Hot shop: Local artist opens glass studio in Centralia

The temperatures are hot enough to make glass drip, bubble and flow like molasses. Sweat dots Kevin Regan’s cheeks and his hands are tough and calloused.

He gathers glass from a 2,125-degree Fahrenheit furnace, then rolls the blow pipe back and forth to fight gravity’s pull. “Blow just a little bit,” he says to his assistant, Levi Rodriguez, 23, who balances on his hands with the blowpipe in his mouth.
Regan, 27, bought the old Logger’s Tavern in February of 2003 and has stripped and gutted it into a glass shop and studio. He worked on the project every day for more than a year. He dreads Mondays and Tuesdays, where he focuses on cleaning and office work, but loves blowing glass Wednesday to Sunday.
“It’s the danger and the heat and everything rolled into one. There’s a high you get,” Regan said. “I stay up nights thinking about it.”

Community shop
Centralia Firefighter Paul Scott first became familiar with the studio on a building inspection about a month and a half ago. Now he can be found helping out about three days a week.
“I used to want to blow glass 100 years ago,” Scott said. “He lets me play a little bit.” Regan has about five assistants who work as apprentices, with learning as their pay. The trade is difficult and dangerous to attempt alone. The men wear eye protection, huge mitts and long sleeves while working in the hot shop. “It’s so much fun, you don’t even notice when you get burned,” Rodriguez said. “You just want to pay attention to the piece and then tend to your wounds.” Rodriguez is an art student at Centralia College, who is currently working on a 10-by-12-foot mural for the Washington State Arts Commission. He hopes it will be used for the college’s new Science Building.
He usually draws, but enjoys learning how to be “in sync with the glass.”
“I’m able to force pencil and chalk pastels wherever I want,” Rodriguez said. “Glass is a team effort; it’s less forgiving.” Rodriguez estimates he works about 24 hours a week unpaid and plans to move into a paid position in a few months. He stumbled into Central Glass Works weeks ago after seeing an acquaintance through the window. “I was hooked. It was inspiring to see someone so young,” Rodriguez said. “You see tattoo shops all over the place, but you don’t see a glass artist come in and make his mark, especially a 26-year-old.”

Picking glass
The art of shaping and carving glass first enticed Regan 10 years ago, when he and his father took a course in Seattle. His father, John Regan, owns Centralia Square Antique Mall and started the factory outlet stores. Regan took several more classes, became a classroom assistant and began teaching at age 19. Over the next few years, he worked as a glass blower in Battleground, Seattle, Portland and Eugene. He volunteered time at Waterford Crystal in Ireland, Kosta Boda and Orrefores in Sweden, and Muran Glass in Venice, Italy. “He’s formed his own technique; he knows what he wants,” Rodgriguez said. “He’s not following a certain style.” Regan studied glass carving in West Virginia and both blows and carves his own work. Currently he’s concentrating on just blowing pieces to have affordable gift ware in the shop before Christmas. After Christmas, he plans to shut down for about three weeks and just carve. The studio’s February Grand Opening will feature much of his carved work. He also hopes to illuminate his work with neon gas — an unknown technique. “You got to understand me,” Regan said. “Anything I do, I get really excited about and put 100 percent into.” Regan found the same true when re-plumbing, re-wireing and renovating the circa 1918 building. He replaced floors, ceilings, poured concrete over the rotted bar area and exchanged drywall with the former insulation of cardboard beer boxes. He also welded much of the hot shop equipment, with some exceptions, such as the $7,000 electric furnace and $2,000 glory hole. “I really hope there’s reincarnation because there’s a million things I love to do, but I only have one life,” Regan said. “Glass is not my only passion, just the one I’ve chosen for this life.”

600450 Hot shop: Local artist opens glass studio in Centralia

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