By Gina Malone
Fascinated by glass art when he was young, David Goldhagen began taking classes in glass while he was an English major at Tulane University. It was a new program then and after Glass 101, he was hooked. “I graduated with that English degree and an ‘unofficial’ minor in glassblowing,” Goldhagen says. The summer after graduation, he took workshops at Pilchuck Glass School in Washington and, closer to his parents’ WNC summer home, Penland School of Crafts. “It was five weeks of glass nirvana,” he says.
Soon after, he commandeered the summer home, building a glass studio in an old hay barn. “With lots of help from the glassmakers of Penland mentoring me along the way, I built my first shop. All the work in shop class in high school paid off. I knew how to weld and build. In those days, the only way to have a glass shop was to build it yourself.”
He began creating, taking his work to art fairs, and started selling and showing in galleries all over the country. Always supportive, his parents would show up at art fairs, including the Winter Park Sidewalk Arts Festival in Winter Park, FL, in 1988, where he won Best of Show. “I remember one show in particular in the early ‘90s,” he says, “when all my family and friends were helping in my booth. Everyone was busy selling, restocking, packing and helping customers with my work. It was great.”
With his two sons, he says, “the Goldhagen glass blowing tradition is being passed on.” Aided by his glass portfolio, his son, Gabriel, 18, received a full merit scholarship to Duke University and Evan, 15, recently won a Scholastic National Gold Key for his glass work, presented at Carnegie Hall in June.
Although Goldhagen will soon have 40 years of glass making experience behind him, he says it remains a challenging material. “I am continually learning, getting better and trying new ideas to keep things fresh and exciting. The challenge of making better work is an everlasting pursuit.” He works in layers of colored and clear glass that is “gathered, manipulated, swirled, pulled and spun all at the end of a metal blow pipe.” He enjoys experimenting with color combinations and he sees his process evolve at times with suggestions or requests for a commissioned piece.
He and clay artist Alan Bennet are working on a process they call “Throw and Blow,” in which Goldhagen blows a flowing gather of glass into a wet clay mold created by Bennet. When they cut the clay away and begin to shape the piece, Goldhagen says, amazing textures and shapes result.
The English major in Goldhagen comes out when he describes glassmaking in words of pure poetry: “The glass is hot, moving, alive with heat and energy. Taming, charming, finessing it is a labor of joy. It’s a dance and if all is in sync it comes together in a rush of fluid motion. Occasionally it crashes and burns, which offers another lesson on what not to do or a reminder that I can push it a bit too far. Other times, it’s like jazz—the spontaneity and improvisation take over, transcending into the music. It’s that thrill of capturing the movement, the fluidity enraptured with flowing color intertwining in the layers. There is nothing else that I know quite like it.”
To learn more, visit goldhagenartglass.com or find Goldhagen Art Glass on Facebook and Instagram. Goldhagen Glass Studio is located at 7 Goldhagen Studio Drive in Hayesville. Usual hours are Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 2:30–5:30 p.m., but call 828.389.8847 before visiting to make sure that the studio will be open. Among the local galleries carrying Goldhagen’s work are New Morning Gallery, Blue Spiral 1 and Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Folk Art Center.