The missing link in my studio

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Thinking of designing a glassmaker’s studio? Or remaking the one you already have? Here’s a tip: Design your studio for the ENTIRE glass process..which turns out to be a lot more than just the “making” part. If you don’t, the day could come when the mess literally locks you out of the studio.

Last year I pretty much emptied the garage and, with the kind help of friends and family, turned a dark & nasty garage into a very nice glasscasting space. (You can learn more about it in some of the posts from that time.) We repurposed stuff I already had (for example, a set of rickety old garage cabinets turned into some extremely usable lumber), bought from local rebuilding stores and the Goodwill, and kept the entire price of the renovation under $500.

A lot of what we did was simple. We painted the dark brown walls, ceiling and garage doors pure white, which opened up the space wonderfully. My brother-in-law Jerald redid the lighting scheme with inexpensive fluorescents on every part of the ceiling. (Having a BIL in construction is a godsend when you’re building a studio on the cheap) We put in a nice, big workbench with pegboards and bins up top for tools, roll-out storage below (in this shot we’d just finished the bench and started stocking it.)

We built roll-out bins for refractory mixes and other stuff out of one new sheet of plywood, scrap wood and a really good deal on casters from Harbor Freight:

We acquired old trashcans and repurposed frit and refractory tubs so I could wheel stuff like talc and sand and alumina right to the kiln. (Saves untold wear and tear on tired muscles):

We built shelves and hangers on the wall behind the kilns, and they now hold everything from kiln furniture and fiber pack to raking tools and torches. (in this shot the shelves look empty-ish because about half the stuff is being used in a kiln firing below).

I got a really good deal on a school paper roll holder to get my giant roll of Thinfire off the floor and into a usable state. I’m hunting around for another one to hold my big roll of fiberglass sheet now, although it means the shopvac will be moving.

(I’m really proud of this one) I tore apart an old laundry cart, and used some of my precious store of recycled lumber to build a rack for fiberpapers and roofing paper (I use roofing paper for fast dams in moldmaking). We fitted it to an otherwise-unusable wall that sloped out into the room, which turned out to be even better for rolling and unrolling heavy papers. (the bin on top stores fiber scrap)
I repurposed two 20-year old Ikea bookcases to hold slumping molds, glass billet and wax ingots, by popping off the bottom leveling feet with a sledgehammer, then crafting wood cores to stick up the hollow supporting poles and screwing in casters. If I can figure out how to get the casters OUT, I’ll replace them with larger wheels because these are too small. But by putting the shelves in on end, and then pulling them out whenever I need to get something, I saved a lot of space.

Then I took a far-too-short tool stand and made it taller with scrap, a couple of enormous eyelets and some wheels in back. (OK, I’m not so proud of this one–it’s about as unstable as it looks and needs to be replaced. But it works, it holds a LOT of stuff and it keeps my poor old wet bench grinder in service a bit longer.)
Anyway, you get the idea–turning a garage into a glass studio doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. I now have storage for big glass sheets I don’t yet need in the “clean” studio inside, I have wax stations and coldworking stations and silicon mastermold storage and rolling carts for my flat lap grinder, all that kinda stuff.
Between the two studios, I have everything I need to sculpt clay, make molds, make waxes, cast or fuse glass, coldwork glass and metal, etc., etc. It’s an extremely workable space and it even includes options for displaying art if I want to put on an open studio, as below. All I have to do is open the garage doors, put a sign in the front yard and I’m open for business, even if it doesn’t exactly look like Tiffany’s in there.
That’s the good news. The bad news? I stopped too soon.

What I DON’T have is space for the stuff that happens once the glass is made. Somewhere in all my designing and planning I left out storage for making or attaching mounts and stands to my glass. For padding and packing it into boxes (the little tiny space between the cabinet and my glass bin in the photo above? That’s the sum total of my packaging storage). For price tags and business cards and brochures and postcards. Inventory storage, i.e., a place to put the finished glass I’m not ready to send out yet. Glass occasionally gets broken because I’ve stuck it on the stairs or floor or kitchen table.

