Interview with Ron Hinkle

Q: What sparked your interest in Arts?

R: Early on in my life I was exposed to a world of color and craft. Making needed items and useful items was a part of life in Appalachia. Or just maybe that is the way I looked at the world. Everything I was exposed to I felt had a need for beauty and color..... I wanted balance and and purpose ........... My mother and my aunt were instrumental in teaching me technique for achieving color and composure for my art. When I begin to learn glass making it was only natural for me to translate what I already knew about art into my glass making.

Q: How did you decide on Glass Blowing as the art that you wanted to pursue?

R: Glass making started out as a summer job but it didn't take long for me to see that glass was a medium for art. Think about it; color and color blending, transparency, translucency, opaque colors, reducing colors, reacting colors, striking color....... not only did I have 145 colors I could have adventure and surprise too. Color and design could be suspended and preserved infinitely inside a solid sphere of glass ...... or it could be blown into vessels or a centrifugally spun dish or roundel. I could capture and freeze a moment in time and though movement and life stands still. The depth of dark water or the open endless sky.......... the running of water over a mountain stream, even the tangle of my weedy garden or a the flowers behind my house..... it all made sense to me. I thought in color, 3D and and abstract all at the same time. The process is never ending and for that I am so grateful.

Q: How many years does this make for you blowing glass?

R: This Mid-July 2018 will make 41 years blowing glass out of the total of 45 years working in the glass industry. The first four years were spent learning the less skilled jobs in the glass factory.

Q: What year did you decide to build your own Glass Blowing business?

R: I think the concept of actually building and owning my own glass studio came to light about 1981. I was living in a log cabin far back into the woods in Lewis county. I was working the midnight shift at Louie Glass so I had the opportunity to experiment with glass making when I would go into work early on Sunday evenings....... soon I was invited by the company to do demonstrations at Jackson Mill Jubilee. Creative juices started flowing and the 40+ year journey began.

Q: What obstacles did you have to overcome to build a Glass Blowing business?

R: $$$$$$$ Was the biggest obstacle I faced...... or perhaps I should say the lack there of. Starting a glass studio can be really expensive. But I didn't think of what the total studio was going to cost, I had to expectation of suddenly being a glass studio owner and operator. I looked at once goal, one piece of the puzzle at a time. It would have been to overwhelming to think of it all at once. First of all was location..... physical structure......... I needed a building. It took two years to get concrete blocks laid up for the structure. The first year was laid up to floor level, I filled in the lower side with dirt and let it settle for a year then had the second level up to the square laid up the next year. The second story was built out of rough lumber from a saw mill. My Dad and I skidded logs out of the woods with the farm tractor and traded them to the saw mill for lumber to build the building. For the first few years I had no windows or doors.... it got really cold in the winter time. I would hang tarps over the doors...... it was about three years after opening the studio that I had a concrete floor poured, before that I had only dirt a gravel. To say the least it was an incredibly long process to get the studio the way I wanted it. All the while I was searching for or making my own tools. Sometimes I would buy broken or worn tools from Louie Glass and recondition them for service in my studio. Sometimes I would have to completely design and build my own equipment. My first kiln was built from an old deep freeze.

My furnaces were built from used bricks and my hand tools ranged from corn cutter and barber clippers to butter knives and hacksaw blades........ I suppose the challenges never end.... I could probably name a few every week. ....... forever!

Q: Who were your mentors along the way?

R: I suppose my best mentor and biggest influence in moving forward toward my dreams was Jennings Bonnell. Jennings was a true blue glass maker. That is what he knew best. Jennings worked and co owned Big Pine Keys Glass Works in Florida. He also worked many other places during his career. The first time I met him was a Pilgrim Glass in Kenova, WV where he worked as a shift foreman. Later on he come to Louie Glass as the assistant manager for a few years then later on he gave up the assistant manager position to join the work force at Louie Glass. I think he really missed the hands on glass making. I was also encouraged by my co workers and a few artist. It was inspirational to meet Harvey Littleton, Roberto Moretti, Ken Hickman, George Williams, Celso Lopez, Charles Gibson, John Gentile and Kelsey Murphy and Robert Bomkamp. There has been so many people have encouraged me and influenced me over the years that I can't remember them all. I have to say I have been fortunate to work with so many of the great glass artist over the past 45 years. At every turn of the road there has always been someone there to lead me along the way. I do have to say that my biggest supporter has been my wife Betty. She believed in me and with out that support nothing else would have mattered..... I simply would not have survived to make my art.

Q: What challenges did you face going from Louie Glass (blowing in molds) to your own business (blowing mostly freehand)?

R: Blowing glass into a mold is challenging, especially when you are making stemware. The stem has to be shaped by hand and be within a tolerance of about + or - about 20 thousands of an inch to fit the mold right........ but when you make glass free handed you don't have the convenience of having a mold to keep the glass or stop the glass when it is just the right shape. When you are shaping the glass freehanded you have to read the movement of the glass and predict the shape in your had movements. You become more intimate with the glass. You don't learn what you can do with the glass you actually learn what the glass will allow you to do with it. A forced piece of glass is like a person who is forced against their will....... they don't look happy...... the glass looks unhappy when you force it into shape. Learn the flow of the glass............ learn to coax it to yield and reveal it's beauty.

Q: What makes Ron Hinkle Glass unique?

R: My glass is everything that I have learned over the years and my relationship with it. You will see my amazement, you will see my moods and my sorrow...... my friendships and sorrows. My struggles and my elation. My worst day in my life and my day of triumph. My exhaustion and my determination. Life throws us so many curves in life. Lost friends, lost love, new friends and reunions with old ones...... my glass reflects my ups and downs in life more than my words do. The last 45 years of my glass making embodies my greatest and highest moments and my depths of sorrow......... you may not be able to know what was going on the day I made a particular piece of glass but it is there........... you may see a piece of glass when I want that day or that moment to last for ever....... when the fireworks would never ascend from the sky and my heart could never fail or you may hold in your hands the day of my greatest sorrows. Even my hands and bent finger from the pain of arthritis have a say in the uniqueness of my creations. You cannot see a piece of my glass with out living the pain or joy of the day I created it.

Q: There are so many different colors that you work with, are some easier to work with than others? Please Describe.

R: Glass is chemistry and physical in it's nature according to the chemistry. Transparent Yellows, Reds and Oranges are the worst to work with ..... the are stiff and hard to coax into shape. The time you have to work them is short because the viscosity (softness) time range is short. While other colors like White and some blues are almost to soft. When making a work of art you have to be aware of the differences in the nature of the particular color you are working with........ and if you are working with both colors together you have to keep on your toes ....... the conflict between hard and soft glass with create many surprises.

Q: How long does it take for someone to learn the art of Glass Blowing?

R: Some people learn quicker than others....... I have to admit I have always been a slow learner ..... not just in glass but in seems like everything but I learn deeply..... I have to understand not just the face value of what the glass is doing but why.... and why and ..... why ...... it is painful sometimes to struggle so hard to learn but ...... through this deep process I have learn to love the glass deeply. I think to be fair I would say it takes about 4 years to learn the basics ....... and they if your heart and mind are open you will learn for ever...... there is no end to glass,,,,,,,,,there is not end to what you can learn about glass.

Q: What would you say is the hardest piece to make, and which is the easiest to make?

R: The hardest piece to make is the one that I have not learned to make.......... the easiest to make is the one I can make with out thinking. I like to make the hard ones and the easy ones........... I love it all.

Q: Do you have a favorite color that you like to use in Glass Blowing?

R: My favorite color is Rainbow

Watch a Glass Dolphin being made

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