Hot Glass Alley, a gallery and hot glass studio, was originally founded in Pennsylvania in 2013. However, when the time came to relocate, founder Jake Pfiefer compared the respective advantages of nine different candidates for relocation. Our Queen City triumphed over Charleston, Wilmington, Savannah, Myrtle Beach, Sarasota, Alexandria, St. Augustine, and Bernardsville, NJ in 2013. Since then, Pfiefer and his team have hunkered down in their NoDa location, well off the beaten path, quietly establishing themselves as one of Charlotte’s greatest hidden gems. Inside Hot Glass Alley, you’ll find one-of-a-kind pieces, live demonstrations, and classes led by talented instructors.
The gallery displays glass pieces that take various forms including bowls, vases, drinkware, candle holders, paperweights, and ornaments. Some pieces are standalone, while others belong to a series that centers on a visual or conceptual theme.
Every piece adheres to Hot Glass Alley Pfeifer’s guiding philosophy: “Some for all. One for some.”
Pfiefer and his team strive to create some pieces that can be owned and experienced by anyone. These are art pieces for the enjoyment of all. “I believe that everyone should be able to own handmade glass art,” explains Pfieffer. They also set aside time to create unique, complex, possibly one-of-a-kind pieces that are only affordable to some.
Design – from Concept to Installation
The design process for most commissions or “one for some” pieces—whether the piece is utilitarian or for display—begins with Pfiefer, who is not only Hot Glass Alley’s founder, but also its lead artist. Even so, the design and creation of larger or more complex works is a collaborative process.“We often all sit together and brainstorm on pieces and we draw them out on the shop floor with chalk so that we can see what it will look like,” explains Pfiefer.
After the design stage, Pfiefer’s process makes ample use of a variety of traditional glass blowing techniques, including Venetian and Swedish methods, as well as Reticello, Encalmo, Engraving, Sandblasting, and Sculpting techniques. These techniques imbue the piece with color, manipulate shape, offer contour, and more.
“A large installation piece or a large, single standalone piece requires consideration of the space where it will go, the lighting, the color palette, and the technique. In fact, sometimes, I might make it without color first to be sure of the shape and dimensions,” says Pfiefer.
The furnaces of Hot Glass Alley are not just for professional artists. Pfiefer and his team offer glass blowing and fusing classes. Glass blowing classes have a one-to-one ratio between the students and the instructors. This ensures that students are able to safely do as much of the glass blowing work as they desire. Students can create ornaments, paperweights, wine glasses, ruffle bowls, and more. Private instruction is also available to those who desire a more in depth educational experience. These lessons cover everything from the basics to advanced glass blowing techniques and offer another avenue—or, shall we say alley—of accessibility to this breathtaking art form.