Matt, Chip and Todd Turner
Three Generations keeping the tradition alive.
We welcome group tours. Call to schedule your tour, ask about wholesale opportunities or fund-raising products for your non-profit organization. Daily glass blowing demonstrations are available.
Studio and Outlet Gallery:
Appalachian Glass has a working studio located 499 US Highway 33 East, Weston, WV it is open and free to the public. The studio currently produces high quality mouth-blown, hand-crafted glass. Our glass crafting staff consists of Matt Turner, Chip Turner, Todd Turner and from time to time visiting Glass Artist.
Appalachian Glass products are available and found in fine gift, craft and specialty shops.
Appalachian Glass is committed to supporting non-profit organizations, and provides special rates for those organizations that choose to use our products for fund-raising.
About the Artist:
Glass has been an important commodity throughout the ages. The first glass was a product of volcanic eruptions. Pieces of volcanic obsidian were melted and used to make beads, bottle, and bowls. Small glass bottles were found in the tomb of an Egyptian ruler dating to about 1500 years before Christ's birth. Glass even predates the use of metal by the ancients. Glassmaking was so vital to the Italians, that they put all of their glassmaking activity on an island to protect their manufacturing secret.
The glass industry played an equally important role in the development of central West Virginia. Over the past century, twenty different glass factories called Lewis County home.
Chip Turner, Owner of Appalachian Glass happened by chance to find his life-long love for glass."I was taking a woodworking class at the vocational building near Haleville School. At that time (1982), Lewis County was still offering classes in glassblowing for high school students," explained Turner."There was a great glassblower by the name of Jimmy Carlton who was teaching the class. Jimmy showed me how to work glass." Turner found his calling.
After graduation from high school, he began working in the glass industry. Chip gained much glass experience at local factories including West Virginia Glass, Louis Glass, and Princess House Manufacturing. He gained valuable experience in product development, engineering, maintenance, retail sales and wholesaling. He uses all of these in the management of his glass company.
Chip's fatherMatt Turner, helps his son at his glass studio. The elder Turner worked for decades at West Virginia Glass in the machine shop, manufacturing molds and glassmaker tools for the company. However, until working with his son, he had never worked with the molten glass.
Chip's sonTodd Turner, has now taken up the glass blowing calling. He has been doing the companies Sand carving and decoration for several years now and recently started devoting more time in the Hot Shop.
Chip has an obsession in teaching others to appreciate the rich heritage of the area. Visitors to his studio can study the glassblowing process from the viewing area. When demonstrating, the glassmaker wears a small microphone to make sure everyone can hear his explanation of the glassmaking process.
During a recent studio visit, visitors were treated to the creation of two popular Appalachian Glass items - a friendship ball and a witch's ball.
"Both of these items have some history to them," said Turner."Friendship balls are five to six-inch multi-colored globes, which were passed to friends, maybe along with a plate of cookies. The theory was that they had no beginning and no end, and eventually would return to the giver."
"The witch's ball has a history of more than three hundred years, going back to New England. Inside the witch's ball, I create strings of glass. Early settlers would hang the witch's ball in the window or corner of a door to ward off the witch's spell. The ball could also be used as a stopper on a milk jug. The idea was to keep the witch's spell from souring the milk. The strings inside the globe would catch the spell," he said.
The glassmaking process seems simple in theory. The trick is to have the skill and experience to create the fine hand blown glassware the Turner family produces.
To start the daily process, Turner fills his furnace with the major ingredients of sand, lime, soda ash, and feldspar. These ingredients are then melted down to produce the raw glass. The furnace reaches a high of 2500 degrees during the process which he starts at night so the glass will be ready for production the next day.
To produce a piece of glassware, Turner picks up a glob of molten glass from inside the furnace with his blowpipe. He rolls the glob a bit to begin shaping the piece. He then pops the piece back in the furnace, constantly rolling the blowpipe. As Turner explained, balancing and timing are extremely important in glassblowing.
To produce a friendship ball, Turner blows through the pipe into the glob of glass to produce a glass globe. The last step in this process is to set the globe on a pedestal, take another bit of glass, attach it to the globe, and create a glass hook for hanging. During the manufacturing of the witch's ball, creates interior glass strings, which catch the witch's spell.
During the production of an oil lamp, he blows through the pipe to produce a globe, and at the same time places the glass in a mold. This process produces a lovely spiral effect on the outside of the lamp. The Weston glassmaker has been able to procure a number of historic molds used by such important glass manufacturers as Pilgrim Glass, Colonial Glass, and Louie Glass. He has around two-hundred molds in his collection. The oil lamp he makes use a Pilgrim Glass mold. He explained that the quality of his works is relative to the quality of the tools and molds which he uses. He is appreciative of the help his father has given him in that area.
"My father is very experienced in producing the tools I need for my work. His 43 years at West Virginia Glass as a mold maker helps me in the work I produce," he said.
Upon completion, all the glass pieces are placed in a kiln which slowly reduces the temperature of the glass. By the next day, the pieces will be at room temperature and ready for market.
Why is glass such an important part of West Virginia's industrial history?
The simple reason is that West Virginia has the raw ingredients for its manufacture... natural gas, lime, and natural sand. Since the beginning of glass history in Lewis County twenty glass factories have operated beginning with the Monarch Tile Company, in 1904. The glass produced by Lewis County companies such as Westite, Brilliant, West Virginia and Weston Glass are popular collectibles today.
The heyday of the glass industry in central WV was in the 1920s and 30s with the Louie Glass beginning production in 1926 and West Virginia
Glass in 1929.
As noted earlier, West Virginia had the natural resources necessary for glass production. But another ingredient was European craftsmen. Skilled labor was supplied by the many German, Austrian, Belgium and Swedish immigrants who settled here. They broughtwith them glass skills learned in the old country. The combination of skilled craftsmen and plentiful natural resource produced a glass business that was recognized throughout the world.