Fire Island Hot Glass Studio: Fire goes out with a blowout

After 25 years, Matthew LaBarbera is closing Fire Island Hot Glass Studio, the oldest glassblowing studio in Texas

Fire Island Hot Glass Studio: Fire goes out with a blowout

Twenty-five years is a helluva long time to keep a fire going, a fact that Matthew LaBarbera knows as well as anyone. That's how long the Austin artisan has been tending his "Fire" – i.e., the Fire Island Hot Glass Studio – during which time he and his wife and partner, Teresa Ueltschey, have built it into a source of quality contemporary glasswork recognized across the country. Now, when he launched the studio way back in 1981, the odds on it lasting a quarter of a century were not so hot, so to speak. It was in East Austin long before folks trooped over to the Eastside to find art and craft work. A glassblowing studio was not something that really existed in Austin or even the state at the time. And while LaBarbera had experience working with flat glass, he didn't have any with blown glass. Still, he'd sunk his savings into the studio and was fascinated by the medium, so LaBarbera was determined to make a go of it.

And a go of it he certainly made. In time he managed to master the ancient art of blowing glass, as well as the equally ancient art of running a successful business, not to mention an art even more challenging than those: running a business with the person to whom you're married without either one murdering the other. LaBarbera and Ueltschey married in 1985 and have been together at Fire Island since 1993. That sounds like they figured out how to make that balance of life and work work.

But now the couple has decided to close the door on one side of their relationship. They're closing the Fire Island Studio at the end of February to tend other fires, you might say. And fittingly, they're extinguishing the "Fire" with a blowout: a huge sale this Saturday and Sunday and the next, Feb. 3-4 and 10-11. This weekend, all work in the showroom will be 25% off, all seconds will be $10 per pound, and all Art-by-the-Pound will be $5 per pound. The second weekend, remaining work in the showroom will be 40% off, remaining seconds will be $7 per pound, and remaining Art-by-the-Pound will be $5 per pound. If you're a lover of glass, pay a visit and thank these pioneering Austin artisans for their 25 years as keepers of the flame. For more information, call 389-1100.

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Fire Island Hot Glass Studio, Austin artisans, Matthew LaBarbera, Teresa Ueltschey, East Austin art, Eastside art

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