Historically, glassblowing has been a secretive art, built on tradition and carefully guarded techniques. In some ways, it has changed little since its inception in ancient Syria.
The basic tools are consistent across the ages, and as the craft spread it was divided into competitive pockets across regions. Glassblowing communities developed trademark forms and colors in their work and then protected their market by keeping their formulas and techniques secret. Because of the scarcity of certain materials and the constraints of old furnaces, wild experimentation within the medium remained too risky to pursue for centuries.
“Well, I experiment a lot,” said Randy Turner, a modern glassblower and co-operator of the Larkfield Glass Studio
Today’s electric furnaces, annealers and other equipment, plus the new openness of knowledge among glassblowing communities, makes Turner’s style possible. That style can be defined, loosely, by his adventurous use of color and fondness for bold shapes. But like glassblowing itself, he is constantly evolving.
According to Turner, inspiration is everywhere from nature to the patterns on a stranger’s shirt.
“You have to have your eyes open and be open to ideas,” Turner explained.
His wife, Joy, is his assistant, and she has seen his proficiency grow in tandem with his curiosity. Many artists, she said, like the reliability of making art in one style. She initially assumed Randy Turner would do the same, but he soon found the idea of limiting his creative voice to be stifling. Fortunately, an independent studio is the perfect environment for stretching limits.
“Having your own studio is a tremendous feeling of freedom,” Joy Turner said.
In the 12 years since opening Larkfield Glass, the Turners have seen a steady rise in business and popularity. Now their open houses draw crowds from the Paris area and beyond that are eager to see Randy Turner’s spontaneous, colorful style in action. The Christmas season is their most popular time of year.
Larkfield Glass is an excellent place to find striking gifts. The Turners make plenty of statement pieces from twisting vases to wall art, but their artistic philosophy does not end there. They believe it is important to not only try big, extraordinary pieces, but also to take that passion and infuse it into art that is accessible to everyone. Not everyone can buy a $200 bowl, but most people can afford a paperweight, necklace or ornament.
Christmas ornaments are bestsellers during the holiday season. The Turners try to develop a new style of ornament every year while maintaining their current repertoire. The result is a fantastic variety for shoppers to peruse.
“The goal is to have as wide a variety of them that we can manage,” she said.
Variety is ultimately part of what makes Larkfield Glass such a destination – aside from the sheer entertainment of watching flames shoot from a furnace while an artist dances with molten glass.
Larkfield Glass will host an open house every week of December leading up to Christmas. The first is 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, followed by another from noon-7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15 and finally 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21.