William Pounds interviews Ron Hinkle, a native West Virginian glass blower. You can find him at Ron Hinkle Glass south of Buckhannon.
Here is a link to the video portion of the interview – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qswzbTRhaeE
At the bottom of the page is a link to his MAD profile page.
How did your workshop come to be?
The beginning of me setting up for my own studio was probably back around 1984 and that is when I decided I wanted to do this. I knew it was a long term project. It is one of those things that you decide to do, and you know that you are not going to do it overnight. So, I began to collect my tools, began to read the books, and I began to build a building. I dug the footer for my building by hand. I saved up money and bought tin for the roof. I saved up money and had the blocks laid up partway one year and up to the square the next year. Finally, my dad and I skidded logs out of the woods with a farm tractor and traded logs to get lumber sawed. We built the second storey.
All total, from the time I decided to go into business, it was over seven years. It is one of those things you keep your eye on what you want and you keep working in that direction and then you do not give up. You have got to be very determined to make something like this work.
How have you been part of an art community here in West Virginia?
I worked with Tamarack, I worked in their glass facility a few times. I’ve worked in the glass facility doing demonstrations several times in Wheeling Artisans’ Center up at Oglebay Park. I’ve done demonstrations at Wheaton Village up in New Jersey by invitation. I’ve done demonstrations at Heritage Farms next to Huntington, West Virginia. All these things just add to what I know and who I know. A lot of them I meet at glass factories, glass gatherings, craft shows, and Tamarack.
Sometimes we just hear about each other and just pick up the phone and say, “Hey, this is so-and-so, I don’t know if you’ve heard of me,” “Oh, I’ve heard of you! How you doing? I hear this and this.” I will get in touch with cameo artists, marble makers, and people who do Christmas ornaments. Of course, I try to do everything here, I’ve got a wide range of glass product. I see something new, I have to try it. I grow from the experience. A lot of people come here and they work for me for a period of time. Then they go out on their own and they start their own glass business. It is a spawning experience. They come, they learn, they grow, they go out and create on their own, which is a great thing.
What are your thoughts on the performative aspect of being a glass blower?
It is kinda like going to see a magic show. Everybody wants to go see magic performed because it awes them, it mystifies them. It gives them something to do that kind of lifts their spirits. They learn something. They are entertained. We try to be entertaining while we work. We make a lot of new friends. I have met some absolutely sensational people. I have an antique car group coming up here soon. They are going to have Model-Ts and Model-As. There are going to be over a hundred cars up here pretty soon.
You just meet the neatest people. One gentleman that I met owned a factory where they make military rockets. Another woman I met was the ex-wife of the guy who cloned Dolly the Sheep. Another guy helped build the Mars Rover. So, you just meet all kinds of artists, neat people, politicians, celebrities. You name it and they’ll find their way up here eventually.
How do these people all find you and their way out here?
I have to say the moment I decided to build this gallery was a Sunday afternoon and I had just got back from church. Somebody was coming up here looking around. I come out of my house and I said, “Can I help you?” They said, “Yeah, we heard that there is glass being made here and we wanted to check it out.” I said, “Oh, okay.” I showed them my studio and I said, “Where do you live?” They said, “Northern Virginia.” I said, “Really? You come up on a Sunday Afternoon drive on a whim, on a rumor, that glass was being made all the way from Norther Virginia just to find me?” They said, “Yeah.”
I kind of reasoned with myself. If people want to find me that bad, then I think should build a gallery and advertise it. So, I built the gallery. I was beginning to get word of mouth response. From there I put rack cards out. I have a contract with a company to put rack cards all over the state. So, I get the summer tourist traffic here and that has been the foundation for the business here in my own gallery every summer, then it trickles on into the winter and Christmas.
Find his MAD page below…