A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

[gallery link="none" columns="1" size="full" ids="176733,176734,176735"] North Carolina Glass Center Asheville “Watching glass get blown is mesmerizing,” says Candace Reilly, executive director of the North Carolina Glass Center, an incubator for

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

[gallery link="none" columns="1" size="full" ids="176733,176734,176735"] North Carolina Glass Center Asheville “Watching glass get blown is mesmerizing,” says Candace Reilly, executive director of the North Carolina Glass Center, an incubator for

The hand-blown glass plates lining the wall at Vidrio are just one display of North Carolina's talented glass artists

North Carolina’s Glass Artists

North Carolina Glass Center

“Watching glass get blown is mesmerizing,” says Candace Reilly, executive director of the North Carolina Glass Center, an incubator for emerging glass artists in Asheville’s River Arts District. “It’s a rare thing to see the process of dipping hot glass into fire and bringing it out and molding it.” When the process is complete, blown-glass works such as patterned vases and cups are ready for display in the center’s gallery.

140C Roberts Street
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 505-3552

The Glass Chapel in Rutherfordton, NC

Each year at the community Christmas event held in the Glass Chapel, holiday songs are played on an 1881 Steinway & Sons piano. The evening ends with candlelight and attendees singing “Silent Night.”

Glass Chapel

Built by Episcopalian priest Father Faulton Hodge in 2000, the Glass Chapel — located on a colonial-era farm in Rutherfordton — was purchased and renovated by husband and wife Steve and Laura Duncan in 2021. Used for community events, the chapel features glass walls that frame the forest just beyond the panes. “When you walk into the chapel,” Laura says, “there’s this immediate feeling of peacefulness that comes from feeling like you are in nature.”

(828) 289-5930

former resident glass artist Jennifer Crescuillo creates a baby unicorn figurine.

Seeing the glass artists in action is worth the trip to Starworks. photograph by Jerry Wolford & Scott Muthersbaugh


Visitors to Starworks — which aims to improve access to the arts in rural Montgomery County — can watch glass, ceramics, and metalwork artists in action. Above, former resident artist Jennifer Crescuillo creates a unicorn horn by twisting molten glass. Sculptures, ornaments, decor, and other delicate pieces by Starworks artists are displayed in the on-site gallery.

100 Russell Drive
Star, NC 27356
(910) 428-9001

Glass art adorns the wall at Vidrio in Raleigh.

Diners bask in the glow of multicolored rays of light that filter through the glass plates on the walls.  photograph by Charles Harris


When diners walk into Vidrio in downtown Raleigh — a restaurant whose name means “glass” in Spanish — their eyes are immediately drawn to a two-story wall of glass plates. The more than 700 unique pieces were handblown by artist Doug Frates in a variety of shapes, sizes, and patterns. Each one catches the light and sparkles, brightening the dining room as families and friends share meals beneath them.

500 Glenwood Avenue, No. 100
Raleigh, NC 27603
(919) 803-6033

Glass artists demonstrate technique at the Penland School of Craft, set in rural surroundings in Mitchell County.

Located in rural Mitchell County, Penland School of Craft features a gallery and visitor center, a supply store, a coffee shop, and artist studios that are open to the public. Penland’s glass studio coordinator, Nick Fruin (left), heats glass to 2,225 degrees before shaping it with jacks. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Penland School of Craft

“Glass is a material full of potential,” says Nick Fruin, glass studio coordinator at Penland School of Craft, which offers workshops and residencies in crafts, including glassmaking. “There are so many different ways to use it to make an object and express an idea. It has transparency; it has opacity; it’s fragile; it’s strong; it’s hot. It overwhelms the senses while you’re working with it.”

2687 Conley Ridge Road
Bakersville, NC 28705
(828) 765-2359

Stained glass windows and entry at the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, NC

The Cathedral of All Souls is home to the world’s largest collection of Armstrong opalescent art glass. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

The Cathedral of All Souls

Beginning in 1898, glass artist D. Maitland Armstrong and his daughter, Helen, a children’s book illustrator, created opalescent glass windows for The Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village. George Vanderbilt commissioned the windows as memorials over the course of 16 years, until his death in 1914, leaving three remaining windows with clear glass. For the cathedral’s centennial celebration in 1996, the final three windows were commissioned and created, matching the Armstrong windows in style.

9 Swan Street
Asheville, NC 28803
(828) 274-2681

Sea glass on the beach

On the Outer Banks, the best times to find sea glass are often after a storm or during the off-season, when fewer people are walking the beach. photograph by CHRIS HANNANT, DAN WATERS/DLWATERS.COM

Searching for Sea Glass

Off our coast, shards of glass — often from shipwrecks that occurred decades or centuries ago — are churned by the ocean, their edges smoothed by the currents and the surf, their composition chemically changed by caustic waters. Collectors of these gifts from the sea scour the shore, looking for brightly colored pieces whose surfaces are touched with a frosted finish.

The stained glass windows at St. Michael's Episcopal Church were designed by Raleigh glass artist Pat Stumpf

In addition to adorning St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, artist Pat Stumpf’s glass work can also be seen in the Inpatient Tower of the Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church

Envisioned by parishioner Harriet Hill and designed by Raleigh artist Pat Stumpf, the windows of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church tell the story of the liturgical year, beginning with Advent and ending with the Feast of Christ the King. Light filters through symbols honoring Jesus, who called himself the light of the world.

1520 Canterbury Road
Raleigh, NC 27608
(919) 782-0731

Hot Glass Alley owner and glass artists Jake Pfeifer makes patterns on glassworks by melting cane

Hot Glass Alley owner Jake Pfeifer (right) makes patterns on glassworks by melting cane — colored rods of glass — onto larger pieces. Photography courtesy of HOT GLASS ALLEY

Hot Glass Alley

After surviving a rare childhood cancer with a terminal diagnosis, Jake Pfeifer decided never to take life for granted. As the owner and lead artist of Hot Glass Alley, he’s applied that point of view to glasswork, putting everything he has into his art. Pfeifer looked at seven cities on the East Coast before deciding that Charlotte — with its museums, art schools, and population of glass artists — was the perfect place to open his studio and gallery.

438 Atando Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28206
(980) 209-9284

Looking Glass Falls and Looking Glass Rock in western North Carolina

“Glass” artistry isn’t limited to galleries and studio space — venture into the outdoors in western North Carolina to see the artistic touches in the natural landscape. photograph by BILL GOZANSKY/ALAMY, JARED KAY

Looking Glass Rock
Pisgah Forest

In Pisgah National Forest, the frigid waters of Looking Glass Falls cascade 60 feet into a pool below. The waterfall takes its name from Looking Glass Rock, just a few miles away. The 3,969-foot mountain is so named because when its sheer face is frozen over, it reflects the sun like a mirror. Seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway on a cold winter day, light plays upon the surface, glistening on ice that’s crystal clear.

This story was published on Nov 21, 2023