By Kelly Baughman
The Hot shop at the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach, Alabama’s premier hot glass blowing center, is heating things up in 2019 with fun filled classes for the whole family.
Located at 26389 Canal Road in Orange Beach, the Hot Shop has been providing hands on art classes to the community since 2009, and resident artist Dan Rush said amazing things are on the horizon for 2019.
Rush, who spent most of his life working in Illinois as a pastor and college instructor teaching ethics and philosophy, moved to the Orange Beach area in 2010. He began volunteering at the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach where he learned the art of glass sculpting and blowing.
“I started off not knowing anything about working with glass, but I was instantly drawn to it. Over my years of volunteering at the center, I learned the ropes and calling as an educator kicked in. Since then, I’ve been teaching others how to make beautiful glass art,” said Rush.
After volunteering for several years, Rush was finally offered a permanent position in the Hot Shop in 2016, a job that Rush lovingly refers to as his “stay out of trouble retirement position”. Rush joined fellow resident artist, Kerry Parks, in The Hot Shop where the learning continued.
Parks graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the University of South Alabama, and has more than eight years of experience working with various glass techniques. Her fine eye for detail, color, and innovative designs combined with Rush’s classroom experience and love for the art and the center, make for a dynamic duo in the Hot Shop studio.
“Our center is really one of a kind. We have state of the art equipment that allows us to perfect our craft. In addition, we are a public access studio, so there is never a fee to come in and watch us do what we do on a daily basis,” Rush said.
Rush went on to say that if you like what you see when you stop by The Hot Shop, sign up for one of their hands on classes where you can make your own unique piece of art. “We are open Monday through Friday 9am to 4 pm, and we teach classes at 9am. When you come into the shop, you’ll get to choose whether you want to make a flower, paper weight, or globe. Each one has its own special technique, so many people come back to try all three,” said Rush.
Rush said when a student comes in to the studio, once they’ve picked their project, they next step is choosing color schemes from the pans of crushed up glass called “frit”. The instructor will help the student begin with a small red hot ball of glass on the tip of a metal pole. From there, the student will roll the ball in the desired frit and place the rod into the fire. As the glass heats, the student will roll the glass around, remove and repeat numerous times to get the desired colors and size.
Once the student is satisfied with color and size, the instructors will help them shape the project with either a block for the paper weight or tweezers for the flower. Students who choose the globe will learn the technique of glass blowing, where air is blown into the initial hot ball of glass and is continuously forced in to enlarge the ball to its desired size, shape, and frits colors.
Classes at The Hot Shop at the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach are $75 and are open to anyone over the age of 8 years old. Classes are by appointment only, and students will have to leave their project overnight in the kiln to cool. “It takes each piece about 16 to 20 hours to cool in a kiln that we slowly reduce the heat on over time. Otherwise, the glass would cool too quickly and it would shatter,” Rush said.
For those who love beautiful glass art but want to take a more hands off approach, The Hot Shop offers many pre-finished glass pieces for purchase.
To schedule a class with Rush and Parks, visit www.orangebeachal.gov/facilities/art-center, or call 251-981-2787.
Rush added, “We are so blessed to have such an amazing city funded art center right here in Orange Beach, so I really hope that people will come and take advantage of it. I’m proof that it doesn’t matter what your background, we all have an artist within. We are just here to help you find it.”