Ron Hinkle is an accomplished master glass artist who embodies great passion and appreciation for glass and the history of glass making.
Born and reared in Buckhannon, West Virginia; Ron Hinkle developed a love of glass at the tender age of 12. Taking the glass tubing from his chemistry set, Ron learned to bend and stretch the glass over the burners of his mother's kitchen stove. He became fascinated by the movement, the flow, and the possibilities of glass.
During the summer before his senior year at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, Ron learned the glass factories in nearby Weston were looking for summer help. He began work at Louie Glass, and after just one summer, he was completely awestruck by the magic of glass and had an insatiable hunger to learn more about this craft. He returned to Louie Glass after graduation in 1974 and would spend the next 20 years learning from the masters while developing his own style and technique.
Within the first few years at Louie Glass, Ron worked independently during his breaks, at lunch, after work, and on weekends to learn the art of glass blowing. He was soon assigned to a glass blowing position, where he remained for the next 14 years.
During this time, Ron observed his co-workers crafting paperweights with colorful glass chips to form flowers and intricate designs encased within the molten glass. He was consumed with achieving this skill and growing his repertoire. Within a year, Ron's paperweights were in such demand among the employees that they would purchase them while Ron was still forming the glass. His co-workers would claim a paperweight before it was even cooled. Soon he was crafting paperweights during every spare moment and even secured an apprentice to assist him. He quickly realized that in order to meet the growing demand of the employees, other individuals, and an expanding list of gift shops was going to require even more time.
Ron began investigating the possibility of starting his own glass studio. He sought the advice of Jennings Bonnell, formerly of Big Pine Key Glass Works Studio in the Florida Keys, who assured him that his talents were adequate and the market for fine handmade art glass was as open and endless as the number of items the mind could create. Ron and Jennings visited accomplished glass artists including Roberto Moretti, Harvey Littleton, John Littleton, Gary Beacham, and Walter Evans. Ron also sought input from Vandermark & Merritt of Three Bridges, New Jersey; Robert Hammond of Scott Depot, West Virginia; Charlie Gibson of Milton, West Virginia; Charles Lotton, Fred Wilkerson, Sr., Fred Wilkerson Jr., Leon Applebaum of New York; and Jim Davis of Pennsboro, West Virginia among many others. He learned about the processes involved in their individual creations, studio construction, and product marketing.
With a dream in his left hand and faith in his right, Ron set out to build his own glass studio. With literally no money to invest, it took him four years to personally build the tank, furnace, and studio. Ron and his father, Paul Eugene Hinkle, harvested logs from their property and traded part of the logs to have the lumber sawed for construction. Ron purchased second-hand tools and machinery and even collected tools that had been discarded, thrown away to repair and return them to service in his own studio.
In mid-1993, Ron left Louie Glass to officially opened Hinkle's Dying Art Glassworks on January 1, 1994. He began by marketing his work exclusively through wholesale, particularly to Princess House Consultants, with which he became acquainted through Louie Glass. It didn’t take long before orders started pouring in from many states and because of the quality of his work; word of mouth became his best marketing tool.
In the beginning, Hinkle's Dying Art Glassworks grew 30% for the first 4 consecutive years. Ron's art glass is now available in more than 37 states and occasionally sold internationally. In December 2005, his business became known as Ron Hinkle Glass.
Ron's work has been featured numerous times on both the West Virginia Governor's Tree and the Christmas Pageant of Peace trees at the White House in Washington, D.C. For the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA, Ron crafted thousands of glass peaches for distribution to dignitaries and guests. He has regularly demonstrated his craft at the Mountain State Arts & Craft Fair at Ripley, WV and has been featured in Wild and Wonderful WV magazine, WV Living, Golden Seal, Uniquely NCWV, Crafts Report, USA Today, Lifestyle Crafts Buyers Guide and All About Glass magazine. In the Archeological Complex at Moundsville WV a vast glass flower garden graces its gallery. Ron designed and installed this flower garden several years earlier and it was also displayed in the Grand Hall of the Culture Center of the WV State Capitol Complex. The title of the installation is While You Were Sleeping.
The product line at Ron Hinkle Glass includes original designer vases, rondels, bowls, stemware, table lamps, and a series of novelty figurines including animals, fruit and flowers. He is currently developing a line of handcrafted custom lamp shades for both chandelier and sconce applications.
Ron has in the past partnered with Fenton Glass USA in developing and creating for Fenton a limited edition Christmas ornament using Burmese Glass supplied by the Fenton Factory in Williamstown, West Virginia.
In the May 9th 2003 Edition of the New York Times Journeys Section the article entitled Thirty-six Hours in Morgantown, West Virginia stated, “The highlight of the shops is the Gallery at Seneca Center, a co-operative that features the work of artists like Ron Hinkle, a Buckhannon, West Virginia glassblower who loves color in dapples and swirls.”
Ron is fulfilling a lifelong dream to create and sell his own works of glass art. Thanks to Ron and other artists like him across the country, glassblowing is no longer a dying art, but alive and well in the 21st century.
For the past couple years Ron has been the VP of Operations at Blenko Glass. The time that Ron spent at Blenko he accounts as one of his greatest adventures! Many friends were made, talents and techniques were shared. Blessings were received! Ron states that he is happy to be home with Betty, who is now retired, and lots of grandchildren. He also looks forward to seeing many visitors and creating more art glass!
As one chapter closes and another one begins, we are thrilled to announce Ron's homecoming! We are excited to welcome Ron back; making glass 5 days a week. Come out and see demonstrations Monday through Friday 9 - 3. We will be reigniting some old classics, creating new pieces, and continuing to make everyone's favorites! We look forward to seeing and hearing from you...