Lesson Learned (September 17)


Annealing Glass and Life: Reflecting On 9/11

Annealing: heat (metal or glass) and allow it to cool slowly, in order to remove internal stresses and toughen it.

Here is a Lesson Learned in three parts. This is about “annealing,” by Allia Shaver, student journalist, and Greenbrier Almond, MD, community columnist, who jointly interviewed Ron Hinkle on August 2 and 4, 2022. Art mimics Life.

How poignant to consider the stress from the attack on America with Ron Hinkle. He works out his stress by blowing glass. His creation under circumstances of grief and loss is one of his best.  

Here is the interview:

Allia observed: Mark Twain said, “Find a job you enjoy doing and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I think Mr. Hinkle put that quote to work... or play... in his life’s work of art!

Greenbrier observed: Ron Hinkle found a way to become the foremost blown glass artist in West Virginia, if not the United States of America, from a humble beginning. He began as a 12-year-old lad heating and bending glass tubing on a chemistry set, living on the same farm as he now lives, reaching a pinnacle daily creating glass masterpieces beginning with simple pipette clear glass, yet more. As Ron explains, “We dip the colors and designs in chips of colored glass. These chips of glass are from Germany, a little bit from the Czech Republic, a little from New Zealand, a little from Italy. So, I have probably one of the world’s largest collections of colored art glass of any glass artist.”

Greenbrier:  Ron, do I hear you poetically say “WE” when describing your creative process?

Ron:  Doc, the “WE” is my body, including very good reflexes to avoid getting burned, for the temperature I work with is in the 2400 degrees Fahrenheit range; my mind’s eye knowing ahead of time what I envision; and my soul, for you know I am a man of faith, even for a time serving as a bishop in my church.

While heating and shaping the glass, Ron continues:

Ron: The “WE” is about 90%. I must respect the glass, too. I find that glass has an attitude all of its own. I’m now using a shaping block made from cherry wood, then air pressure in there. You have to be really quick when you do that, air pressure and push a bubble into the molten glass (taps the pipe) there it goes (a beautiful vase starts to form).

Allia: Have you ever created something that you loved too much to sell? And if so, what was it?

Ron: Well...I have a vase that was one of my best art pieces I feel like, and I made it during the very time that the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were bombed with the planes (September 11, 2001). My assistant and I were working on that piece for about two hours, and I kept it in the house. My brother-in-law was in the Pentagon and passed away in the bombing of the Pentagon. I kept that. In my opinion, it is the best piece I ever made. 

Allia: I am so sorry about your brother-in-law.

Ron: Thank you.

Greenbrier: You are now creating an Almond/Young/Stuart family heirloom piece. We will value it as you do the remembrance of your brother-in-law and 9/11. For 43 years my family has been blessed to live in one of Buckhannon’s grand homes. The mortar and pestle, symbolic of the pharmacy profession, will constantly remind us of G.O. Young Drug Store and the Young Family, who also enjoyed residence in our home.

Allia: Mr. Hinkle, you inspire me to find something I love to do, with a goal of never having to work a day in my life! I am also about to be the very proud owner of a piece of art you are now creating. How special this is! I really like the mortar and pestle piece that Doc had you do for him! What other special pieces have you been commissioned to do for people or events?

Ron: I was commissioned to do Arts awards for the State of West Virginia by Governor Manchin when he was in office, that were given out at the Capitol Complex right beside the Capitol. I felt like that was an honor. Also, I got to make a giant glass flame that was made for a Catholic Church Community Center in Santa Monica, California. That was probably one of the largest pieces I made for a commission. So those are two of the really nice things that I have been paid to do. I have been commissioned to make other pieces, too. Governor Underwood had me make a tree full of Christmas ornaments that was auctioned off to help build a cardiac center for the Cabell County Hospital. There are others, but I could go on too long on that. Next question?

Please join us next week for the rest of the interview.

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