into a bubble, twirls it around like a hippie swinging a koi, reheats it with an industrial blowtorch straight out of Tropic Thunder, and plops it—no biggie—into an annealer that’s as hot as the surface of Venus. “I’m proud of that kid,” Hudnut gushes, switching from colloquial to conventional English. “Jared built his own glassblowing shop in his mother’s backyard. Selling glass jewelry helped him buy a car.”
Soon, it gets late. Hudnut hugs Clauer goodnight. Clauer will be back two days later, and on most every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons, which is when the furnace is firing and beckoning to passersby—maybe even you.
Glassblowing demonstrations every Tue., Thu., Sat. & Sun., 2–7 p.m.; three-hour entry-level classes by appointment, $145.
110 Second Ave., Frisco