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“I Have All I Need Here”

Glass Artist Ron Hinkle

By Carl E. Feather

Glass artist Ron Hinkle in his gallery in Upshur County
Glass artist Ron Hinkle in his gallery in Upshur County. Photograph by Carl E. Feather.

Ron Hinkle is triple blessed. He lives on the family farm, makes his living doing what he loves, and he is very good at what he does.

Ron is a glass artist, one of a handful remaining in West Virginia, a state historically associated with glass. At the industry’s zenith, there were an estimated 500 producers in the state. Today, this Upshur County resident can count the remaining glassmakers on his fingers, with a few digits left over.

The exodus left unfilled niches in the art glass market — limited runs of commemorative and award glass, unique ware for the collectors’ market, and gift shop novelties bearing the elusive “Made in U.S.A.” label. These are the voids filled by Ron, who has seen a steady increase in sales since his Hinkle’s Dying Art Glassworks began turning out its stunning work in the fall of 1993. Ron, who has since changed the studio’s name to Ron Hinkle Glass, says the original name reflected what was happening in the industry at that point.

“What I was hoping to do was keep alive the art of glass blowing in a state where it was quickly becoming a dying art,” Ron says.

His studio, gallery, and home stand on former farmland that’s been in the Hinkle family for at least four generations. A narrow dirt road that branches off the Sago Road, south of Buckhannon, leads to the studio. From this modest, secluded setting, Ron ships his glass to gift shops in more than 30 states and several international locations. His work is featured at the MountainMade Artisan Gallery in Thomas and at Tamarack in Beckley. It has also garnered Ron numerous awards and prestigious commissions.

His commissions have included making ornaments for the West Virginia Governor’s Tree and the Christmas Pageant of Peace trees at the White House. He crafted hundreds of glass peaches for distribution to dignitaries and guests of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Ron demonstrated glass blowing at the Mountain State Art & Craft Fair at Ripley for four years, and has participated in numerous other shows and festivals in West Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey.

His greatest pleasure, however, is introducing studio and gallery visitors to the art of glass production by watching him work in the studio.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.