By MELODY STONE, The Eureka Reporter
Chaz Anthony Kerlin was 13 years old when he met a man on a beach in Key Largo who was selling small glass figurines of fish and sea animals. Kerlin followed the man back to his studio and watched him blow glass for a week. Eventually the man let Kerlin work with the molten glass, and he was hooked. Since then he’s been blowing glass and making a living off his art.
Kerlin now works in Arcata’s Unauthorized Art Foundry glass lab. He teaches glass-blowing classes and oversees the lab. Glass artists pay an initiation fee and then a monthly membership for the use of the lab. Use of the torches costs $4 and artists must purchase the glass they use.
The lab is located off West End Road and is just one of 13 studios focused on jewelry, metal works, musical arts and more.
The type of glasswork the lab is capable of is called lamp work, meaning it uses a torch. There are other types of glasswork, and eventually Kerlin wants to equip the lab for that, but right now it’s just torches and kilns.
Wendy Baker is a beginning glassblower and made her first glass bead recently. “It’s super cool; it’s an art form,” she said. Baker said she was drawn to glassblowing because it’s more forgiving than other art forms. If you mess up, it’s easy to start over and reuse the glass.
Something else that’s nice about glassblowing is that it’s fairly quick. Kerlin said it takes him about five minutes to make an intricate-looking pendant, and they sell well.
Dominic Orona frequents the glass lab and enjoys this hobby, which also fetches a profit. Vases, beads, candy dishes and sculptures are crafted in the shop. Orona said they all sell, but what sells the most are pipes and sex toys.
Kerlin has to play police in the lab because it’s against the rules to make pipes, and it’s his desire to keep the lab a place where art can happen.
“I would rather make art because of the respect that’s given me,” said Kerlin, “as opposed to just making a pipe.”
(Melody Stone can be reached at email@example.com or 707-269-7437.)