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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Beautiful Art Creations at Ballis Glass

Feb 27, 2019 11:00AM ● By Enjoy Magazine

Glass Act

March 2019
Story by Natalie Caudle
Photos courtesy of Ballis Glass

A FRESNO NATIVE, Cory Ballis was raised within an artistic family that encouraged his creative spirit. Determined to enter the world of business, he majored in marketing at Fresno State University, but couldn’t escape the call of art. As a college freshman, Ballis stumbled upon glass blowing when he found himself in need of an art elective. The medium captured Ballis’ fascination. “I was hooked the first time I tried it,” he says. 

Ballis earned a business marketing degree from Fresno State, but chose to continue in the art field after college as an assistant glass blower to Bob Kliss at Kliszewski Glass. Four years later, he attended Pilchuk Glass School where he received training from field experts. A year later, Ballis combined his passions and expertise and opened Ballis Glass Studio. Originally, the studio was located on Ballis’ grandmother’s back patio, where he enjoyed creating unique pieces. After much growth and a few moves, Ballis joined with his brother Ryan, owner of Ballis Welding, and brought two mediums under one roof with the creation of Ballis Boys Studio – a partnership of glass and metal art. 

The ancient art of glass blowing dates back to the 1st Century and Ballis refers to it as a dance. The molten glass is heated to 2,150 degrees in a furnace and is then gathered on a hollow blowpipe made from stainless steel. Ballis takes multiple gathers of glass from the furnace and then adds color by rolling the molten glass through colored crushed glass called frit. 

The glass is then reheated to 2,000 degrees; while reheating, Ballis slowly but deliberately spins the blowpipe in the furnace. Once the desired color has been achieved, the glass is rolled and shaped on a steel table called a marver, allowing the glass to cool. Then the fun begins. Ballis shapes the glass by using his breath, slowly turning the blowpipe while blowing into the end, creating a bubble. After the glass has been blown, it can be manipulated with tweezers and other hand tools to achieve various shapes and designs. At this stage, Ballis compares the glass texture to that of honey and he loves the fluidity and movement it offers.

Ballis repeats this process multiple times, and once he is satisfied with the shape and color of the piece, it is placed in an annealer for 16 hours to cool slowly. Items can take anywhere from eight minutes to multiple days to create, depending on the intricacy of design. Ballis recalls the years of training required to achieve the level of art he is now creating. “It took lots of broken glass to get where I am,” Ballis says. “This is a high-demand art that demands my respect.” Ballis creates barware and various pieces ranging greatly in size, color and design.

Ballis travels to fine art shows around the country and has pieces featured in multiple galleries, from the Wind Drift Gallery in Nye Beach, Ore. to the Amphora Gallery in Cambria. He enjoys creating custom commissions and aspires to produce larger scale home decor pieces – and he still feels he is living a dream. “I never thought I could make a living being an artist. Once I found glass blowing, I knew I needed to make a career out of it.” Ballis Glass Studio offers hands-on glass blowing classes at multiple times throughout the week and they’re centered around upcoming holidays, allowing budding artists to create Easter eggs in the spring, stemless wine glasses for Mother’s Day and pumpkins in early autumn. 

Ballis enjoys teaching others how to create beauty through glass and hopes people see Ballis Glass as “a place where we take dreams and visions and turn them into a reality – a place you can try something new with old friends and create a memory that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.” Ballis recently received the Horizon Award from the Fresno Arts Council and plans to become more involved in the local community as his business continues to grow.

Using broken pieces of glass and a fiery furnace, Ballis uses his talent and training to create beauty through an ancient art form. An artist to his core, Ballis will continue to shape and mold, offering a beautiful, unique art medium to valley residents. •

Ballis Glass • 2888 N. Sunnyside Ave. #104, Fresno 

(559) 412-4144 •

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