By Paul M. Howey
With a commonality of purpose and a shared love for glass—and with complementary yet distinctly separate skillsets—Geoff Koslow and Billy Guilford are Lexington Glassworks. Billy has worked on the technical side of the industry, building and maintaining equipment, and Geoff has worked on the retail aspects focusing on marketing and selling direct to customers.
Billy (from Cleveland, Ohio) and Geoff (from Richmond, Virginia) have been best friends since meeting at Alfred University in upstate New York where they each earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. It was at Alfred that they both developed a love for working with glass.
After graduating, they parted ways. Billy went to work as a head studio technician for the Pittsburgh Glass Center, a nonprofit school and glass studio in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Geoff headed to Texas where he worked for the Wimberley Glassworks, a handblown glass lighting and art glass studio located near Austin.
Over the years, they stayed in touch, and both took several classes at Penland School of Crafts in Western North Carolina. After being introduced to the region while at Penland, they knew that this is where they’d like to start their own studio. Once they decided to do that, it all came about rather quickly and remarkably smoothly.
Geoff moved to Asheville in 2013 and Billy followed the next year. They knew they’d prefer being in the middle of the action in the downtown area, but weren’t sure if that would be feasible. And then they discovered a 5,000-square-foot building that had for years housed Brown’s Auto Repair at 81 S. Lexington Avenue.
“It was perfect,” says Billy. What made it even better, from a city licensing standpoint for a glass studio, was that it was a stand-alone structure.
The two went to work building all the equipment for the studio, including the large furnace that can hold up to 300 pounds of molten glass. They also constructed a gallery area, and recently installed a beer bar. “We hope the bar has regular hours this spring and can host functions throughout this next year,” says Billy.
“We are branded as a company,” says Billy, “not as individual artists.” To which Geoff adds, “We collaborate on most everything, although some items are mine and some are Billy’s in terms of aesthetics; but everything is sold as Lexington Glassworks.
“That being said, we definitely each have our own style and signature pieces, but you would have to come in and ask someone in the gallery to identify the pieces for you. Ultimately, we are building a company, something more than two guys making art.”
Turning to the inspiration side of his art, Geoff says, “I am really obsessively process oriented. I love the act of blowing, shaping, and manipulating the glass. … I chase technique trying to understand and hone particular techniques.”
Even though they just celebrated their one-year anniversary last month, they’re already looking to the future. Geoff says, “Decorative lighting is quickly becoming the focus of the company. People can come in and have custom lighting made for their homes, offices, and restaurants. We see the custom lighting market as an opportunity to grow our business in a unique way.” Billy emphasizes, “We want to be the custom lighting resource for the Southeast.”
Meanwhile, it’s obvious the two are having a good time, and Lexington Glassworks is designed to share that enjoyment with the public. The large garage doors in the front roll up and the public is invited in to watch the creation of everything from paperweights and ornaments to elaborate chandeliers.
Lexington Glassworks is located at 81 S. Lexington Avenue in Asheville. For more information, visit lexingtonglassworks.com or call them at 828.348.8427. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday (no glass blowing demonstrations on Tuesday).