By Wade Sheridan
Photography by Eduardo Schneider
The smell of molten glass is unlike any other. It shares similarities with the smell of wood burning, only a bit sweeter. Entering Hollywood Hot Glass at just the right time will allow the luxury of smelling this unique aroma before it dissipates through the studio’s open-air building, a necessity to stay comfortable around the 2,300-degree furnaces used to melt the glass and create pieces of art.
Located in the heart of downtown Hollywood in the ArtsPark at Young Circle, Hollywood Hot Glass is a glass art studio that offers free live demos, walk-in workshops, commissioned requests and private classes all centered on helping customers make their own unique glass pieces.
Owner and director Brenna Baker and her team of four have worked with people from 8 to 80 years old to create glasswork. She believes there are no limitations to glass art, and walking around her studio, you start to feel that as well. Pieces that she and her team have produced are featured toward the back of her studio, glasswork that ranges from a glass swordfish to hearts and imaginative vases that look like they’re from a Dr. Seuss book. Previous commissioned works have included a glass birthday cake and even a zebra head.
“Glass art can be easy to learn but hard to master,” Baker says. “You always need to get it at the right temperature.”
Baker’s love affair with glass art started when she was 14 living in Corning, New York, a place synonymous with glasswork. A hotbed for glass and ceramic crafts, the city is also the headquarters of Fortune 500 company Corning Inc. and home to the Corning Museum of Glass, where Baker fell in love with the medium.
After high school, Baker moved around, taking various jobs at different glass studios and museums until she moved to Italy at 21 to study under glass sculptor Pino Signoretto, which she calls the opportunity of a lifetime.
“He has given me a gift as far as my career goes,” says Baker, now 28. “You can’t ask for a better opportunity as a glass artist. Glass art is over 2,000 years old, and Pino has mastered it above anyone else.”
When Baker returned home from Italy she was finally ready to open up a studio of her own. Hollywood ended up being the perfect place. Baker was vacationing in Hollywood and about to return to her home in New York when she realized that her wallet containing her ID and passport had been stolen. With a commissioned deadline looming, Baker decided to stay in Hollywood for a few more days and rent out the future location of Hollywood Hot Glass in order to finish some pieces.
After meeting with the then-owner of the studio, he became impressed with her work and offered Baker a place to set up shop. She took the opportunity and ran with it, eventually taking over as the owner. Hollywood Hot Glass has been open for a year and a half and is going strong, brimming with customers daily.
“It’s different every day here,” she says. “The second I open my eyes, I’m flying by the seat of my pants. It’s challenging but rewarding. For a year and a half I’ve had no days off. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue.