Riley Art Glass Studio is the only glassblowing studio in Hot Springs. At the helm of the endeavor is the brother duo Charles and Michael Riley. The Riley’s have been working in the area since the early 2000s but just recently moved to their current location at 710 West Grand Avenue, a property that was originally built in 1904 as a fire station.
What makes the studio stand out is that it is open to the public and one can watch the artists in action. “To my knowledge there are only 5, maybe 6 [glassblowing] studios in the whole state, and only one lets you watch and that is Terra Studios [in Fayetteville], where they do the bluebird of happiness paperweight,” said Charles Riley. He said the public can view these artists but they are working behind plexiglass, so there is no interaction with the artists, you are just watching them. “So that is the big difference with us,” he added. “You can get so close [to us working]. You actually get to feel the heat [off the furnace], you can ask us questions while we are working. You can see where the art is made.”
Riley also added that the location is adding to the current redevelopment revival that is taking place across the city, making mention of properties such as the the soon-to-open SQZBX, a microbrewery and pizza joint near the studio, and the recent renovation of the historic Thompson Building into The Waters hotel downtown.
The brothers work with soft glass and use a variety of tools to form the glass, including a hand torch. The space where they work is outfitted with a furnace that they use to create their own glass by heating up raw materials to 2200 F. They then use various tools to shape the glass into the art pieces that they sell.
The gallery is open Tuesday- Saturday from 9a.m. to 4 p.m. and a current studio blowing schedule is posted on their website here.