Artist Gregory Tomb, who grew up in the Capital Region, vividly remembers the first time he saw glass art being made. He was a young child when, on the way to see relatives in northern Pennsylvania, he and his family stopped by The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY. “I’ll never forget the first time I saw the molten glass being rolled by a glassblower while one of the museum guides narrated it,” says Tomb, who now travels the country working as a professional glassblower. “I could smell the cherrywood tools burning just a little bit, so now whenever I smell that I think of that first glassblowing experience.”
Now fans of glassblowing in the Saratoga area will get the chance to master the difficult art form—or at least receive an introductory lesson in it. Tomb, who was born in Niskayuna and grew up in Burnt Hills, opened up his own portable glassblowing studio on July 4 at Saratoga’s Gideon Putnam Hotel, where he’ll serve as the historic hotel’s summer artist-in-residence. Tomb’s portable studio, which also contains a small gallery featuring a selection of the artist’s indoor and outdoor display pieces, had an official ribbon cutting on the Fourth, attended by members of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and New York State Senator James Tedesco. There, the Upstate native will be offering glassblowing classes all summer long. “A lot of people find glass art interesting and beautiful, but almost everybody thinks that the process of making it is even more exciting,” says Tomb. “So I have these ‘make-your-own’ experiences, and the idea is to keep people safe, have fun and make something beautiful.”
Tomb has certainly worked hard to make it a streamlined and hands-on experience. In his studio at the Gideon Putnam, students will help physically shape and craft their own piece of glass art, in addition to picking out colors and design options. Tomb offers two tiers of glassblowing classes named after popular springs in the Spa City: the Hathorn Package, which gives patrons the option of making a flower, heart, paperweight or small pumpkin out of molten glass; or the Polaris Package, a longer class that teaches students how to make a vase, large pumpkin or one of three types of bowls (couples and family packages are also available). Since freshly blown glass requires a full day to cool down, Tomb even includes free shipping and handling in his lesson packages.
Tomb first started studying glass art in 1997, while attending Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY. It wasn’t until after graduation, when Tomb was working as a production glass blower for commercial glass manufacturers Simon Pearce, that he really thought about doing glassblowing full-time. “Simon Pearce had a really extensive production line where you’d show up for work and they’d hand you a lamp or a vase or a martini class and say make 42 of these today,” says Tomb, who was a team leader for Simon Pearce from 2004-06. “That’s really where I learned precision, and how to get a good handle on the craft.”
Over the past dozen years, Tomb has had his gorgeous, organic glass shapes exhibited in juried art shows across the country. He’s been honored with a “best in glass” award and been the featured artist at the Nassau County Museum of Art, Hampton Fine Art Festival, Stuart Art Festival and Artfest in Scottsdale, AZ, where Tomb resides during the winter.
Tomb’s classes at the Gideon Putnam are being offered every day, except for Wednesdays, through September 3, and can be booked online. If you were wondering, Tomb couldn’t be happier about his new, temporary home in Saratoga Springs. “It’s an incredible opportunity to come back to really what I consider a hometown,” he says. “Some of my earliest and best memories are from areas just outside Saratoga, and I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to spend some time here, especially in the summer.”