If the thought of heading out on an Indiana Glass Trail conjures visions of fermented grapes, you will be amazed to learn that the Glass Trail, the Glass ARTIST trail, is a fascinating journey, part of which is alive and well in Hamilton County. As a lifelong Indiana resident and art enthusiast, I only recently learned of the Glass Trail-the history as well as the artists involved!
I recently called upon two friends who share my enthusiasm for art, the distinct, and let's be honest, the love of pie....and I'll explain THAT one in a moment!
Indiana has a long history with glass--the original Coca-Cola glass bottle was made here, Ball jars created in Muncie, and glass from the Kokomo Glass Factory supplied much of the stained glass for Tiffany lamps. Though not in Hamilton County, the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Factory is not too far north in Howard County and a great place to start your glass trail, particularly because of its rich history in glass. Charles Henry, a glass chemist from Paris, migrated to New York and formed Henry Art Glass in 1883. After hearing of a natural gas boom in central Indiana, Mr. Henry acquired property and started the Opalescent Glass Works in 1888 and began with the production of sheet glass and electric insulators for the Edison General Electric Co. Over the next few years, Mr. Henry's new glass company began several associations with glass artists, including supplying blue and white opalescent glass to the Paris World's Fair as well as to Louis Tiffany for the now famous Tiffany Lamps. A series of both financial and personal troubles followed and Charles Henry ended up at the Indianapolis Insane Asylum and died there at the age of 46.
A new family took over the glass factory and their direct descendants have been closely involved ever since. The business name was changed to the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company which remains today. Over the years, industry giants such as Tiffany's have appeared on the company's sales ledger.
Our first stop, though slightly north of Hamilton County, led us to the glass factory tour. You can experience the entire glass process by touring the Kokomo factory every Tuesday-Friday at 10 a.m. for only $5 a person. Enthusiastic tour guides love their jobs and answering your questions during the tour and you'll be able to purchase glass art and other glass trinkets at the end of the tour.
After the tour we headed southeast towards Arcadia where you'll find the Arcadia Heritage Art Center, home of several historical glass pieces along with an historic depot and a history of glass in Indiana. The Museum is currently undergoing renovations and repairs, so it's best to call ahead for available hours. We got a sneak peak through the windows and spoke with one of the curators by phone and by all means will be heading back after the renovations are completed.
Arcadia Heritage Center, 107 W. South Street (Arcadia) 1-317-984-3436
At this point, the love of PIE enters the picture. When one is this far north on US 31, it would be a travesty NOT to stop at Lisa's Pie Shop....delicious, award-winning pies at unbelievable prices. Pie by the slice is no longer available, so you'll be forced to purchase a whole pie (or two). Plastic forks included, this will sustain you throughout the rest of your glass tour!
You will want to end your day of glass trails in Carmel where you can wander the Arts & Design District's galleries. You'll find on display the glass works of five Hamilton County glass artists, each piece as beautiful and distinct as the next.
At L'Evento Resource Boutique you'll enjoy fused glass pieces by Laura Avery and Pam Nicum. Pam's works can also be enjoyed at the Museum of Miniature Houses on East Main. A few doors west of the Miniature Museum brings you to the Magdalena Gallery (27 E. Main) where artist Lisa Pelo's blown glass can be seen.
At the west end of downtown Carmel you won't want to miss the Art Splash Gallery displaying works by contemporary mosaic artist Nancy Keating and beautiful blown glass creations and glass sculptures by artist Ben Johnson. All of these artists not only produce outstanding pieces, but it is evident they have found a real joy in working with glass.
You'll be both amazed and inspired by your day on the Hamilton County Glass trail.
I suggest you end the day at one of Carmel's many restaurant stops near the galleries and tip your "glass" in appreciation of today's glass artists, the history you have learned, and of course, to those fermented grapes(and pie!)