"Stemware is the hardest, most technical thing to make," said McFadden
."It's something that takes a lot of practice."McFadden
should know.As the owner of McFadden Art Glass
on Eastern Avenue
has created everything from Christmas ornaments to modernistic lamps, from vases to tumblers, and everything in between including, yes, stemware.And he
has created it the old-fashioned wayâ€"with a furnace, blowpipe and a number of other tools of his
trade.And these days, he
makes a living not just selling pieces of his
art, but teaching others how to master it.Pretty good for a guy right out of collegeâ€"particularly one whose initial higher education goals didn't really include fine art.
"I went to Salisbury University
to try to play lacrosse, but it wasn't working out," McFadden
switched to business as a major.And like many other students, had to satisfy required coursework in other areas.
One of those areas was fine arts.And McFadden might have been relegated to some obscure Art 101 course, had it not been for the fact that he had seen his older brother Marty, also a student at Salisbury, satisfy some of his own art requirements by taking a variety of courses.
needed some art electives, so he
was taking ceramics and drawing.Ceramics was right next to the glass blowing studio.Whenever the doors would open, you could see people working on glass, and glass is just so much cooler than anything else so he
started taking that, too."
After seeing his
brother's enthusiasm, McFadden
went to speak with the professor, and convinced him of his
own interest in glassmaking (generally a course reserved for upperclassmen).The prof allowed him to take an introductory course as a freshman, and McFadden
was hooked.He continued taking glassmaking courses throughout his time at Salisbury, balancing (and sometimes overbalancing) the art classes with his business studies.
"After a while, I started thinking, â€˜How can I do this once I graduate?'"He
had already seen his
brother try unsuccessfully to find a position in glassmaking after college.McFadden
wanted to make it work, so he
decided to try something different.
had another year of school left and that, he
realized, meant he
had another chance.
...McFadden received his diploma on May 24, 2006.
On May 30, he
settled on the building on Eastern Avenue
, a former auto repair business.He
spent four months refurbishing the building to make it at once habitable as a residence and presentable as an art galleryâ€"and turning the warehouse/garage space into a glassblowing studio.
And in November, he
opened.The city's Free Fall event, which promoted local art museums and art-related businesses, he
said, "was the best thing that could have happened to us."
"Now, people are starting to know that we're here, starting to know what's going on."To make sure they do, McFadden
schedules a variety of activities that will interest not just art connoisseurs but those who always wanted to try their hand at glassmaking, but who might have been intimidated by the idea.He
has instructional classes, private parties, lessons and beginner's workshops to introduce others to his
crafts, and even group tours and hands-on learning experiences for students and others who simply want to watch him work and see how things are done. (He also offers private lessons and studio rentals for those who want to pursue the art on a more focused level).Tim McFadden makes a stemmed glass, one of the trickiest things to make.He
has also upped his
visibility by holding consumer-friendly events like "date nights" on the first Friday of every month, and encouraging couples to come by for some free entertainmentâ€"and after all, it's an unusual and conversation-provoking outing, for sure. (Those who choose to do so can pay a $35 fee and create a glass flower to take home as a memento of their evening).
And really, he
adds, it's something anyone can take an interest in.
"Ages, well, four to 94," he
said."I had a kindergarten group come in a while back and we made marbles.They absolutely loved it."He
grins, reliving the moment.
The question, of course, has to come up: Isn't that dangerous?After all, the furnace that turns raw materials into molten glass heats at temperatures above 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.The glass is still well over 1,000 degrees when it's pulled out of the furnace and when the shaping process begins.
"There's a certain element of danger," says McFadden
, "but it's all about how you handle yourself in the studio."
Prior to setting up his
own business, McFadden
worked in a number of studios and visited others.He
took notes on what worked and what didn't, what he
could apply to his
own business and how various ideas could be improved upon.
says, there are always going to be a few individuals who need reassurance, whether they're just spectators, or actual participants.
When clear glass breaks, McFadden
is able to recycle itâ€"melt it down again for use in a future project.His
workshop is filled with a number of objects destined for recycle, most of them attempts at a curving glass faucet he
is presently working on for a client.
I'll get it right," he
says with determination, running a finger over one of the trial faucets.Because he
doesn't yet have the equipment to recycle colored glass as working material, his
experimental workâ€"like the faucetsâ€"is done without color.
The play of water on glass is enjoyable and relaxing, and it's obvious that McFadden
enjoys the results of his
art.But outside the door is the entrance to his
workshop, and he
has to be getting back to it.He
has an order of glass ornaments to create, and a customer is coming by to pick up some pieces made during a recent workshop.It's his
business and his
Part of the challenge he
faces is moving glassblowing into Baltimore's mainstream consciousness.After all, pottery studios have been around for years, but it wasn't until recently that the do-it-yourself workshops and programs have really caught in.This year, however, he
says, glassmaking took a big leap forwardâ€"all the way to the Super Bowl when it was featured in a beer commercial.
Of course, he
hastens to admit, it was definitely stop-action photography.