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Featured in Foothill Magazine

Nicholson Blown Glass ‘keeps it fresh’

By: Jamie Hazelton, Staff Writer/Page Designer
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Tucked away just off of Highway 49 out toward Hidden Falls, sits the nine-acre Nicholson Blown Glass studio.

Rick and Janet Nicholson have been creating blown glass art since 1981. This year they have decided to ease back from the business a bit and travel. With the upcoming North Auburn Art Studios Tour, Rick sees the event as a transition.

Taking over the helm is one of the Nicholson’s daughter, Hannah and her friend, Alana van Altena.

Nicholson Blown Glass is a team of five — one for metal work and four on glass blowing, depending on the complexity of the piece.

Layers of colored and clear glass from as far away as Germany and New Zealand are combined through a special lamination process.

Inside the studio, blue grass tunes play while glass artists concentrate on forming what will soon be a cactus vase.

The studio tour will feature Hannah and Alana’s new pieces that have not been shown before.

“This year will be different from the past. We like to keep it fresh for customers and ourselves,” Rick said.

The studio will be demonstrating both days of the tour.

What may look like a random process is a planned out piece.

“We make the smaller fragile pieces first. Like the flowers for our cactus,” Alana said.

Alana references Hannah’s sketch as she forms the shape of the cactus.

“She draws more than I do and has more drawing skills. It’s really helpful. It’s hard to go backwards,” Alana said.

“It’s easier to communicate with your team member than explain what your thinking,” Rick said.

Nicholson Blown glass often uses sketches in mockups for commercial projects. The customer needs to have an accurate idea of what to expect. The largest piece was 26 plates for a medical facility in Tennessee.

The person installing it needs to accurately know how to lay out the installation.

Janet and Rick started with small vases in the beginning. The plates that they are known for were, according to Rick, “halfway on accident.”

“A plate folded and stuck to itself. Customers wanted more. It was hard to duplicate. Too much randomness but then it evolved,” he explained.

The glass studio configures to what the artists are creating at the time.

“It’s hard to do this for fun because the furnace runs all the time. It’s never off,” Rick said.