By Frances Figart
Growing up in Kennesaw, Georgia, Colin O’Reilly didn’t think about glass. He played baseball, basketball and lacrosse and focused on math and science. In 2008, half way through his studies at the California College of Arts, his parents took him to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“The plan was for me to apprentice at a bronze foundry there but it was closed when we arrived,” he says. “There was a small glass studio next to it that happened to be open and when I walked in and saw the gaffer working with the molten glass, I was immediately blown away!”
It took about a week of hanging around the studio to convince the resident artists he was serious, and they invited the eager student to move across the country to live in an airstream trailer and be the shop’s apprentice. He cleaned, worked on equipment and manually turned down the annealers at night in exchange for access to the glassblowing studio.
Since then, he’s been focused on honing his skills, but not without some help. Like a couple of glasses in their popular Gold Cinch collection, Colin and Rachel O’Reilly come as a set. You don’t get one without the other, and whenever Colin is asked to describe his work, the sentence begins with ‘We’ or ‘Our.’
“We met over the course of three separate weddings, her uncle’s and my two siblings’,” he says. “She sang at all of them. When I ran out of siblings who could get married, I realized I needed to ask her out.” Rachel is a classically trained singer and also the full-time mother of their two sons, all the while inspiring and helping Colin with every aspect of their business, Terrane Glass Designs.
The couple moved to Spruce Pine after spending time in Santa Fe, Oakland and Seattle to learn the craft of glassblowing. “I had done a summer internship with a local glassblower, Pablo Soto, and took a class at Penland School of Crafts in 2010,” Colin says. “Rachel and I fell in love with the area and have been looking to get back here ever since.”
In 2015, they packed up and moved from Seattle to WNC for the opportunity to work with and share a studio with Kenny Pieper. It was during this time at Pieper Glass that Colin was able to develop some glass lines further and start Terrane Glass.
“Almost all of our products are blown glass,” he says. “Some have different aspects of cold working the glass after it is blown. Just recently we have started to incorporate different materials. It is very important to us to keep the materials in their natural state as much as possible. So we mostly design around clear glass to emphasize the beauty and natural qualities of the glass.”
Central to the Terrane philosophy is creating functional yet beautiful handmade objects. “Our barware is almost entirely clear so that one can still enjoy the sight, movement and experience of their beverage,” says Colin. “We try to keep our designs subtle so as to not distract: A slight indent for a thumb on our rocks glasses and decanters or a gold-leaf body wrap that is then ‘cinched’ so as to not ‘stick out’ too much but add a textural and visual element.”
Colin considers working with glass an incredible experience. “In the hot shop in its molten state, you forget you are working with glass as it is fluid yet delicate. You can also cast, grind, carve, slump, fuse and so on. It is a material that offers so much possibility. Glass is a great teacher about life: teamwork, perseverance, letting go, concentration, humility—it is very humbling.”
Last year, with the company barely underway, Rachel applied to the Made in the South awards put on by Garden and Gun magazine. A few months, parties and photos shoots later, Colin had been named an overall winner and the ensuing publicity propelled Terrane Glass to national recognition. The couple is still scrambling to keep up with orders. Colin currently works out of several local studios and the company is seeking its own space with several priorities in mind. “Family is definitely the most important,” he says. “We are trying to figure out how to continue to pursue our dream while keeping family at the center. It looks like the next step in this process will be to find a home/studio.” The couple is willing to relocate from their temporary landing spot in Spruce Pine, but definitely consider the Asheville area home and want to raise their sons here.
“To have gotten to the point where we can do this for a living is a gift,” says Colin. “Our vision for the future is to be able to provide an artist cooperative where we can not only expand our product line, but be able to mentor and help provide a stable career for other glass blowers.”
Terrane Glass Designs’ upcoming shows include the Toe River Arts Council (TRAC) Tour June 2–4; Pinehurst’s Chef & Maker Series with Ashley Christensen July 7–9; 10 Friends in Their Element: Artist Resource Center, TRAC Gallery, September 2–3; and Made South events in Atlanta, GA, September 29–30, Louisville, KY, October 27–28 and Franklin, TN, November 17–18. Work can be seen at Atomic Furnishings in Asheville. Learn more on Facebook and Instagram and at terraneglassdesigns.com.