●Where do you live? College Park
●What is the one piece of equipment you use that you can’t live without? “In the glass studio, a good pair of jacks. Outside the studio, a camera. It’s great for capturing the colors and textures found all around us.”
●“When I’m not making stuff, I’m . . . ” “Exploring nature and local parks with my husband and dogs, building a mobile craft studio and discovering something new I’d like to learn.”
Glassblowing: It’s hot, sweaty and difficult to do by yourself.
Beth Hess doesn’t mind. The 35-year-old College Park resident loves it so much, in fact, that she left her full-time job in marketing and communications last October to pursue it, only five years after taking an introductory glassblowing class at D.C. Glassworks and Sculpture Studios in Hyattsville.
“I was hooked,” Hess said of the class, which she is now experienced enough to teach. She makes bowls, vases and cups with a focus on functionality.
“I like to make things you can use,” Hess said. “I’m a klutz. I don’t make things that are super-thin or fragile or things I’d be afraid to touch. I don’t make fancy stuff. I want to be comfortable using it, and I want people to be able to use it.”
Selling her work started as a way to clear out a house full of glassware and to make room for more — she was giving away as many pieces as gifts as she could. Glassblowing is also expensive, Hess said, with D.C. Glassworks courses starting at $395 for six weeks and furnace rental space starting at $30 an hour. Add the costs of materials and tools, and the hobby adds up. To fund her work, selling it made the most sense.
Hess still calls D.C. Glassworks home; she teaches courses and rents studio space with another glassblower, Leo Lex. The two met in a class several years ago and enjoy helping each other work. It helps to have an extra pair of hands to transfer glass from the blowpipe and prevent cracks and breaks, Hess said.
The buzzy environment of a community workshop suits her personality, too. Hess said she doesn’t plan on opening her own studio or work space.
“I don’t like working by myself,” she said. “It’s easier to work with a partner. When I’m there by myself, it’s kind of boring.”
As a self-proclaimed “maker of things,” Hess began crafting as a child — both she and her grandmother crochet. Studying journalism and political science at Indiana University of Pennsylvania led Hess to marketing and a move to the District, which she said are the perfect career and place for her interests. Being able to be creative and visual was important, she said, and marketing let her enjoy “never wearing one hat.”
‘I have ended up taking my skills and experience in marketing and getting to use them for my work,” Hess said. “It’s fun to play with Web sites and blogs and Twitter.”
You can find Hess’s work on her Etsy Web page, Wunder Around, as well as her Web site and blog. Her Threads collection is inspired by her love of crochet — thin threads of color around bowls and vases create the effect of yarn wrapped around glass. Another collection, called the Duos, uses different color combinations that create an unexpected outcome.
Glassblowing “takes practice,” Hess said. “That can be the biggest hurdle. Even when you take a class, you make a glass, but it’s a crooked drinking glass. You have to practice to get it to be where you want it to be.”