Blowing Glass Through the Fire and Flames
By VICTORIA CISNEROS, Student Writer
Ballis Glass sits in the heart of an industrial business maze just east of Fresno Yosemite International Airport. The over-sized workshop is home to numerous works of art, created at temperatures nearly as hot as lava.
Owner Cory Ballis (2010) has been blowing glass for the past twelve years, a passion that ignited during his time at Fresno State.
“I was earning a degree in Business Marketing and I needed an elective. So, I took glass blowing and then fell in love with it the first day,” he said.
Ballis took as many glass blowing classes as he could before graduating from the Craig School of Business and beginning work at Fresno’s only other glass blowing company, Kliszewski Glass. Four years later, he decided to open up his own shop, sharing a space with his brother Ryan’s welding company.
Cory later enlisted Ryan as his right hand man and has since taught him the ins and outs of glass blowing. The two glide across the shop floor to the steady tune of the fiery furnace. An occasional hand off of the rod allows for constant rotation, ensuring gravity doesn’t abruptly cut in.
“We both have to know our part, but we’ve been working together so long he knows to be a few steps ahead of me,” says Cory. “It’s like a dance.”
Once the piece is completed, it is placed inside a cooling oven, where it will stay for the next 24 hours. Set and cooled pieces are then either displayed for purchase in the shop’s gallery or packed up and taken to art shows to be sold.
Part of being a small business owner and utilizing his business degree is knowing how to market both himself and his product, a skill Cory admits isn’t taught in art school.
“It’s easy to make art, but selling it to people is the hard part. The market is always changing so you have to be able to adjust and adapt to that.”
Cory tries to keep his business evolving by offering DIY workshops. He uses Facebook to set up classes open to the public and occasionally hosts field trips for local schools. During the classes, guests create their own predetermined pieces with the help of Cory and his brother.
Most classes coincide with the current season or holiday, including his most recent Easter egg classes as well as the upcoming wine and pint glass sessions designed for Mother’s and Father’s Day.
Cory finds some of his greatest rewards when teaching classes full of children, noting their initial concentration and later excitement when the piece is finished.
“You can only imagine being that young and seeing something 250 degrees cooler than lava. To see them have a good time with it… its rewarding.”
Although Cory and his brother both became craftsmen of their own, the Ballis family was never short on artists. Cory’s mother, grandmother, and great aunt were all artists, allowing the boys to be constantly surrounded with positivity and creativity.
To this day, Cory still surrounds himself with his family’s work. Hisgrandmother’s paintings hang on the wall of the shop along with ribbons reaffirming the apparent talent on the canvas.
Turning around to admire her work, Cory says, “…My grandmother, her work is amazing. Just to have that was always a positive influence for me making art.”
Coming to glass blowing at the age of 21, Cory understands the challenge of changing your course mid-race.
“I’ve always been influenced by art and had the opportunities to be an artist, but it didn’t really click until I found glass blowing.”
His unexpected discovery is part of the reason he encourages others to try new things in an effort to find their passion. After all, his whole life changed after just one art class.