Carlyn Ray Designs and Dallas Glass Art have a bigger, better space to help others discover the art of glass

Glass artist Carlyn Ray recently moved her studio from its original location near the intersection of Irving Boulevard and Turtle Creek Boulevard, shifting a little further north in the Design District to 8510 Chancellor Row. Ray herself has been making glass art since she was 17 years old, but since first opening her studio, she has been focused on sharing her passion for the art of glass blowing and giving others the chance to explore the art for themselves. To help Ray celebrate her new space, Dallas Voice talked with her and one of the other glass artists at her studio, Guillermo Castenda Jr. Here’s what they had to say.

— Tammye Nash

Dallas Voice: How long have you been involved in the art of glassblowing? And what drew you to it? Where did you learn? Carlyn Ray: I saw it when I was 8. I loved the fire, teamwork and the dance.

You opened your studio in 2013 in part to create “site specific art,” according to your website. What does “site specific art” mean? Literally art created specific to the site [where it will live]. We customize the glass art so that it not only fits the space but also the person. We ask, what feeling would you like to have in this room? That will direct the colors.

Why is it important to you to share your passion for your art with the community by offering others the chance to create their own glass art? What is Art Reaching Out? How did it get started, and how does it work? Glass changed my life, and I think it is an incredible material. I love sharing it with others and having them feel this incredible magic, this material that is alive, ancient and is literally shaping our world today.

I started my studio 10 years ago with a Kickstarter promising that I would pursue a fine art line (Carlyn Ray Designs), a community studio (Dallas Glass Art) and a nonprofit (Art Reaching Out.) Truly it is set up to be able to share glass with everyone in the community.

I am learning different/dyslexic, and at a young age I wanted to reach out and help others who were struggling like I was for any reason.  So in the nonprofit that I started with a few other amazing people — Susan Carringer and my business partner Kyle Heironimus — we share STEM or STEAM with under privileged students to show kids, especially young women, how exciting STEM fields can be. Science literally comes alive. And as a learning different kid, experiencing something helped me understand it and thus become more interested in it. I really love when groups of kids come into the studio and see glass for the first time and really have some amazing “Aha” moments!

Last year you opened a second location in Brook Hollow, and you recently moved from your original studio location to 8510 Chancellor Row. Why make that move to Chancellor Row? We pretty much doubled our size. Our new studio allows us to have incredible parties in our beautiful and air-conditioned studio and gallery while everyone is blowing glass. Then our production space allows us to really spread out and create some incredible projects and mock them up in our area. Currently we are working on a few hotel projects with Craig Hall, an exciting one with Gensler, and some beautiful pieces with Lucy Billingsley. These are all possible with space to be creative!

What are the services/classes you offer? Dallas Glass Art is a hands-on glassblowing studio and gallery in Dallas, working directly with the community to host public and private classes and events.

We provide glassblowing experiences making flowers, bowls, vases, paperweights, birds, soap dispensers, oil dispensers, plates, beer, whiskey and wine glasses, globes and paperweights as well as seasonal items like pumpkins, ornaments, snowmen and hearts. Any of these items are also made by our artists and are available for purchase in our gallery.

Where can someone go to see and/or purchase your work? We love having people come into the studio.  We are open seven days a week and have a beautiful gallery with pieces for sale.  If we don’t have the perfect piece in our gallery, we can meet and begin the customization process.

What have I not asked about that you want to mention? There is so much I could say about the material of glass, how it is a teacher — teaching us patience, teamwork, how to listen and respond gently. Glass is scary and for first-timers there is a lot of fear. But what I love is soon they see what great support my team gives each person, they work through their fear and create a beautiful piece with colors and light. Each piece of glass made has a journey to tell; each piece is created with light and love. Every color is beautiful and, just like everyone, each piece of glass is unique, has a story and captures light in a beautiful way.

Blowing life into dust or sand, we are all works of art, sometimes it is experiencing the act of creation that allows us to connect to the beauty that is all around us.

Guillermo Castaneda Jr.

Dallas Voice: What drew you to the art of glassblowing? Guillermo Castenda Jr.: Glass is one of the most physically and mentally demanding art forms that I’ve had the privilege to learn. The flexibility and fragility of the material juxtaposed by its strength and resilience allows me to explore connections to the self.

How long have you been doing this, and where did you learn? I have been working with glass about eight years. I studied glass and glass art at the University of Texas at Arlington where I received my BFA with a concentration in glass.

How long have you been with Dallas Glass Art? I have been with Dallas Glass Art for a year and a half.

What training do you go through to become an instructor? Hired on I was coming with some prior experience that I received from the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio in Norfolk, Va. The training process to become an instructor includes working alongside the already-existing team — shadowing with an instructor during private and public classes; learning all aspects of the studio as well as the flow of instruction based on the studio requirements.

Guillermo Castaneda Jr. with Dallas Glass Art recently helped Dallas Voice advertising director Chad Mantooth create a glass globe to honor his late father.

What’s your favorite part of showing someone else how to do this and working with them to create a piece of art? Often times there are nerves involved with learning a new skill, especially when you’re working at temperatures above 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. My favorite part of instructing is seeing the confidence that students take on once they are able to work past the nerves or fear of the material.

What do you want to mention that I haven’t asked about? As a queer, gay Latino male from Grand Prairie, I find that my intersectionality allows for the exploration of strength in vulnerability. I believe that exposing yourself, the parts that are broken or frail, is a strength measured by your willingness to adapt — pulling inspiration from emotions as well as spatial construction.

I was drawn to glass as a medium at the University of Texas at Arlington, when I took a break from architecture in 2016. I haven’t looked back since. Currently working as an instructor for Dallas Glass Art, I continue to work towards my goals in life; to live unapologetically as myself and to be happy.

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