It wasn’t bad at first, but then I started doing shows. I went from an inventory of ten or twelve pieces to maybe 100 and quickly ran out of shelf space. I had absolutely NO place to stick booth furniture which appears to take up about three times as much space outside the booth: Booth flooring. Chairs. Lighting. Shelves. Pedestals. Transport bins. Hand trucks. Power strips and extension cords and signage and brochure holders and price tag holders and drapes and pipe.

All that stuff is now crowding my beautiful casting studio, so that I now have to climb over boxes and bins and wrapped-up glass to get to the kiln. It’s kinda put a damper on getting work done, and has a lot to do with the absence of glassposts on this blog–I’ve literally had nothing to write about.

Lately, the glassjones are reaching a fever pitch, especially since so many of my friends are gifted, gifted glass artists who like to show off their stuff. Last weekend I actually bought 100 pounds of clay and treated myself to a couple of sculpting tools. I picked up some glass magazines. Started making murrini…and ideas are screaming to get out of my head and onto the worktable.

Next weekend a couple of friends are coming over (probably tired of hearing me whine) to help me clear off the booth and packaging stuff, get it into a storage room and get the studio back in shape. To tell the truth, I’m not really into doing shows; I MUCH prefer putting a piece or two in someone else’s show, or sending stuff to a gallery and letting THEM do all the work, so eventually I’ll likely sell or recycle most of my show stuff.

Another friend’s coming over to give the coldworking equipment a workout…and start a collaboration on a new piece for a library wall. I’m accepted an invitation to work with three artists in other media–fiber, metal and painting–to add glass to a collaboration due this spring.

So…it’s a little early to say I’m back in the glassmaking business yet, but I’m certainly a lot farther down the path. The results of the first murrini trials are ready to publish, and the glass stars appear to be realigning.

We’ll see…



  1. susan December 6, 2012 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    I live in a remote area and I rent a property. On the property is a two bay farm shed with holes in the iron etc. which the landlord said he would fix one day. that was a year and a half ago. Meantime, I cleaned out the barn and took away some vegetation growing into the garage (it is a small farm we live on and by a lake). I had a small garage where I last lived and it suited me well as I set it up for everything. I had a place to work and make waxes and that same table was where I moulded up as well but I had a separate steaming out station close to the roller door.

    Now, I have three areas in the barn separated by a bench which is stainless steel where I place my steamed out moulds and measured out glass for same. I have a separate waxing table and moulding table (it serves both). when I am moulding up, I use a big board and black plastic for trying to keep tidy. I have another table when I have my hot plates for melting wax and pots, etc and utensils.

    I also have a large old doctor’s desk which is used for any stained glass work I might be inspired to do.

    My finishing area with my foredom grinder is on an old metal bench with a bottom shelf that holds a lot of things. My other tools are hung on a board with small holes in it and hooks.

    Birds fly in there all the time so shit gets everywhere, it is relatively tidy, or as tidy as I can get it. I dream of a white walled, gibbed studio but for now it works. My kiln is a small one and sits in the corner and ready to be wired in for single phase if my electrician can get here before Christmas.

  2. Pam December 8, 2010 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for this! Very helpful for me at this stage of things. 🙂 Love your blog!

  3. joi December 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    If i had less self-respect, I’d upload a picture of my miniature studio, an 8×9 foot space which I literally cannot step inside right now b/c of all the christmas-craft-fair-related-crud blocking the doorway… no matter what level of art-making you’re at, low (me) to high (you), you never have enough space…

  4. Jayne Cornelis December 6, 2010 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    Happy to hear things could be moving forward 🙂

  5. Cynthia December 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    Hey, Abi. Yup, exactly: Wheels. Everything in my studio, from the wax cart (a Harbor Freight utiiity cart) to the flat lap, is on wheels. They can be shoved under or behind things, or against the wall, until they’re needed.

    I fell in love with Harbor Freight’s caster and wheel selection, especially when they have specials. First thing I’ve learned, though, is that even though the small casters are cheap and work, the bigger wheels are a LOT easier to use on a daily basis.

  6. Abigail Spring December 6, 2010 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Good ideas here! I am in the middle of making my cold working addition. UGH! Wheels wheels wheels. That is the key no? And figuring out drainage.
    : ( I can’t wait to get the dam thing finished. Off I go to buy some siding! Cheerio Cynthia.

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