William Darras gave his girlfriend a present she couldn’t open, see or experience on Christmas day, but two months later when Leah Mendenhall was taken to the source of her gift she was nonetheless excited. Then she was put to work to create it.
Darras and Mendenhall of Lancaster, Pa., were at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in Reading, Pa., taking part in a glassblowing workshop, where each would be taught the basics and supervised while making a piece of their own.
After three hours of observing, instruction, selecting colors, handling tools of the trade, standing near 2,000-degree furnaces and blowing, blowing, blowing, Mendenhall and Darras were giddy and had both completed works of art—his a beer stein and hers a water glass.
“I loved it,” she said.
“I can’t wait to do it again,” he commented.
GoggleWorks is one of several stops in Pennsylvania’s Reading/Boyerstown/Bethlethem area where the art of glass is celebrated, made, taught and showcased. Tourism officials now market it as the “Pennsylvania Glass Trail.”
The trail includes more than 10 studios, shops and an art center along the Route 222 corridor between Lancaster and Bethlehem. A few stops on the trail include:
The Banana Factory in Bethlehem, an educational facility dedicated to promoting an understanding and appreciation of the art of blown glass and the glass-making process. The studio offers a variety of glassblowing, flameworking, slumping and fusing classes and workshops; educational programs for youth; a visiting artist in residence program and group and corporate art experiences.
Glasslight Studio in St. Peters, Pa. where founders Joel Bless and Candace Luke-Bless developed a method they’ve dubbed “vertical drip casting” and created a line of menorahs. Recent projects include large chandeliers with multiple glass pieces.
The Glass Place in Wyomissing, Pa., is where one will find owner/artist Louise Mehaffey, who most recently has ventured into melting glass with an oxygen/propane torch creating lampworked glass beads.
One has to travel over hill and over dale to get to the Taylor Backes Studio in Boyerstown, Pa., but if one is fascinated by blown glass, it’s well worth the trip.
The studio, which has a rather nondescript appearance from the curb, is a treasure trove of glass finds from tiny, simple ones to immense, complex works of art. The studio also gives voyeurs the chance to see firsthand how the elaborate, and in many cases delicate, pieces are created.
However, glass is only one of several artistic channels one can learn about or view in Reading.
At GoggleWorks, a former factory where industrial goggles were made, artists and artisans who work in visual arts, woodworking, ceramics, textiles, jewelry, dance and more share space in a massive five-story structure. On the second Sunday of each month, an open house is held during which demonstrations take place throughout the complex and visitors can visit artists in their studios, view exhibits and purchase works.
Visitors to the Reading community will find large guest rooms with a hearty breakfast buffet, cozy lounge with pool table at The Reading Inn. Both breakfast buffet and WiFi are complimentary—a plus in my book. Rooms at the 40-year-old sprawling single-floor hotel range from $79 to $159, depending on season and accommodation type.
I had a memorable meal at Panevino, a lovely restaurant in downtown Reading, where the rustic Italian cuisine (pasta, steak, lamb, Tuscan grilled pizza) is matched by the ambiance, which includes live music that’s performed in the bar area and entertains those in the dining room as well. And the Friday night buffet at Prime Steak and Wine (located inside the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Reading) was extensive with a prime rib carving station as well as offerings of crab legs, salmon, chicken, grilled vegetables and a tempting array of desserts.
For more information on the Pennyslvania Glass Trail as well as other places to visit in Reading, visit www.takearide.com.