Barbara and Ed Streeter spend their lives pulling art out of thin air – well, out of air, sand and fire. At their studio at the Conway Glass Center
, the couple heats these three vital elements to a staggering 2150 degrees and, using traditional techniques, creates a variety of stunning, hand-blown glass pieces including vases, bowls, ornaments, jewelry and more. Each has been working in glass for more than 25 years. I had the opportunity to talk to Barbara about their long careers and shared passion for glass.
Q: How did the two of you begin working in glass?
Ed started in the commercial glass industry. [We] started learning stained glass in 1985 and opened a stained glass shop in 1986 on Main Street in downtown Conway
. In 1990 we opened Conway Glass, specializing in commercial, residential and stained glass windows. From 1995-1999 we attended classes and workshops at Corning Glass School and Penland School of Crafts to learn glass blowing.
Q: What is it about glass blowing that makes you so passionate about this work?
There is something incredibly fascinating about creating objects from molten glass. Exploring the many techniques, shapes and forms and combining different colors to make an object from molten glass is pretty amazing. Every time we work we learn something new, it could be a new texture, color or form or just a new technique we may never have imagined.
Q: Can you describe the process for people who have never seen a glass blower at work?
Our glass furnace contains 110 pounds of 2150 degree glass. First we gather a small amount of glass on the end of a hollow stainless steel rod called a blowpipe. We then blow a small bubble called a “starter bubble.” The glass blower then turns the pipe and shapes the glass with wooden molds and other tools, adds more glass from the furnace and blows the glass to the desired shape and form. The glass blower reheats the glass in the “glory hole” to keep it at a working temperature. When the vessel is completed it is placed in an annealer at 960 degrees and cooled slowly to room temperature. This prevents glass from cracking.
Q: You created an ornament for the White House Christmas Tree – how did this come about? What did the ornament look like?
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
was contacted by the Travel & Tourism Department of the White House. They were seeking an ornament that would represent the tourism industry in South Carolina. The chamber contacted the Arts Commission, who referred them to us. The ornament we designed represents the Atlantic Ocean. It is a 6-inch cylinder and is cobalt blue with a touch of green and white waves at the top and in the middle.
Q: You invite people into your glass blowing studio to watch you work. Why did you decide to have an open studio?
People are fascinated with glass blowing. Our events bring people of all ages in to the studio to learn about and experience the art of glass blowing. We are dedicated to raising the awareness of and exposure to the visual arts and glass blowing in Conway, Horry County and South Carolina.
Q: If people come to visit at the Conway Glass Center, where else in Horry County would you send them? Do you have a favorite restaurant, getaway spot, tourist attraction that you’d like to share?
We are located right in the heart of downtown Conway, walking distance to award winning restaurants and unique shops. Our studio is just steps from the Waccamaw River and Conway’s Riverwalk. You can rent a kayak or take a cruise along the Waccamaw River. The Horry County Museum
and the L.W. Paul Living History Farm
are also two “must see” places to visit.
for more information on visiting Barbara and Ed Streeter’s studio and shop at the Conway Glass Center. Classes and glass blowing demonstrations are held on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from October through April.