Wonders in Glass

We have made several interesting discoveries while walking the dogs and exploring the Salado Creek Greenway (which is eventually intended to provide a long, green pocket wilderness park all across suburban San Antonio) but I think the very most interesting was nothing to do with the park at all. A particular stretch of the greenway parallels Holbrook Road; just where the road crosses over Salado Creek, there is a low hill with an enormous Southern mansion sitting on the top, white pillars, galleries, ancient oak trees and all. The mansion is called Victoria’s Black Swan Inn; now it’s a wedding and event venue, but originally it was a private home, built just after the Civil War, and on the site of the 1842 Salado Creek Fight. They say it is one of the most haunted places in the United States – which it might very well be – but that’s not the discovery that my daughter and I made.
That would be what is around in back of the Black Swan; when we noticed a long graveled driveway at the side of the property, and a little sign that said “Glass Studio.”

My mother has tinkered with making stained glass for years, even attempting to teach my daughter some skills in that direction, so we both have an appreciation for it. My daughter said, “Let’s go and see?” so we wandered up the hill, past some extremely eccentric and enormous wind chimes hanging from trees … which seemed to lead nowhere but into a tangle of sheds, aging automobiles and assorted intriguing junk – pretty much your basic funky rural collection on stereoids.

At the top of the hill, the driveway curved around, underneath a tall pecan tree and a huge old wooden water-tank elevated on tall posts – and there was the glass studio, housed in a tidy little shed about the size of a suburban bedroom and spilling over onto a couple of tables and an outside wall, in the back-forty of the Black Swan. Mr. Howard Redman the glass artist was there, as he usually is on weekends, and was happy enough to show us his glass creations, his workspace, and his scrapbooks of previous commissions and projects, allowing us to tromp through it all with the dogs and poke into just about everything.

It’s a darned odd place to find a glass gallery, let me tell you: his work is substantial, beautifully done, colorful – everything from fused ‘jewels’ made of four separate layers of glass, to bowls on metal stands, platters, replica Tiffany and Frank Lloyd Wright style lamp-shades, hanging window panels and odd little tschockes – sun-catchers, votive candle holders and paperweights. But Howard Redmond is in his eighties, and this is semi-retirement and he can do as he damn well pleases, after a whole career working in specialty glass. I looked at some of the panels in his scrapbooks – and oh, my; original installations eight feet square, with four of five thousand individual pieces; that is some serious window-glazing, let me tell you.

Much of his professional work was done in Chicago, over the last thirty or forty years; I think his output now is more for fun, although he had many of his pieces in local galleries, and he does the occasional craft show. And nope, doesn’t even have a website, or an email address. Either catch him at a one of those shows, or come to San Antonio and search out the Black Swan Inn. Up to the top of the graveled drive, and around past the 1940s ambulance, the rusting restaurant stove, and the fallen-down bottle tree; next to a tall pecan tree and an old wooden water-tank on stilts: He’ll be at work in the little shed under the tree, with two rows of glass platters adorning the side.

8 thoughts on “Wonders in Glass”

  1. I have a weakness for glass art, and own one incredible piece of thick-glass style stained glass that is coveted by everyone who beholds it. This artist you are showing is very talented, with a lovely array of gorgeous pieces. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Tatyana – Sgt – I have always considered glass blowing to be an art. A few years ago we took a small tour of another glass blower – not nearly as nice as Nicholson’s or Howard Redman’s work.

    We were getting a demonstration of how they make a pitcher and the glass blower is blowing this glass out of a long tube.

    For whatever reason he started shaking this long tube with the molten glass on the end and we were very wary – this glass at – what? 1000 degrees? is flinging around the tube like taffy – and we could just imagine this “flinging” off and like a wayward missile, heading for us!

    In the case of Nicholson this place is way off in the foothills – you really have to know where they are. The couple is originally from Santa Cruz and they decided – literally – to “head for the hills”.

    For some reason West Virginia has had a lot of glass blowing companies – is it the sand – or materials one can get in the area?

    We have another strange factory in our area – Gladding-McBean. Their main business is making tile and sewer pipe – because of the clay found in their area – they even have sewer pipe they made for San Francisco that survived the 1906 earthquake and is still used – One of their “side” businesses is what they call terra cotta – they will make clay figurines for buildings all over the world – from Berlin to Tokyo – and the interesting things is – say – 70 years later the building owners need another figurine they go back where Gladding McBean keeps the specs of the original sculpture – and it is remade there just as it was 70 years ago.

    I am sorry if my wandering is “hijacking a thread – Sgt – if you feel I am misbehaving hit me on the head or make me do pushups – so many of these interesting posts remind me of other things…You are nice enough to write about your own experiences – if I am out of line please let me know


    Interesting they don’t even mention their terracotta here on their website…oops – look at their link under terra cotta – quite a history – better get back to work….

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