By Lauren Curran
You must believe us when we say our intention is to cover every nook and cranny of the Rural Intelligence
region. But, okay, there still might be some pockets of wonderfulness here or there in that wide swath we haven’t explored as much as we should. So we’re glad when the holiday season alerts us to a new place to share with our readers. Thank you, Christmas in Riverton
This weekend, Dec. 4-6, way over on the eastern edge of Litchfield County, the village of Riverton in the town of Barkhamsted will celebrate the holidays with a candlelight wine tour, a festival of trees, horse-drawn wagon rides and — what really captured us — an opportunity to partake in an ancient art seldom available at holiday celebrations: glass blowing your own ornament. Resident glass blower Peter Greenwood
will open his studio
on Saturday, Dec. 4, allowing visitors to step inside to create a glass orb using the heat of a roaring furnace and a long, metal rod. If this doesn’t bring out your inner Chihuly, nothing will.
Located in a circa 1829 former Episcopal church that he and his wife now own, Greenwood’s studio and craft harkens back to an age when glass bottles and other vessels were hand blown through a long metal pipe with taffy-like molten glass stuck on at one end, with the other end reserved for the artist to blow into. And that’s precisely how you’ll make your ornament. But first, you get to choose the colored chips to be melted and swirled into the molten glass blob. Then you’ll blow into the rod held by Greenwood. That deep breath will create a glass bubble that when hardened is your ornament. It’s like breathing life into a shimmering piece of art.
Walk into Greenwood’s studio and the first thing you’ll notice is the warmth from the furnace used to melt the glass, a bonus on a cold, December day. The $32 cost to design the ornament includes all materials, and the process takes only about five minutes. While the activity might seem fleeting, it’s the process that people usually find most fascinating as they watch the orange-hued, molten glass miraculously harden into a work of art. Greenwood says his favorite part about working with customers is watching how nervousness in the beginning turns to awe. “The expression on their face...is precious," he says.
Greenwood offers various glass blowing workshops, too, in which participants can make paper weights and glass flowers. Several companies have even hosted team-building workshops at his studio. On one particular day, the phone rang several times with people inquiring about coming in to attend one of the workshops. “Most people are intimidated when they come in," Greenwood says. “After they make their paper weight they’re amazed at how easy it was."
In addition to the studio downstairs, an airy gallery upstairs showcases Greenwood’s stunning work. A cobalt blue chandelier, a large table, lighting – all made of glass, of course – are on display and for sale, as well as smaller items such as water pitchers, goblets and pumpkins, a holdover from fall. Candy-colored swirls of glass can be seen in every part of the room. Items range in cost from $5 to $25,000. If you’re busy this weekend, it’s worth a visit on another day.
Born in Hartford, Greenwood is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and came to the glass blowing discipline in 1979. His work has been shown in museums and galleries throughout the world, including The Louvre in Paris, The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT and the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio. His glassworks are also in numerous private collections.
Just as your self-made glass ornament can be a part of yours.
Glass-blown Holiday Ornament Workshop
Peter Greenwood Glass Blowing Studio and Gallery
Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
3 Robertsville Road, Riverton, CT