Hyland Glass Helps Shape Up LVAA Open Studio Weekend

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Should the weather take a turn toward frigidity during the Louisville Visual Art Association’s Open Studio Weekend Sept. 13 and 14, Casey Hyland’s studio at 619 E. Main St. could become a popular destination.

Inside his “hot shop,” an industrial garage interior, Hyland’s furnaces will be pumping out heat at temperatures exceeding 2,000 degrees. He’ll be demonstrating how he takes the base glass solution in its syrupy 1,400-degree liquid form and, with Zen-like focus and patience, fashions it into the collections and one-of-a-kind blown glass pieces coveted around the world and available right in his adjacent retail space.

He may even have fresh popcorn in his carnival-style popcorn maker.

Hyland Glass is one stop on the LVAA’s second annual Open Studio Weekend, a showcase of over 80 local artists and their studios. The general public will be joined by art experts, patrons and collectors from around the world for a chance to see what Louisville’s fine arts community is hard at work creating. Proceeds from the weekend will go toward funding the Hite Art Institute’s Mary Spencer Nay Scholarship and the LVAA’s Children’s Fine Art Classes (CFAC) program.

A Louisville native, Hyland originally went to Washington University in St. Louis to earn a degree in architecture. From there, he went out to Seattle, Washington. In 1995, Seattle was still in the midst of the grunge music movement, and architecture was a vibrant practice. While there, Hyland took a class in glass blowing at the Pilchuck Glass School.

“It was no look back,” he said. “It was just pretty phenomenal. I (unknowingly) met all the rock stars of the glass world. I got rid of the blue suit and just started going. ‘Run, Forrest, Run.’ I just put one foot in front of the other.”

Hyland continued his studies at the Appalachian Center for Crafts in Smithville, Tennessee and the Penland School of Arts and Crafts in Penland, North Carolina. He spent the next few years in New York’s art scene and moved back to Louisville shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 with the intention of starting his own glass blowing shop.

He briefly opened a studio in Jeffersonville before moving into the Louisville Glassworks complex on West Main Street for eight years. Looking to more clearly establish his distinct artistic identity, Hyland opened the current Hyland glass location two years ago. Hyland operates his studio and retail space with a staff of two: him and his wife Melanie.

“Just living the artist’s dream,” he said.

It’s here that Hyland methodically employs steel rods, blowtorches, damp newspaper and other hardware to craft pieces as simple and practical as plates, drinking glasses and bottles, and as ornate as chandeliers and other exotic works.

Having done exhibitions and some retail and tourism business while at Glassworks, the majority of Hyland’s work now consists of commissions. Saks Fifth Avenue will soon outfit its Sarasota store with decorations forged at Hyland Glass.

Locally, St. Mary’s Hospital will install a suspended chandelier created by Hyland in its renovated fitness center. Hyland will create the award statues for the 2014 Louisville Music Awards, ornaments used as corporate gifts and art exhibits.

Hyland participated in the inaugural Open Studio Weekend in 2013, which featured 70 artists in the Louisville Metro area from as far and wide as Crestwood and New Albany. Hyland said the support of the larger arts-supporting organizations in town like LVAA and the Fund for the Arts have been beneficial to independent artist-entrepreneurs like himself.

“It (Open Studio Weekend 2013) was ambitious. It was quite a map they had,” Hyland said. “But people showed up, I think, for all the right reasons. I think it stoked interest. There seems to be an effort. I don’t think it’s gotten worse. Long story short, I think if you take care of yourself, good things will come.”

Hyland is making his own good things happen. Soon, he will move his studio off Main Street to East Washington Street near the Thomas Edison House. The proximity to the Nulu district while being located on a bike and foot traffic-heavy side street which many still use as a thoroughfare has him excited about the move.

“I can just be a single-artist studio, which is why I started blowing glass in the first place,” he said.

The LVAA’s Open Studio Weekend begins Sept. 5 with an open house at the Cressman Center for Visual Arts, 100 E. Main St. The studio tours take place Sept. 13-14. For more information, go to www.louisvillevisualart.org/2014-open-studio-weekend-2.

Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune