Once you walk past the friendly yellow facade, you immediately get the urge to hold your breath and walk on tiptoes. The towering shelves and the delicate glass vessels that fill every surface make you aware of your own awkwardness in a way you haven’t been since middle school. After you get over the initial feeling that you are going to break everything in sight (but not too over the feeling—you don’t want to get careless), you begin to look around. Amid the swirls of translucent color, you begin to make out individual pieces: goblets, vases, decanters, pitchers, plates, bowls, baubles, balls. Delicate ripples of pigment, fading to clear.
The glassware at goose Bay Handblown Glass is exquisite, but that’s not why you should visit their shop in Townsend. You should visit to watch art happen before your eyes. The back of the store (congratulations, you made it that far without knocking anything over!) opens into a workshop, and an assortment of mismatched chairs, including at least on church pew, cluster around the wide door into the workshop, where almost every weekday owners Jim and Terry Gunderson create art out of blown glass.
It starts with a molten glob, I like to think of it as lava, but it is probably crystal. Whichever Gunderson happens to be making glass at the moment puts a glob of crystal onto a long pipe and into a homemade 2,800 degree furnace. Once the crystal gets nice and hot, almost too bright to look at, they take it out of the furnace and roll it through grains of dyed glass—which gives the finished pieces their characteristic swirling colors. Then they begin to work it, sometimes blowing through the tube, sometimes using tools, sometimes using molds. The whole process, from start to finish, only takes ten minutes or so. Ten mesmerizing minutes in which a hunk of melted rock blossoms into a delicate dish, like the bud of a flower.
The Gundersons started Goose Bay Glass in 2002 when Jim Gunderson decided to retire form blacksmithing. They opened the store in Townsend in 2003, so that people could watch the glass blowing take place.