Artsy Breath: Glassblowing Workshop at The Ritz

Have you ever wanted to create your own dynamic glass art but was afraid of the prospect of dealing with molten glass? The Ritz-Carlton, Naples is giving guests and locals the chance when glass artist Conrad Williams sets up a glassblowing studio at the resort—poolside—from December through May 2016.

Conrad Williams - Rolling Color into the Glass

   “It’s a pretty exciting medium,” says Williams, a Naples native who has studied under legends Dale Chihuly and Benjamin Moore, and has been creating his own glasswork since 1998. “Its easy to get hypnotized by the process.”

Normally relegated to industrial districts where ovens and kilns capable of creating molten glass—which exceed temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—can be housed comfortably, Williams has created a mobile glassblowing studio, a rarity in the medium. “To my knowledge, this is the only [studio] like it,” he says.

Conrad Williams helping a student apply color

Williams helping a student apply color to the glass.

With a background in Italian glasswork techniques and Scandinavian design, Williams’ work has been praised for its unique beauty, complexity, and design. Operating a glassblowing studio in Naples, where artisans from experienced craftspeople to newbies as young as seven years old can take classes and workshops, Williams has been offering people the unique opportunity to create their own work of glass art, built in part by their own breath. “It’s pretty uncommon,” says Williams of his glassblowing operation. “There is a satisfaction in bringing home their own piece [of art]—not only did they accomplish something but they get to go home with it. I get a lot of people that say they got to check something off their bucket list.”

An example of the glass holiday ornamnets students can create with glass artist Conrad Williams at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples

An example of the glass holiday ornaments students can create with glass artist Conrad Williams at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples

The Ritz will be making this a truly memorable experience, setting up his mobile studio outdoors where the serenity of the Gulf will act as a backdrop. For the experience, students (open to hotel guests and locals) will have a few different options in creating a piece of glass artwork: a holiday ornament ($100), and a bowl ($200); in 2016, the holiday ornament will be replaced with a “sun catcher.” And guests get to do it all, from choosing and arranging color, to handling the molten glass (via a five-foot-long pipe), inflating it, and finishing the piece with hand tools, with Williams walking everyone through the process, making sure everyone is comfortable, all questions asked and answered, until a gleaming finished product has been created.

Conrad Williams heating glass.

Conrad Williams heating glass.

“One of the things that brought me to glass blowing is the excitement of this hot moving material,” says Williams. “When I get students involved, people that have never done this before, it is kind of like my first day again in regards to that kind of excitement. I love sharing that, watching people create for the first time.”

And while there is an inherent danger when working with a medium like molten glass—again, its more than 2,000 degrees—Williams has a sparkling track record with newbies, running more than 5,000 lessons throughout his career and without a single injury. Williams’ takes it slow, “everything is a series of steps, and we just take it one step at a time.”

  • The Ritz-Carlton, Naples glassblowing experience will operate poolside, Thursday to Saturday, from December through May. Reservations are a must; for more information and to RSVP, call 844-850-3839.


Photos courtesy of Conrad Williams

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