Hot Glass

Yesterday, my husband and I took a drive to Reading, PA, to visit the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts. We wanted to attend their Second Sunday open house. We’ve been to this art nexus before and I thought I’d mention it, in case anyone ever is in the area and wants to visit. Because it is certainly worth it.


The center has been in existence for about ten years and is located in an enormous former factory building – the Willson Goggle Works. The company, founded in the 1870’s, existed in one form or another up until the early 2000’s. When it was closed, it was likely that the building would join many other vacant properties in Reading, a faded industrial center. But community leaders took things in a different direction. The building became a community arts center.

People come here for all kinds of events – there are classes and open houses and art shows and…I can go on, but their website tells it better than I do. Let me just say that the building now houses artist studios, a theater, a wood shop, a clay studio, several galleries, and…what I want to mention here in particular…a hot glass studio.

On Second Sunday, all the studios are open, artist and communal. Visitors can see creation in action! We decided to go to the glass studio first when a passerby mentioned that some interesting work was going on there.

When you enter the enormous room, you are struck by a wall of heat. Glassworking is HOT. The studio has built-in bleachers at one end, so visitors can watch the action. The artists just go about their work as we watch, paying no attention to us.

I admit that I find glassworking fascinating but frightening. I knew from past visits that I would inch into the room, sit right by the door, and that would be fine for me. So that’s just what I did. My husband would have gone closer but he sat down with me, which I appreciated.

I was taken by the substantial electrical needs of the studio, as evidenced by the wiring.


And look at these kilns and other pieces of equipment. They are formidable.


Two men were working. One was finishing up a parrot figure (you can see it on its rod lying across the supports, with the man in the white T-shirt rolling it), and the other one was rolling a cylinder of amber-colored glass.  We watched them carefully to see what they would do next.


Here are some more photos. Look at how casually the two move among the red-hot work areas. I was amazed that the man in the green shirt was even wearing flip-flops. All I could think of was how it might feel to have some hot glass splattered on my toes.

Joking aside, observing them at work was almost like watching a dance, the choreography determined by the needs of the glass. As we looked on, they combined their two items, parrot and cylinder – it turned out that the cylinder was to become the base for the parrot to stand on.

I don’t know what the ultimate result looked like, as we left shortly after this point, but I am sure it was something special. Glad we stopped in.

6 thoughts on “Hot Glass

  1. Pingback: Seen on the Scene | Sometimes You Get So Confused

  2. artdoesmatter

    I’ve been receiving GoogleWorks catalogs for years – I’m sure my name was purchased off a list, as I’ve never been there before. But I am amazed at how nice the facilities look in your post, as well as the high level of teachers that they boast offering classes in their catalogs. Sounds like you had a fun visit, Claudia!

  3. Laura (PA Pict)

    What a cool place! I’ve not been to Reading yet but just this alone makes me want to go. I’ve seen a variety of glass workers in action in different contexts but it’s always completely compelling to watch them.

  4. Claudia McGill Post author

    I thought of you when I wrote this. I’m sure you’d like it. Second Sunday is the time to visit because there are planned demos and artists are in their studios. The wood shop is also amazing. Reading itself has other sights as well I’d be glad to expand on if you go. The city can warrant more than one trip.

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