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Photo by Beth Furgurson
An original, hand-blown glass pitcher
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Photo by Beth Furgurson
Chris Skibbe (left) and his assistant, Sandy Wilson, blow glass at The Glass Spot.
After opening his own glassblowing studio, The Glass Spot, in April 2007, Chris Skibbe began to teach classes — mostly to his friends. It wasn’t until the Dale Chihuly glass exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2012 that things really began to take off.
“That raised glass awareness by leaps and bounds in Richmond,” Skibbe says. “People just got to talking and said, ‘There’s a place right down the street where you can do that.’ ”
Today Skibbe manages the studio, teaches classes and creates his own artwork at The Glass Spot, where other glass artists can also rent space. We caught up with him to talk about life in the hot shop, where summer temperatures can reach 130 degrees, with the glass-working furnace set to 2,100 degrees.
R•Home: How did you begin doing this as a career?
Chris Skibbe: I have my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from VCU. My focus was in glassworking. And then basically when I graduated, there were no studios around Richmond for me to work at, so I just decided to start my own.
R•Home: What made you decide to stay in Richmond?
Skibbe: I love it here. I’ve really wanted to create a scene somewhere where I would have a niche, rather than go to Seattle as lots of glassblowers do. I really wanted to start my own thing here in Richmond. It’s a vibrant art scene, it deserves to have glass here.
R•Home: Have any more places opened since you started, or are you still the main glassblowing workshop in Richmond?
Skibbe: Besides the VCU hot shop, we’re the only hot shop in Richmond.
R•Home: How often do you work on your own projects?
Skibbe: I just took two weeks to experiment and to just get some new work out. I’ve been showing the same work for a while now, and a lot of it’s gotten sold — and a lot of it I’m just sitting here looking at — so I’m putting some new stuff out there. There’s been so much color on everything that I’m really stepping back, and I want to show off the clear, the crystal, of the glass. A lot of people get so focused on the color that we really lose the fact that it’s glass and clear by nature.
R•Home: Why did you decide to branch out into teaching classes?
Skibbe: That was always part of our business plan. We knew that to make this place work, we’d have to try to reach as many people as possible.
R•Home: What is your most popular class at The Glass Spot?
Skibbe: It is definitely the beginner paperweight class. There is no experience necessary, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money in previous glass classes just to get in. Everybody goes home with three or four paperweights that they’re usually very happy with. Our ornament-blowing class is also popular at this time of year.
R•Home: What’s the most enjoyable thing to craft in glass?
Skibbe: Whenever we’re experimenting with something new. My assistant and I were recently working on some stuff we had never worked on before, and we were both really getting excited about it. … It opens pathways to even newer things — experimenting leads to more experimenting. You don’t see what can come out of what you’re making until you’re actually making it.
Learn more about Skibbe and The Glass Spot at richmondglassspot.com