The Glass Museum at Oglebay’s Carriage House Glass is one of the few places in our region where the beautiful art of glass making can still be observed and experienced by beginners. Guests can watch skilled glass artisans like Bob Allen at work and even try their hands at the craft through one-on-one workshops.
During West Virginia’s history, over 500 factories have manufactured glass in the Mountain State because it offers great quantities of silica sand, stone and other chemical compounds necessary to produce glass plus vast reserves of natural gas and coal for fuel. The network of rivers and railroads used to transport raw materials and finished product has made West Virginia an ideal location for all aspects of the industry.
West Virginian glass artisans traditionally created both molded glass and hand-blown glass. With press-molded glass, glassmakers pressed molten glass into an iron mold, giving the glass both its shape and decorative pattern and eliminating the need for hand design. After 1900, glass factories began making their own molds on site, allowing them to create patterns unique to specific companies.
Hand-blown glass allows an artisan to introduce a small amount of air through a blow pipe or blow tube into a blob of molten glass. No molds are used in this method and that’s just how Bob Allen likes it.
“There are no definite designs,” said Allen. “It’s different every day.”
Allen has been creating works of art with glass since 1968. He worked at the Fostoria plant in nearby Moundsville, West Virginia, until that plant closed in 1986. Allen moved on to other glass plants still in operation but eventually there were no more plants to work at. Today, Allen works before a 2,100 degree oven in the basement of Carriage House Glass, melting, molding and blowing glass in front of a live audience, explaining the process and creating some of the glass pieces sold upstairs in the gift shop.
The Carriage House Glass gift shop and museum is open daily. Call 304-242-7272 for glassblowing demonstration times and workshops.