Blow Your Mind
Painsts gets a brand new start
Story and Photos by Lindsey Shumway
If pianists injure their fingers or dancers hurt their feet, they will worry that their artistic career is over. But when carpenter and owner of State of Mind, Dennis Arthur, busted his knee, he turned to his dexterous hands to lead him to a more fragile craft—glass blowing.
It all started with restless boredom rendered by his injury. Arthur first learned about the art of glassware craft and signed up shortly after for a class at Corning Incorporated in Oneonta, N.Y. After continuous practice and progress made, Arthur eventually established a shop in downtown Plattsburgh, N.Y., to sell some of his homemade glass art.
Inside State of Mind, Arthur displays his glass pieces, which include sculptures, glass beads, pendants, marbles, spoons, sliders, pipes, and bongs. The shop gives customers a good chance to win some free merchandise with a monthly rewards program, giving away $600 of ‘Glass Giveaway’ on the first of every month at 6 p.m.
Sharing the display cases with the glassware are homemade knives and jewelry, and canvas-based art—also for sale—lines the walls of the shop's interior. All of Arthur's products are made in the shop or in the homes of the shop's employees rather than shipped from overseas for a cheap price.
“In this disposable world that we live in, I think people appreciate quality."
“We try to be an art gallery, and we try to sell the art we make,” Arthur says. “In this disposable world that we live in, I think people appreciate quality., and if you really care about it, then other people will care about it as well."
The polished hardwood floors and whitewashed walls take away none of the personality of the art, and that is the shop’s sole purpose. But its resemblance to an art gallery in design and ambience incite mixed responses from customers.
"As much as I love those stores, they aren't the easiest places to browse," says Plattsburgh resident Jason Herwick, "because oftentimes you're the only customer in there, and I usually just go with intent to buy. It can be intimidating to just be in there alone looking at everything only to leave. You feel guilty."
Arthur always encourages new artists to come create and display their artwork, whatever the medium, even though the array of available artwork is contributed by employees.
"My favorite thing to make is sculpture," Arthur says, "but I'm not really that good at it because I haven't really had much practice. Nobody really buys it."
He points out a sculpture of an oceanic scene, intricately designed with coral, seaweed, other aquatic plants, and vibrant fish flawlessly incorporated into the scene. While some of the glasswork can take a matter of minutes to create, sculptures like this oceanic scene can take up to six months to complete.
“There’s really no limit to what your imagination can create,” Arthur says, “As long as you have the resources to make them with.”
“There’s really no limit to what your imagination can create,” Arthur says, “as long as you have the resources to make them.”
Arthur repositioned State of Mind to uptown on 319B Cornelia Street, where he and a handful of other artists blow glass in his six-station teaching studio in the back of the shop.
“It’s basically just hanging out with friends,” says State of Mind employee Dan Covey. “We listen to music and just chill while we blow glass.”
Because Arthur found it difficult to find people willing to help him learn how to blow glass when he came to Plattsburgh, he started offering glass-blowing lessons in the back of his shop. He has taught ten people who are now full-time glass-blowers.
“What good is it knowing how to do something unless you’re willing to teach others?” Arthur asked.
People will learn to make colorful glass beads and how to create miniscule glass mushrooms inside of clear marbles at the four-hour glassblowing class, which costs $45. Any glasswork that people make during the lesson they can take home.
Arthur, Covey, and the other glass blowers who sell their artwork at State of Mind make an effort to make durable glass while still remaining smooth-looking and delicate.
“The hardest part is trying to get the glass to have the same consistency,” Covey says. He says a pipe, for example, “needs to have the same thickness of glass from the mouthpiece to the head.”
Blowing glass starts with a hollow tube of clear glass, which is drawn on the inside with colored glass tubes that are stretched thin until they make a desired design on the clear tube. This all gets collapsed down and melded into the preferred glass piece, while additional glass pieces can be melted onto the original for more intricate work.
Arthur stresses the State of Mind artists’ intent on long-lasting glass pieces, drawing from his lessons at Corning that taught him the process of annealing. This process takes place in a kiln at a certain temperature, which renders the glass piece unable to be deformed, while still allowing
the stresses in the glass to settle. Unless the glass anneals, the piece is a lot more likely to crack or shatter.
To demonstrate his confidence in his annealed glass, Arthur picks up a pipe from a display case and hurls it across the room, hitting an area on the wall full of dents. It doesn't leave a scratch.
To demonstrate his confidence in his annealed glass, Arthur picks up a pipe from a display case and hurls it across the room, hitting an area on the wall full of dents. It didn’t leave a scratch.
Accepting the specialized population of customers who will pay a little more for quality homemade pieces, Arthur still has hopes to expand State of Mind. His goal is to open a new shop in a college town each year, with the first scheduled to open in New Paltz.
Ashamed of other businesses who try to make a heavy profit from college students, Arthur tries to sell fairly-priced creative art that students will be proud to own.
“There is sort of a bond you form with them,” Herwick says, “so to know that he made it right there is pretty respectable. It’s unique.”