Glass Axis Fueling Education and Access to the Glass Arts

At 610 W Town St. in Franklinton sits one of the world’s premiere glass studios. With classes for beginners to memberships for practicing artists, Glass Axis is making the glass arts accessible to Columbus and beyond.

“We’re in the top 10 internationally in what we do as a non-profit,” says Executive Director Rex Brown. “What we do is try to hit every type of glass art there is.”

Glass Axis offers opportunities in glass blowing and sculpting, torch and flame working, fusing and kiln forming, neon and enameling, as well as mosaic, stained glass and etching stations.

Through its 28 years in existence, Glass Axis has evolved to the glass mecca it is today.

Glass Axis started in 1987,” Brown says. “It was a group of OSU students who graduated and wanted to continue on in glass art and they found that there wasn’t any place to go and practice or work and so they created this non-profit to do that.” 

The group started by traveling to schools to show off glass making techniques, but quickly realized they needed a home base. From its original location in the Arena District, to Grandview and now Franklinton, “With each move we picked up a little bit more capacity and capability,” Brown says. In the transition to Grandview it was fusing and neon, in the move to Franklinton, kiln casting and a plaster room.

The Town Street studio has allowed Glass Axis to really reach that all glass arts pinnacle.

“We liked this particular facility,” Brown says of the current space that was originally the trolley repair station for the City of Columbus. “It was just four blank walls. It gave us the flexibility to design it the way we wanted to.” 

The flow is designed to accommodate the artists versus working around the constraints of the building.

“This gives us much more capability in hitting all of the different types of glass art, plus, since most everything in here is on wheels, we can roll this all around and then rent this out as an event space,” Brown says.

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From classes and memberships, to events, to a gallery and gift shop, there are multiple ways to enjoy the space, and revenue streams to keep the non-profit running.

First experience classes introduce even those with no previous experience to glass work. Students can make blown glass ornaments or pumpkins, sculpt a paperweight or flower, make a bead, craft a neon tube light, fuse a plate, etch a drinking glass and much more. Second experience classes up the ante with tumblers, trays and enameling techniques.

Classes make up a bulk of the revenue for the space, and are often taught by Glass Axis members.

“That’s one of the opportunities that we provide for the glass artist,” Brown says. “All of our instructors are contractors so we pay them to come teach these classes so they can make a little extra money. We like to create opportunities for glass artists through advancing glass art education.” 

That education is sometimes in what it’s really like to be a glass artist. Many can’t sell their bowl or their sculpture for $30,000 like iconic glass artist Dale Chihuly, so teaching provides an opportunity to perfect their craft and supplement their income.

Glass Axis has about 120 members, around 80 of which are glass artists with a strong number that use the space frequently. Membership gives artists access to Glass Axis’ variety of stations, including a hot shop, neon shop, torchworking studio, stained and mosaic glass lab, fusing and kiln-casting lab, cold shop and metal workshop.

A gallery and gift shop showcase artists’ works and provide another revenue stream for the studio. An attached coffee shop is in the works that would not only keep the artists caffeinated, but be open to the general public with an additional unique space to watch art in action.

As Glass Axis continues to grow, “Our earned revenue is up $120,000, our balance sheet is up $400,000 in net assets; membership is higher than it’s been in the last couple of years. We just had the highest Circleville Pumpkin Show ever and our pumpkin patch that we just had was the best that we’ve had in two years,” Brown states, he wants to eliminate the phrase, ‘I’ve never heard of you’ and is enlisting the help of Experience Columbus to do so.

Glass Axis has been a member of the organization since 2007. As a non-profit the studio has to budget its funds carefully, but finds the membership with Experience Columbus to be a worthwhile investment for its networking and advertising resources.

Glass Axis is listed on the Experience Columbus website and keeps pamphlets of information stocked at the Visitor Centers, and someday hopes to have a product available for sale. Glass Axis even invited the Experience Columbus team in last spring to get a feel for the studio first-hand.

Raising awareness has brought in visitors near and far. Experience Columbus planned a Glass Axis rendezvous for a tour group from Indianapolis, and companies like Nationwide bring employees in for team building.

Brown hopes that every visit yields not only a fun experience, but an education on the glass arts.

For more information, visit glassaxis.org.

Glass demonstration photos credit Bill Hamilton. Feature image and final image by Walker Evans. 

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