Grant Garmezy coming to Virginia Hot Glass Festival 2019

Grant GarmezyGrant Garmezy holds a large torch on the nose of a T. Rex head he is sculpting in hot glass. The dinosaur glows dull orange with the heat of the material, about 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using an array of metal tools and torches, Garmezy creates works like this that transform hot molten glass into life-like busts of animals, such as storks, lions, alligators, deer skulls, and dragons. His unusual method, called ‘hot sculpting,’ is all done freehand, without the aid of any sort of molds, and no two are alike. He will demonstrate that skill for the public as the featured artist at this year’s Virginia Hot Glass Festival, May 25th and 26th, at Sunspots Studios in Staunton, Virginia.

Describing his technique, Garmezy says, “I can make glass look like any other material, from wood to ceramics, or fire to ice, and from fish scales to reptile skin. Sculpting with hot glass involves heat, gravity, glass blowing tools that have been around for centuries, and found tools to create textures and curves that bring life and energy to an animal. And your time is limited by how long you can keep the glass hot and moving.”

Garmezy is a rising star in the world of art glass. He got his start with hot glass at Virginia Commonwealth University. Growing up on a farm in Tennessee, he always loved animals. When he thought about what to pursue in college, he initially planned to study metal sculpting. One day after he arrived at VCU, he wandered into the glass blowing studio. It was love at first sight. After learning to make basic shapes with hot glass—globes, plates, cups, and bowls—he began to see how different combinations might form an animal.

“I thought, if it takes these four moves to make a bowl, what if I carve lines into it? Now I’ve got a turtle shell!” Garmezy says. “I started creating my own sculpting vocabulary from there.”

Hot glass sculpting has taken Garmezy on a creative and real-world journey. He has traveled to glass studios across the globe to demonstrate, teach, and create work – including in South Korea, Swaziland, Scotland, Japan, Norway, Greece, Belgium, Spain, and Murano, Italy. He also travels to glass studios and events across the United States and is represented in many galleries.

Garmezy is just one of the glassblowers coming to the event. For the 17th year, the Virginia Hot Glass Festival brings glassblowers from around the region to show their work and demonstrate their skills for the public. The event runs Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 26 from 9am to 6pm, and Sunday, May 27 from 10am to 5pm, with on-going demonstrations of glassblowing and flame-working techniques. It all takes place inside Sunspots Studios in historic downtown Staunton. Admission is free.

Sunspots’ owner and head artist, Doug Sheridan, describes the unique appeal of the Festival. “Watching artists working with glass in its molten state at 2000°F is something people don’t get to see every day,” says Sheridan. “It is hard for some people to grasp that the glowing orange gob on the end of the glassblower’s pipe is still glass. It is magical to watch it being transformed into a colorful piece of glass art before your eyes.”

Glassblowers at the Festival will take turns working in the glassblowing studio at Sunspots, while flamework artists will have a torch set up for their demonstrations. Flamework glass artists melt thin rods of glass in a flame and form them into colorful beads, marbles and miniature sculptures.

“Each year the artists come up with fun demonstrations to wow the crowd,” says Sheridan. “Being hot glass artists, they love playing with fire, so we never know what they will do from one year to the next. Expect some surprises.”

The artists’ booths will take over the second floor of Sunspots Studios, showcasing hot glass creations from the functional to the purely artistic. Goblets, vases, glass jewelry, marbles and more will be available to purchase.

“The amazing variety that hot glass allows as a medium is evident when you take a walk through the artists’ booths during the Festival,” says Sheridan. “The colors and shapes, and the almost magical properties of glass, give it a special place in the art world. And the fact that a piece usually must be created from start to finish in one sitting—often in less than 30 minutes—is intriguing.”

Across town, another art festival, Art in The Park at Gypsy Hill Park, hosted by the Staunton-Augusta Art Center, will bring even more artists and their work to Staunton for the weekend.

“We hope by offering two great art festivals in Staunton on Memorial Day weekend that we will be able to draw many tourists here for the holiday weekend,” Sheridan says.

Sunspots Studios creates and sells art glass in its Staunton gallery and studios, and offers visitors live glass blowing demonstrations daily year-round. Sunspots is five minutes from I-81 (Exit 220) and I-64, near Staunton’s historic train depot, in Staunton’s historic shopping and dining district. Sunspots Studios is located in the historic Klotz Building, 202 S. Lewis St., at the corner of Middlebrook Ave., and is open 7 days a week. For more information, call Sunspots Studios at (540) 885-0678, or visit www.sunspots.com.

For information on other area tourist attractions and lodging, call the Staunton Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 342-7982 or visit www.visitstaunton.com.

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