[PA-NJ Glassblowers] Owen Pach: Gulfport's godfather of glass

Tony Patti gaffer at glassblower.info
Sun Aug 10 17:39:33 EDT 2014

Many of you know Owen Pach from his glassblowing in PA & NJ.  I received
this article as a Google Alert.




(L to R) Pach, Greene and Toombs team up on a goblet. - TODD BATES


Owen Pach: Gulfport's godfather of glass


A visit to the glass master's studio at the Industrial Arts Center.


Posted By MEGAN VOELLER on Wed, Aug 6, 2014 at 10:23 PM


If you doubt Owen Pach's commitment to glass, just take a look at the
tattoos inked into his forearms. On his right arm, the faded black image of
a pair of glassblowing jacks (a tweezers-like tool used to shape vessels
during the process); on his left, a crossed blowpipe and punty (metal rods,
one hollow for channeling air into hot glass, the other solid for use in
shaping the glass). 


On a sweltering August afternoon, Pach displays the tattoos before starting
a glassblowing demo at the Industrial Arts Center of Gulfport. Despite its
corporate-sounding name, IAC feels as informal and quirkily Floridian as any
other business in Gulfport. To arrive, visitors follow signs down a narrow,
unpaved alley to the studio, a converted warehouse where several rows of
wooden benches, shaded under a white tent, face a glassblowing bench,
furnace and glowing orange glory hole. 


That's where you'll find Pach and two assistants-Jeff Greene, a circus fire
performer turned glass artist, and Kenny Toombs, a professional juggler-six,
if not seven, days of the week. 


"We're just knuckleheaded glassblowers at heart," Pach says. 


IAC became Pach's artistic home about a year and half ago, though he's been
involved with the organization since it  was founded in 2008. He's one of a
small wave of glass artists who have moved to the St. Petersburg area over
the past six years in hopes that the region is on its way to becoming a
glassblowing destination-a second city to glass capital Seattle (but with
better weather). Originally from Tampa, Pach got his start blowing glass in
the Ybor City studio of Dean James and at Penland School of Crafts near
Asheville, NC. He returned in part to help the Morean Arts Center get its
glassblowing program off the ground, after co-founding a hotshop in
Philadelphia. Now, Pach says, he's happy to be in artsy Gulfport, where IAC
fits the city's low key, DIY vibe-as yet uncorrupted by chain restaurants or
big box stores. 


"To me, Gulfport is the old Ybor," Pach says. 


Even in off-season, Pach and his assistants typically welcome a few
customers to the studio on a Saturday afternoon. Most find their way to IAC
through a Living Social promotion or a Groupon. Using those online systems,
the studio has found its sweet spot: Tempting newbies to make a cup or a
paperweight embedded with colorful swirls of crushed glass-with step-by-step
help from Pach and company-in sessions that last an hour or two for $100 or
less. (Sometimes a lot less depending on the online deal.) That cost is
meant to be a bargain in the world of glassblowing, where lessons and
hands-on experiences can run into the hundreds of dollars. 


IAC's other draw is intimate events like a regular "hot date" night limited
to a dozen participants, which sometimes features Pach's barbeque. (The
Morean hosts a similar event.) People won't walk away from IAC much closer
to becoming the next Dale Chihuly, but they'll have done some of the moves. 


To demonstrate, over the course of a very sweaty half-hour Pach coaxes a
footed goblet out of a ball of molten glass, as Greene and Toombs scurry to
produce the requisite blowtorch or shaping paddle at key moments. With no
other novices on hand, Pach lets me roll the honey-like glob of glass,
suspended on the end of a blowpipe, through a pile of crushed frit-or fused,
colored glass-and press creases into it with a tool resembling a spatula.
Keeping the glass malleable by reheating it in the bright orange glory hole,
he draws out the goblet shape with jacks as Toombs provides puffs of breath,
then transfers the vessel-in-progress to a punty for further shaping. Voila,
a finished goblet is thumped off the end of the metal rod. 


IAC offers one of many entry points into glass available locally, Pach says.
If you want to explore lampworking, go to Zen Glass in the Warehouse Arts
District, he suggests. If you want to learn about casting, check out Susan
Gott's Phoenix Glass Studio in Tampa. If you want to take a full-blown
glassblowing course or a master class with a visiting artist, go to Duncan
McClellan Glass. 


"We're really fortunate to have that level of glass in St. Pete," Pach says.


After an afternoon in Gulfport, the possibilities might begin to sparkle. 


Industrial Arts Center of Gulfport is at 5437 29th Ave S, Gulfport,
727-623-4920, www.industrialartscentergulfport.org




Tony Patti
 <http://www.glassblower.info> www.glassblower.info
 <mailto:gaffer at glassblower.info> gaffer at glassblower.info

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