Monday October 29, 2012

CHESHIRE

Brittany Gabel wants people to walk out of her new business, 413 Glassworks, feeling the love.

"I put a lot of love in my products," Gabel said. "I put so much love and time into my pieces and I hope that energy continues when people buy my products and bring them home and give them as gifts or put them on display."

Gabel's passion has always been making something from glass and she want's to share her joy with others.

At 25, an age when many artists struggle to make a name for themselves, let alone open their own gallery, Gabel has her own studio space that she hopes to open to the community for glass blowing classes and exhibitions of other artists' works.

Gabel is a Berkshire transplant who grew up in Aruba and spent time in Miami before attending the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, where she was a student at the School for American Crafts, a part of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences.

The fact that Gabel has her own studio at such a young age and her growth as an artist is something her former college professor and thesis adviser, Michael Rogers, said he is proud to have witnessed firsthand.

"It's such a huge accomplishment in and of itself," said Rogers, a professor of American crafts at RIT. "Her approach has been quite ambitious, and it sounds like there is going to be a public access component to what she is doing.


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"Glassworking is people collaborating together, and it's interesting for me to see that not only is she very interested in continuing her own personal work, but she wants to share that with the community around her," he added.

Following her graduation in 2010, Gabel moved to the area with her husband, who got a job at General Dynamics.

Gabel eventually acquired a large warehouse space at 37 Nobodys Road in Cheshire, the road across Route 8 from Whitney's Farm Stand.

A little off the beaten track, the warehouse is not immediately visible from Route 8, but is familiar to the bikers and joggers who pass it while heading down the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail that runs past it. After taking a while to get everything set up, Gabel's grand opening was on Oct. 3, generating interest mostly by word-of-mouth.

Starting a new business in a tough economy has posed its challenges, but Gabel said she launched her store with financial help from a family member as well as Assets for Artists, a local program that offers matched savings grants to artists who are low income, according to its website.

While unimpressive from the outside - the building looks like a large garage - the interior of 413 Glassworks is a pleasant surprise for visitors.

The main entrance opens to an intimate gallery space, where Gabel displays her glasswork as well as pieces from other area artists. Adjacent to the gallery is a large studio with a kiln where she makes her products. On Oct. 13, her store hosted its first "Fall Arts Festival" where artists from as near as North Adams, and as far as Worcester, displayed their fall-themed work. Gabel is planning a similar festival on Dec. 8, just in time for the holidays.

While some of her work is conceptual, Gabel said the point of her business is to offer functional items like coasters and plates.

Pricing differs from piece to piece, but Gabel said that on average, a set of coasters could range from $40 to $60, while items like her threesection platters go for $80, since they require two steps in the firing process.

She will also do custom work, and her glassmaking classes range from $50 for a one-time fusing course to sixweek glass blowing workshops that cost $600.

"Running the electric kiln is not cheap, but I think a lot of my products are at the lower end of the price range," Gabel said.

What she wants is for the store to be a community center where people can discover the kind of love for glassworks that she developed at a young age.

At age 12, Gabel took her first ceramics class, but discovered glass blowing in high school when she would head off to the University of Maimi at 6 a.m. to watch an artist-in-residence go through the process of lighting up the equipment and working with glass.

"I fell in love with glass, you can do so many different things with it," Gabel said. "It's just so broad. It's neverending, all the possibilities."

For information on classes or events at 413 Glassworks, call (413) 446-0522.