knoxville news
knoxville news knoxville daily sun lifestyle business knoxville sports travel knoxville classifieds knoxville jobs knoxville legal notices knoxville yellow pages smoky mountains contact facebook twitter linkedin rss entertainment knoxville advertising

9:27 a.m. July 8, 2015
From welding to fiery artistic creations
By Michael Williams

Gary "Sparky" Neumeier demonstrates his glassblowing skills at his shop in the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community. Image by Michael Williams.

The key to becoming a successful glassblower is timing. For a glassblower working on a piece of art, there comes a singular moment when the piece reaches perfection; a single moment before or after and the piece is ruined. A truly talented glassblower instinctively knows that precise moment. Gary “Sparky” Neumeier knows that moment of perfection. Neumeier is the owner of Sparky’s Glassblowing located on Glades Road in the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community.

Neumeier began his professional career as a welder in Delphos, Ohio. His work took him to several third world countries where his expertise was needed to repair precision equipment. He retired from welding 21 years ago and traded in his acetylene tank and metal rods for a propane tank and glass rods. He was trained by the late Jack Hess, who worked as a local artisan for more than 20 years.

In his shop in the Glades, Neumeier sits behind a work bench surrounded by plexi-glass panes with propane torch and glass rods in hand creating magnificent fiery artistic creations. In the faint glow of the torch, he crafts glass figurines featuring bears, hummingbirds, farm animals and much more.

When customers enter his shop Neumeier greets them warmly and jokes with them asking if they had brought marshmallows. While the customer waits he creates a glass creation to their specification. Heating the glass rods to 2,134 degrees, the rod begins to glow from the intense heat. Using techniques he has utilized many times over the years, Neumeier turns and twists the glass to create works of art. Using a thick rod he forms a tree trunk. Once the trunk is completed, Neumeier uses thinner rods to create the branches. Next, he utilizes a metal mold to craft the leaves that will adorn the branches. Heating a rod to a fiery glow, Neumeier begins twisting the malleable rod to form a hornet’s nest. The nest is mounted upon the branch and, for a final touch, a bear is crafted and mounted at the side of the tree trunk.

Though Neumeier is colorblind he has not allowed the condition to hinder his creativity. After crafting the glass creation, Neumeier allows the piece to cool for as little as ten minutes then hands the piece over to his wife of 41 years, Marsha, who paints the piece. The process runs like a well-oiled assembly line. Unlike an assembly line, each piece is unique, beautifully handcrafted and sculpted and frequently made to order.

“I can turn out a piece in about an hour,” said Neumeier. “And Marsha can paint them in just a few minutes. We sell our work here and we ship as well. We give free ornaments to all our military customers as a way our showing our appreciation for their sacrifices.”

The Neumeiers have been working in their current location for three years. Sparky’s Glassblowing in the Smokies is located at 849 Glades Road near the covered bridge. For more information call 865-325-8186.

Published July 8, 2015

knoxville daily sun Knoxville Daily Sun
2015 Image Builders
User Agreement | Privacy Policy