The Coastal Art Center celebrates local arts

By Melanie LeCroy
Posted 8/28/19

Despite the heat and humidity, The Coastal Art Center of Orange Beach was bustling with activity Aug. 24 as they held a celebrate local arts event. Local artists were on site demonstrating their …

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The Coastal Art Center celebrates local arts

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Despite the heat and humidity, The Coastal Art Center of Orange Beach was bustling with activity Aug. 24 as they held a celebrate local arts event. Local artists were on site demonstrating their techniques and artwork.

JD and Michael Swiger were set up outside in a tent turning trash into art. The two brothers were working on a surfboard art piece decorated with cigarette butts they have picked up on local beaches. They anticipate it will take more than 3,000 to complete the design before it is covered with a marine-grade epoxy. The finished work will be displayed at the art center later this year.

In the Hot Shop artists were demonstrating different glass working techniques. Greg Hoff has over 20 years of experience working with hard glass.

“Borosilicate glass is what Pyrex is made from,” Hoff explained. Working over a blow torch, Hoff heated glass rods and stretched the hot glass like silly putty. Hoff makes small sculptures and charms using this method.

Kerry Parks, Bill Bollinger, and Dan Rush demonstrated the art of soft glass. Molten glass is kept at 2,080 degrees Fahrenheit in a furnace. When an artist is ready to make a piece, they reach into the furnace with a steel blowpipe and gather up molten glass.

Bollinger made a starfish using a metal mold to give the glass its initial star shape. Once the general shape was formed, he put the piece into a glory hole which is used to reheat the glass at 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. After the glass was hot again, Bollinger used metal tongs to pinch and pull the glass into the shape he desired. After each tweak the glass was returned to the glory hole. The process is not quick, and rushing can result in a pile of glass shards. After the pieces have reached the desired shape, they are very carefully removed from the blowing pipe using strategically placed water drops and a slight tap and then placed gently in a kiln. Dan Rush explained to the group that the glass needs to cool slowly in a kiln overnight.

Rush joined Kerry Parks to make a glass pumpkin and explained the process step by step. Glass blowing requires two people, one to work the glass and one to provide the air. The Hot Shop makes hundreds of unique glass pumpkins this time of year and they are available for sale along with other art pieces.

In the Clay Studio, Maya Blume-Cantrell, ceramics artist in residence, was in the process of teaching a class on the potter’s wheel to Amber Todiford and Carolyn Vines.

“It’s a lot harder than Maya made it look,” Vines laughed as her bowl went a little off-kilter. Blume-Cantrell helped Vines get her bowl back into shape while keeping a close eye on Todiford’s bowl.

The 10,000 sq. ft. fine art gallery was filled with music as John Brust played a grand piano as visitors from several different states browsed and purchased the art on display. Outside, couples enjoyed the view of Wolf Bay from rocking chairs lining the large rear veranda.

The Coastal Art Center of Orange Beach is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Classes are offered for glass blowing, pottery and visual arts. For more information visit www.coastalartcenter.com or visit their Facebook page.