Name: David & Jennifer Clancy’s Glass Studio – Aka Clancy Designs
Location: 382 North Road, Jamestown, Rhode Island
Size: 600 square feet
Years lived in: Worked in since 2004
As you approach David and Jennifer’s studio, a classic early American style post and beam barn, there is evidence of their sense of humor and inherent artistry everywhere you look. After driving past scenic marshland and cattle grazing in seaside pastures, a sign that reads “Glass Blowing,” perched atop a beautifully welded sculpture that combines rusty metal tools and objects in an unexpected way, lets you know you’re in the right place. The studio is situated on the couple’s pastoral two-acre property, just a stone’s throw away from their restored 1787 colonial home.
Upon arrival, the first thing you notice is a 10-foot work of art that elegantly snakes up an exterior wall of the barn. It’s made up of fish swimming in a stream of hundreds of delicate clear and blue pieces of glass. The outside of the studio is a whimsical sculpture park; giant green and red glass leaves rest casually on a stone wall; a clear glass head and brains lie on a bed of mulch under a tree; a large planter is filled with glass flowers and leaves. Above the sliding barn doors, antique metal letters boldly spell the word BLOW.
The inside of the glass studio is warm in every way. On this particular day, the fall breeze that blows in through the screen door mixes with the heat from the furnace and feels just right. A mellow selection of music — Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison — sets the tone as David and Jennifer work together in a fluid, knowing rhythm.
It’s easy to see how these two could hibernate and thrive in the comfort of this space, every inch of which is an example of their commitment to craftsmanship and creative expression. With the help and expert guidance of millwright Andy Shrake, David built the timber-framed barn using hand tools to create notches and pockets in place of nails. “It went together like an erector set,” David explains. They built the skeleton of the structure over the course of a week. With welding help from Jennifer’s dad and design inspiration from her mentor Art Reed, the Clancys tackled the impressive task of building all of their own glassblowing equipment. All of the cabinets, counters and shelves were handmade by David. Jennifer’s happy and colorful clay mosaic tiles, mixed with glass polka dots and Magic Hat bottle caps, add embellishment.
Although the studio is a big open space — one half is a gallery; the other is a blowing room — the overall feeling is cozy. Whittled and stained tree branches and an impressive collection of antique cast iron and steel objects decorate the barn walls. A collage of drawings, postcards, pictures, and magazine clippings form an inspiration board of sorts in a corner of the shop. A rainbow of color glows from three levels of frosted glass shelving lit from below. A hand-carved wood frame custom-made by David creates a soft balance for this glass display and invites visitors to come in closer and enjoy the fruits of their labor; a labor that has culminated in a dreamlike work environment that celebrates imagination.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Barn Auction/Art Medley.
Inspiration: Farm Outbuildings & Color Color Color.
Favorite Element: The Warmth (speaking of the vibe, not the temperature — we didn’t want the space to come off as a cold industrial space).
Biggest Challenge: The propane bill, and keeping organized in a small space.
What Friends Say: "What a great work environment!" What strangers say: “Do you live upstairs?” Thank goodness we don’t — there’s not too much room left over after putting all our storage, packing, and shipping up there, and it's about 100 degrees most of the time!
Biggest Embarrassment: Living out in the country and working in a barn leads to all sorts of outdoor “friends” showing up to visit. There have been times where clients have picked up a glass — before we’ve done our cleaning for the day — and discovered a big bug inside. Speaking with a client once, I watched a mouse run across the display counter. Thankfully the woman didn’t see the mouse! When we say we like to "bring the outdoors in,“ we're referring to the imagery we use in our sculptures, not actual critters.
Proudest DIY: Not fun but a satisfying job to finish was making the equipment — such a challenge. Thankfully we had welding help from my Dad and design inspiration from my mentor Art Reed.
Biggest Indulgence: Having our own glass studio at all, especially in a post and beam barn. Also our new generator which will come on automatically when the electricity goes out — which seems to happen a lot when you live on an Island on the coast of New England.
Best Advice: If you want to have your dreams come true, don’t give up. Always be driven to do your best; even on the worst of days give 110%!
Dream Sources: Brimfield Antique Show, a propane fairy that delivers for free.
Resources of Note:
PAINT & COLORS
Most of the wall color in the studio is brick red, red, rust orange or olive stain on wood. We used Minwax Stain.
The equipment is metal and Red Spray Paint by Rustoleum.
The outside of the studio is treated with a special grey stain to help the building withstand the weather longer and to match the windmill next door. It was provided by the millwright, Andy Shrake, who built the post and beam skeleton structure of the studio with David.
The equipment was all built by David, me and my Dad. The Shelves were all built by David. The card catalogues we use to keep our colored glass stock in was salvaged from the Dartmouth Library Mass) when they switched over to computers. There are various tools everywhere ranging from steel hand tools for working the glass to carved wooded molds for shaping the glass and of course lots of calipers for measuring the glass so all of our sets actually look alike. We also have quite a few jars, lots of them from Tito’s restaurant and Salsa that we keep our homemade glass polka dots in. The decorative bits and pieces behind the furnace are a motley collection of old worn out tools, antiques bits of miscellanea from our garage, Brimfield or things people have given us. We also have a few bits and pieces of old work or prototypes. Suspended above the furnace is an old bicycle – I guess that’s to inspire us to keep on moving.
The counters, shelves and cabinets were all made by David, including the carved edges and the faces. The tile counter tops were done by Jennifer out of clay, glass polka dots and Magic Hat bottle caps. There are some posters behind the counter that we got at Brimfield Antique Show along with some of the odd bits of metal and the wooden fish hanging from the ceiling. All of the glass work – sculptural, functional, and lighting – is made by David and me. More examples of fish and botanical pieces can be seen here and more examples of our functional line can be seen here, along with a pretty cool video of us working. Behind the sink and on the loo door are various clippings from magazines, postcards, and some of David’s drawings that keep us inspired throughout the day.
The sitting area outside the studio is a great place to sit at the end of a long day – David made the Adirondack chairs and laid the brick patio using brick salvaged from an old building that was torn down in Providence. On the outside (in inside above the furnace) are letters we got at the Brimfield Antique show. On the side of the studio is one of our glass sculpture meant to resemble a river with various fishing swimming up or down stream. To the right of the studio is the view of our yard and the easy walk home – what a blessing to work close to home!
Thanks, Jennifer and David!
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(Image credits: Jacqueline Marque)