Earl Wright took a long metal pipe and dipped it into the melting furnace.
A glob of blazing hot glass gathered around the end.
Within about 15 minutes, the clear glob would become a colorful, decorative ball — one that could hang on a Christmas tree or beautify any home or space.
The process was smooth and seamless, because Wright has had plenty of practice.
The 58-year-old is a glass artist and owner of The Glass Punty, the Tri-Cities’ only traditional glass blowing studio.
It opened last fall on Williams Boulevard in Richland and is generating plenty of interest, with a cadre of artists who use the equipment and a stream of glass blowing hopefuls who show up for classes and help.
Along with glass blowing, the studio also has equipment for fusing and slumping — two other glass art techniques.
The Tri-Cities is home to thousands of people, and “they deserve to have this kind of art available,” Wright said.
I was doing book reports on Venetian glass in eighth grade. I’ve just been fascinated with the whole process.
Glassblower Earl Wright
The studio may soon have some more capacity. Wright is nearing the end of a Kickstarter campaign that aims to raise $3,000 to build what’s called a “coffin kiln.”
The deadline is 7 p.m. June 26. As of Friday afternoon, about $2,000 was left to go.
The long, low-profile coffin kiln would double The Glass Punty’s capacity to process fused glass. Through that technique, separate pieces of glass are fused together through heat. They can be pieces of art on their own, or turned into bowls, plates or other objects through the slumping process.
In the summer, the furnaces used in glass blowing will heat up the small studio beyond what’s comfortable, so Wright expects to focus more on fusing and slumping while outside temperatures are blazing.
The new kiln would make a big difference, he said.
Wright lives in Pasco and holds a day job working for Polestar Technical Services.
He hails from the East Coast, and moved to the Tri-Cities in the 1980s — after serving in the Navy aboard a nuclear submarine — for a job at Hanford.
Glass art long has interested him.
“I was doing book reports on Venetian glass in eighth grade,” he said. “I’ve just been fascinated with the whole process.”
He finally got his chance to try glass blowing while on a cruise a few years back. It was available during an excursion.
When he returned, he began traveling to the west side to take classes and eventually opened the studio.
For him, the art form is a way to flex his creative muscle.
“If I draw stick figures, they’re crooked,” he said. “But glass is a very forgiving art medium, where if you learn the basic techniques you can make something, and if it’s not quite right you can fix it.”
As he spoke, he worked on the colorful orb — placing it in the reheating furnace, spinning it, shaping it.
Before too long, some visitors walked in.
Rebecca Carter of Richland brought her son Owen, 16, daughter Braelin, 13, and Braelin’s friends Natalie McQuade, 13, and Karma Johnson, 12.
Braelin wanted to try glass art after seeing some pieces on vacation.
“But the only classes we knew of were on the Oregon Coast,” Rebecca said. Then, she heard about The Glass Punty.
The studio is “a new avenue for developing creative talents. And these kids love to try new things,” Rebecca Carter said.
The kids seemed ready. Natalie said she wanted to make a ball, like the one Wright was finishing up.
Karma hoped to start off small, with something easy.
And Braelin? She seemed excited to finally give glass blowing a try.
“It looks really nice,” she said, “and it seems so cool how it starts from a wad of glass” and becomes something beautiful.
The Glass Punty is at 288 Williams Blvd. For more on the studio, go to facebook.com/theglasspunty.
The Kickstarter is at tinyurl.com/glasspunty.