West Virginia University student starts glass-making company
One West Virginia University student is taking steps to revive the state's art and crafts culture.
Clayton Davis, a senior industrial engineering major, has taken up the art of small-scale glassworking. Using a technique called lampworking, Davis makes everything from glass pendants to miniature figurines. A Morgantown native, Davis became infatuated with glasswork a year ago after watching a documentary on the art.
"I had no idea how to start doing this, but I was pretty sure I would like it," Davis said. "I've learned everything from YouTube and online forums. The Internet has been my best friend."
Lampworking has been around for centuries, dating back to the 5th century B.C. The technique is less expensive than some other methods, requiring only a lamp or torch to melt the glass. Once in the molten state, the glass is rotated and molded to create the shape.
By using gravity and heat to do the work, Davis is able to craft different designs into his pendants, pipes and statues. The process differs from furnace glassblowing because it is more detail-oriented and is used to create smaller pieces using different types of glass. Unlike furnace blowing, which uses soda lime glass, Davis uses borosilicate glass, which requires a much higher temperature to melt it and is only workable for a few seconds. However, it is more sturdy and structurally sound, making it perfect for Davis' pieces.
Davis uses solid glass rods and hollow glass tubes for his different pieces, as well as smaller rods of colored glass for his design. He first heats the larger rods and shapes them into the pieces he is creating. Then, he heats the colored rods and makes designs in the object. When the colors are heated, they not only expand on the outside, but they also diffuse into the glass, creating the designs. He works with different types of metal tools to mold the glass and make designs. For example, a tungsten pick is used to move the colored glass because it will drag the molten glass. Recently, Davis began selling his creations to friends and families, but this summer, he decided to start a small business for his craft.
"So far, it has just been a hobby," he said. "It takes a lot of time, practice and patience to get right."
Davis will use Nemo Glass, his new company, as the focal point of his efforts in an industrial engineering course he will take this fall. Technology Entrepreneurship is designed to take engineering students step-by-step through the process of entrepreneurship andproduct development. The work done in this class will lead directly into the senior capstone project required of all WVU industrial engineering students.
"Starting a business is something I've wanted to do for a while," Davis said. "Now, I'm balancing glass blowing with marketing and sales and class. It's a lot of time management."
Davis said his current plan is to start small and make connections in the greater Morgantown area to sell his products. But while his dream is ultimately to turn this intoa primary source of income, he also wants to help revive the industry in his home state.
"It's sad to see that the glass industry is dying in West Virginia," he said. I'd like to see it become aa glasscapitol again and I'd love to be a part of that."
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