The Haps: Third Degree Glass Factory

| Scene Events Columnist
Ron T. Ennis | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | MCT

A footed bowl is always a stunning, yet functional, piece of art to display in any home. This bowl was made by husband-and-wife team Matthew P. LaBarbera and Teresa Lynn Ueltschey, founders of Austin’s Fire Island Hot Glass Studio, once the oldest glassblowing studio in Texas (it closed last February). The handcrafted glass piece is an elegant example of contemporary design. $299, Artful Hand, Fort Worth, www.artful-hand.com.

The idea of glassblowing blows my mind. When I look at an intricate glass vase with swirls of colors and perfect curves, I can’t even begin to imagine how it came from a molten glob of material at the end of what’s essentially a straw. But apparently that’s how it’s done. If you don’t believe me, check out one of Third Degree Glass Factory’s Third Fridays.

On the third Friday of every month, Third Degree Glass Factory, a remodeled brick warehouse at 5200 Delmar Blvd., opens its doors for a free night of glassblowing demonstrations. The event runs from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. and offers attendees the chance to look at and purchase unique glass creations. You can even have a hand in working with the glass. If you pay a fee, you can get the help of an artist to make things like a paperweight, beads or glass tiles. The cost of these items varies, running from about $10 to $30. Live music starts at 8 p.m., and there is a cash bar with drinks running from $3 for beer to $7 for higher-end liquors. You can also eat dinner at the event, but that requires an online reservation beforehand.

The event also affords you the opportunity to just sit back, watch and enjoy glassblowing. The overall atmosphere of the hip, reclaimed warehouse is laid-back in a new-wave Bohemian way. The building is entirely open, allowing you to see the artists and talk to them as they work. There are various ways for you to watch the glassblowing. In the main room, demonstrations are done for the crowd over a loudspeaker. Most of the space in the up-close viewing room is taken up by excited children, but don’t worry, demonstrations are also projected onto a screen, which can be seen from all over the factory. There are also artists working on smaller pieces in quieter rooms of Third Degree, allowing for a closer look at how they work.

For those who are more interested in the final products, there is also a wide array of work available to buy. Some of the work is as simple as a beer bottle converted to a drinking glass, while other pieces are large platters with intricate designs. Third Degree also has a gallery that displays more-artsy forms of glasswork. Currently there is an interesting display of mixed media art that uses glass and forms of yarn and string in ways I never would have considered.

So if you’re interested in seeing the sweat and fire that goes into glassblowing, check out Third Degree Glass Factory’s Third Friday. It’s a short drive from campus, and there’s parking available at the factory and the funeral home next door. The next event will be April 16, so mark your calendars. It may surprise you with something you’ve never seen before.