Blown Away By Glass Art

Please tell us about your business. The Glass Shack in Kapaa is where my business partner Andy Palmer (above, right) and I make everything from jewelry to pizza cutters to pens to different types of jars and containers. The Glass Shack also is like live art entertainment, where we create artwork in front of the customers. You can watch us blowing glass all day. We entertain people.

How did you start this business? It just fell into our laps. We never blew glass until we moved to Kauai from Kansas City (we’ve been friends since high school), where we knew a lot of different artisans including glass blowers. I moved here in 2000, and Andy moved here in 1999. We started blowing glass in 2001 in an abandoned little glass shop underneath a friend’s house. Our business opened in 2003 in the back of the building we’re currently in. We took a chance, threw the dice and the spot just came to us. In 2007, we moved to our current location on the highway.

Why glass? We were already artistic, making jewelry and doing different things, but we hadn’t really found the right medium. No one here was working with glass, so we knew we wanted to do it. But we also knew right off the bat that it would be hard, but we were willing to see what we could pull off. We started making turtle pendants, and they just took off.

What kind of glass do you use? We primarily focus on borosilicate glass, also known as Pyrex. We get the glass in raw form as rods, which are colored or clear. Pyrex was originally created for chemistry-type work because it’s non-corrosive and doesn’t hold bacteria. Different oxides were placed into the Pyrex, and that’s where the color-changing of borosilicate glass comes from. Now there are hundreds of colors available.

How do you create shapes with glass? It’s all about using centripetal force, gravity and little amounts of air pressure. This glass doesn’t even begin to melt until 2,600 degrees. We use torches to melt the glass and form shapes.

Why do you do what you do? I love what I do. There’s not a moment when I come to work hating it.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? The people, the stories and the support. When customers walk away with something we created out of nothing – that’s every artist’s drive. It’s not the money; it’s the people who buy the art and hold it close to them.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business? The cost of doing business on Kauai. The cost of living is so expensive in general. The overhead is crazy and our electric bill alone is off the charts.

What makes you get up every day and go to work? Having keys to my own place. Driving down and looking at Wailua Beach every day. There’s not a moment I pass by the heiau and the silhouette of all of those coconut trees that I don’t appreciate it. I’m from the Midwest, so I never take for granted what I have around me now.

Open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
4-1345 Kuhio Hwy., Kapaa