Sitting in church, a young child was handed a Sunday bulletin from his father. Feeling the texture of the creamy paper in his fingers, the small child gently turned the folded sheets over his lap. A glimmer in his eye appeared as he glared at the curving lines and shading that appeared on the smooth paper.
The designs and characters came alive in the child’s head as he studied the pencil lines. As he turned slowly toward his father, a huge smile spread across his tiny face. As their eyes met, the father saw the love in his son’s eyes and the spark that had brought him so much joy since his own childhood. The torch had been passed. That young boy had art in his blood.
My appreciation for art has come a long way since that glorious day in church. I have grown up experimenting with all different kinds of media. Throughout my days in school, I expressed myself with the most meaning and desire with a set of graphite pencils. Two-dimensional art, I felt, was the only outlet for my life. I love art, and I knew that it would always play a huge role in my life.
I graduated as Valedictorian of my high school class and attended a small liberal arts college, which has one of the greatest science departments in the area. My priorities were to receive the finest education that I could, play basketball, graduate with a biology degree, and attend medical school. In college, I realized that biology was my passion, not medicine. In the end, I found that what matters is not the amount of money you have in your pockets but the impact you have on the lives of those around you. So, I became a high school biology teacher, determined to make a difference … but where was ART?
My life was great. I married my high school sweetheart, had a great family, and was doing my best to have an impact on the lives of today’s children, but something was missing. I searched and realized that there was one thing that was missing from my life…ART. I quit my teaching job to pursue my love for art full time, and I could not be happier. GLASS is my escape. GLASS is the glimmer in my eye. GLASS gives me that same huge smile and flutter in my chest that I had on that Sunday morning staring at the church bulletin. GLASS is the perfect marriage of both art and science! My wife, my family, and my art have shaped me into the person I am today. My work is hard – both physically demanding and mentally draining – but it is by far the most rewarding work that I have ever done in my life. If you question my love, my happiness, and my joy that I have found in art and glass, look into my eyes…the shine is bright, just like a piece of glass. Be careful, or you just might catch the fever.
There is more to the art of glass blowing than meets the eye. Simply seeing the finished product as a beautiful glass sculpture is not truly enjoying glass art. Just as watching your child grow from one day to the next, the process of glass blowing is part of the amazement and wonder of glass.
Glass is made from a mixture of about seventy percent sand, soda ash, and several other hazardous chemicals. I mix this myself and load them into a special furnace, which reaches temperatures of 2,500 degrees. The furnaces run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days each year. Natural gas is not cheap for glass artists. The mixture of glass must melt for 24 hours before it can be used in any piece of art.
A blowpipe is used to get gathers or layers of glass from the furnace. Gathers vary in size according to the weight of the glass – from a 1/2 inch diameter pipe on a perfume bottle up to a 1 1/2 inch diameter pipe for pieces that weigh 30 pounds. Glass artists work from the inside out on a piece. The larger the piece, the more layers of glass there are. Generally, the colored glass, dichroic glass, cane, designs, and detailing are done first using a variety of hot and cold glass chips and colored glass. Yes, ALL that you see in my work IS glass.
Not much else could withstand these extreme temperatures. Every time I put another layer of glass over an inner layer, I get 2,000+ degrees in my face from the furnace as I spin the pipe through the honey-like molten glass.
Molding and shaping the glass using a variety of sizes of wood blocks (bowls with handles), blowing air into the piece, using wet newspapers to shape, metal molding, swinging the glass with help from gravity, pure brute strength, and lots of skill and finesse are all part of the art of glass blowing.
After creating a piece, keeping it hot at all times using a reheating chamber that reaches temperatures of 2,700 degrees, the piece is then broken off the pipe using precise marks and skill. The glass is placed in an annealing oven for 2 days to cool it to room temperature so as not to stress the glass and cause cracking. Finally, the glass is cut, ground, polished, cleaned, and signed which can take hours on some pieces. I expand my capabilities everyday with this medium.
I currently design all colors and sizes of paperweights, perfume bottles, glass fish, glass eggs, disks, shells and bowls, vases, large sculptures, votives, mugs, and many glass pieces. Once finished, the artistic journey is complete, for the time being, and the finished product is there for all to enjoy and cherish.
I pour myself into my glasswork. I believe that the glass speaks both for itself and for me. Nothing gives me more peace of mind than the quiet roar of a glass furnace on a calm clear day – a blowpipe in my hand and a piece of myself on the end.
In late 2003, Scott & Gwen Hartley began their search for a physical store for Infinity Art Glass. After much consideration, they settled on a "fixer upper" that had good bones in Benton, Kansas, just 10 minutes outside of Wichita in a tiny little town of 900 people. A woodworker was looking to sell his property, and it had exactly the amount of space needed for a gallery, a cold shop, and a hot shop. The Hartleys were intrigued by this store's history, as it was once a blacksmith's shop many years before. It had all the charm of a small town & adequate space to house a glassblowing studio. After much hard work & renovations in 2004, Infinity Art Glass began to take shape. Again in 2018, another major renovation took place, restoring our gallery closer to its original style. The ceiling was raised, exposing the building's original beams. Cinder blocks were also revealed, and the walls were painted a crisp white to feature Scott's colorful glass. In addition, in 2020, the hot shop was updated and improved as well. We hope that people will take the time to come visit us in Benton, watch glassblowing demos, view pictures in our gallery showing the progression of Infinity Art Glass, and learn more about this timeless art by watching Scott work.