Breckenridge Texan

BHS grad returns home for glassblowing demonstration

BHS grad returns home for glassblowing demonstration
December 20
17:55 2017

Breckenridge High School alumnus Chuck Wells returned home this week to visit family and to demonstrate his glassblowing skills, creating custom Christmas ornaments for the crowd that gathered at a local shop Tuesday afternoon.

Chuck and Jennifer Wells were at Breckenridge’s Rustic Charm Trading Co. for Chuck’s glassblowing demonstrations on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

The Rustic Charm Trading Co. hosted Wells and his wife, Jennifer Thompson Wells, also a BHS graduate. The couple now live in Americus, Georgia, where they own and operate Mobile Glassblowing Studios, and where Chuck is an associate professor of art at Georgia Southwestern State University.

Wells traces his career in art back to a junior high art contest. “I had the good fortune of taking art classes from an amazing art teacher, (Breckenridge artist and teacher) Martha Sullivan,” he said. “It was just a funny little art contest, but she complimented me, and that changed everything. She was so nice to me, and I learned that you can make a profound impact with what you say.”

Sullivan offered Wells free art classes, where he studied the fundamentals of art, such as drawing, shading, etc. Wells said he was one of six children and that life wasn’t always easy after his dad had a massive heart attack at the age of 31. “When you’re one of six, you aren’t getting art classes unless they’re free,” he said.

Wells graduated from BHS in 1987 before joining the U.S. Army and becoming an Airborne Ranger. When he returned home, he first took classes at Cisco Junior College, earning an Associate of Applied Arts degree, and then at Midwestern State University, where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts. Then, he earned a Master of Fine Arts at Texas Christian University.

He said he focused on sculpture until he accepted a job at Georgia Southwestern and they needed a glass art instructor. So, Wells studied glass art with Ralph Harvey, who in turn had learned it from Fritz Dreisbach, one of the founders of the American glass art movement that began in the 1960s. “I’m learning from Ralph every day, still,” Wells said.

Wells’ talents also extend beyond the artistic into the more practical, and along the way he developed the skill of furnace building. He started a company, Mobile Glassblowing Studios, which manufactures small furnaces that can be taken on the road for glassblowing demonstrations and projects.

“Now, we’ve sold 150 furnaces in 12 countries on five continents, in three years,” he said.

At Rustic Charm on Tuesday afternoon, there was a steady stream of old friends, family members and those just interested in watching a glass artist at work, who came to see Wells’ demonstrations. He took appointments to make custom Christmas ornaments.

When the customers arrived, they picked out the colors they wanted on their ornament, choosing from a variety of brightly colored glass chips (they’re called “frit”).

To make each ornament, Wells heats the end of a long pipe in the furnace. Then, he dips the glowing orange tip into a bowl of molten clear glass in the furnace. He brings out a blob of glass and rolls it in a small bowl of the frit. He alternates heating the glass and blowing air into the blob to turn it into a hollow ornament. Finally, the hot ornament is placed in the annealing tube to slowly cool it down.

As they watched Wells create their ornaments, the crowd oohed and aahed in amazement. Wells said the most ornaments he’s ever made in one day was 250. “And, I’ve made 100 (in a row) without messing one up,” he said with a smile.

“I’ve had wonderful parents that – for some reason – encouraged me to study art,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of magic happened. I could’ve gone down any path…I had three children…but my parents encouraged me to pursue what is a meaningful life. That’s what it’s all about anyway.”

For more photos from Chuck’s demonstration, click here to see the Breckenridge Texan’s photo gallery.

Liz Tidwell and her daughters, Dylan, 9, and Kamden, 7, look on as Chuck Wells makes a glass Christmas ornament Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

 

Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

 

 

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