Hayden Wilson Makes Molten Glass that Melts Human Barriers

WNC native and 2nd generation glass artist Hayden Wilson manages the nonprofit public access studio at the Asheville Glass Center. He also volunteers with OpenDoors students, mentoring them with hands-on training in the art of glassblowing. That exciting after-school initiative is possible thanks to OpenDoors’ unique One Neighborhood arts enrichment program. The program, run and continually developed by OpenDoors, is partly funded by the River Arts Business Association. Major supporters include Tim Schaller, Darren Green, and Rick and Bridget Eckerd. 

OpenDoors spoke to Hayden about that, as part of the OpenDoors 10th Anniversary “10 Years, 10 People” series.

OpenDoors: How’d you get involved with OpenDoors?

HW: Through Art Affair. For a few years I have donated some of my work to the auction and I’ve made the OpenDoors Laureate of the Year awards [presented to recipients of that honor].

OD: Tell me about your work with OpenDoors students.

HW: We offer them an opportunity to come into the “hot shop” and do some glassblowing. It is a welcoming platform for the kids.

OD: They can just drop in?

HW: Sure! The Glass Center never sleeps. The fire is always on. Any time they are walking by or looking for something to do, they can come on in and get involved.

OD: Are they shy about that?

HW: At first. But then they decide to try it and are really into it. You see the transformation happen fast. They start saying, “Can I do that again? I want to do it again!”

OD: Glassblowing sounds tricky, especially for kids.

HW: Glass is challenging. But we offer them a safe space to create and experiment and learn and have fun. Once you do it, there is so much gratification from making an object that you can share with others.

OD: Do the students make things they get to take home?

HW: Oh, yeah. Before Christmas they made ornaments and paperweights to give as presents.

OD: They and their families must have been proud and happy about that.

HW: Yeah, and this experience gives them a different perspective about how people in the arts make a living, too. It shows them options for earning a living in creative ways they might not have realized were possible. And although glass might not be something that these kids would normally pursue, they learn invaluable lessons that transfer to many aspects in life. 

OD: For instance?

HW: Two of the most obvious examples are teamwork and communication. Glass artists work in teams to create each piece, utilizing eye contact, verbal communication, timing, and spatial awareness. Kids also learn it’s okay if things don’t always turn out as planned. Glass is one of the most difficult mediums to master. But glassblowing is also one of the most rewarding mediums, and doing it builds self-confidence.

OD: It must be super rewarding to work with these students.

HW: Oh yeah. We all love when the kids are there. It’s an opportunity for everyone to have fun and create relationships. The more we can create bridges and knock down walls the better off we all will be.

The students’ work will be on display at the 10th annual Art Affair, held March 9 at Ambrose West. Wilson has also graciously donated one of his glass pieces that will be up for auction. Buy your tickets and learn more here.