Hi, I’m Ron Hinkle, a master glass artist who’s very passionate about glass and the history of glass making.
Born and reared in Buckhannon, West Virginia, I developed a love of glass at the age of 12. Taking the glass tubing from my chemistry set, I learned to bend and stretch the glass over the burners of my gas stove. I became fascinated by the movement, the flow, and the possibilities of glass.
During the summer before my senior year at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, I learned the glass factories in nearby Weston were looking for summer help. I began work at Louie Glass, and after just one summer, I was completely awestruck by the magic of glass and had an insatiable hunger to learn more about this craft. I returned to Louie Glass after graduation in 1974 and would spend the next 20 years learning from the masters while developing my own style and technique.
Within the first few years at Louie Glass, I worked independently during my breaks, at lunch, after work, and on weekends to learn the art of glass blowing. I was soon assigned to a glass blowing position, where I remained for 14 years.
During this time, I observed my co-workers crafting paperweights with colorful glass flowers and intricate designs encased within the glass. I was consumed with achieving this skill and growing my repertoire. Within a year, my paperweights were in such demand among the employees that they would purchase them while I was still forming the glass. My co-workers would claim a paperweight before it was even cooled. Soon, I was crafting paperweights during every spare moment and even secured an apprentice to assist me. I quickly realized that in order to meet the growing demand of the employees, other individuals, and an expanding list of gift shops was going to require even more time.
I began investigating the possibility of starting my own glass studio. I sought the advice of Jennings Bonnell, formerly of Big Pine Key Glass Works Studio in the Florida Keys, who assured me that my talents were adequate and the market for fine handmade art glass was as open and endless as the number of items the mind could create. Jennings and I visited accomplished glass artists including Roberto Moretti, Harvey Littleton, John Littleton, Gary Beacham, and Walter Evans. I also sought input from Vander, Mark & Merritt of Three Bridges, New Jersey; Robert Hammond of Scott Depot, West Virginia; Charlie Gibson of Milton, West Virginia; Charles Lotton, Fred Wilkerson, Sr., Fred Wilkerson Jr., Leon Applebaum of New York; and Jim Davis of Pennsboro, West Virginia among many others. I learned about the processes involved in their individual creations, studio construction, and product marketing.
With a dream in my left hand and faith in my right, I set out to build my own glass studio. With literally no money to invest, it took four years to build the tank, furnace, and studio. I and my father, Paul Eugene Hinkle, harvested logs from the property and traded part of the logs to have the lumber sawed for construction. I purchased second-hand tools and machinery and even collected tools that had been discarded, thrown away to repair and returned them to service in my own studio.
In mid-1993, I left Louie Glass, and officially opened Hinkle’s Dying Art Glassworks on January 1, 1994. I began by marketing my work exclusively through wholesale, particularly to Princess House Consultants, with which I became acquainted through Louie Glass. It didn’t take long before orders started coming in from many states and because of the quality of my work, word of mouth became my best marketing tool.
Since it began, business at Hinkle’s Dying Art Glassworks has grown by at least 30% every year. My art glass is now available in more than 30 states and in select international locations. In December 2005, my business became known as Ron Hinkle Glass.
My work has been featured numerous times on both the West Virginia Governor’s Tree and the Christmas Pageant of Peace trees at the White House in Washington, D.C. For the 2000 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA, I crafted hundreds of glass peaches for distribution to dignitaries and guests. I have regularly demonstrated my craft at the Mountain State Arts & Craft Fair in Ripley, West Virginia, and have been featured in USA Today, Lifestyle Crafts Buyers Guide and All About Glass magazine.
The product line at Ron Hinkle Glass includes original designer vases, rondels, bowls, stemware, table lamps, and a series of novelty figurines including animals, fruit and flowers. I am currently developing a line of handcrafted custom lamp shades for both chandelier and sconce applications.
I am currently partnering with Fenton Glass USA in developing and creating for Fenton a limited edition Christmas ornament using Burmese Glass supplied by the Fenton Factory in Williamstown, West Virginia.
In the May 9th, 2003 Edition of the New York Times Journeys Section, the article entitled Thirty-six Hours in Morgantown, West Virginia stated, “The highlight of the shops is the Gallery at Seneca Center, a co-operative that features the work of artists like Ron Hinkle, a Buckhannon, West Virginia glassblower who loves color in dapples and swirls.”
I am fulfilling a lifelong dream to create and sell my own works of glass art.
Glassblowing is no longer a dying art, but alive and well in the 21st century.
Artist’s Statement & Philosophy
Each piece of my glass is an extension of my very being. Over my 35-plus years of experience in the glass making industry, I have developed a passion for glass that has transcended a mere desire to earn a living.
My mother and my aunt instilled in me a love of art that has allowed me to develop my own artistic abilities — cultivating and nurturing them to achieve a great satisfaction in my work. Glass blowing is something I truly enjoy, and I continually strive to learn new techniques and advance the industry toward a sustainable future.
Fostering the growth of the glass industry is part of my mission as an artist, and I work to achieve this through educating the public. My studio is open to the public and visitors can watch, learn and interact as I handcraft each piece. My hope is that they take away with them some understanding of the magic of glass.
I have a deep appreciation for all that glass has allowed me to achieve. Not only has it been a vehicle by which I have explored and broadened my artistic horizons, but it has afforded me the means to raise and provide for my family, and meet many dear friends along the way.
My life has been a sort of adventure novel, and I am truly blessed to be doing something I love every day. Each piece of my art represents what I have learned and pursued for the last 30 years. I hope to be remembered for the pieces I have created— to have some small footnote in history.