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Pumpkins as art
October 13, 2012, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal correspondent

Stuart Nafey Doug Brown, a talented and versatile glass artist, will have a rare artistic pumpkin patch containing 1,000 glass pumpkins at Half Moon Bay's annual pumpkin festival this weekend.

A roaring heat of about 2,100 degrees melts glass into a malleable viscous liquid forming endless possibilities for a glassblower.

As tens of thousands of people prepare to make the descent toward Half Moon Bay’s annual pumpkin festival this weekend, one local artist has worked year round to create uniquely beautiful glassworks sure to wow visitors.

Doug Brown, 57, a talented and versatile glass artist, provides more than purchasable artistic objects; he provides an opportunity to learn about the skills and thrills behind the production of glass pumpkins.

Nestled next to La Nebbia Winery off State Route 92, is Brown’s studio Half Moon Bay Art Glass. This year, visitors can walk through his rare artistic pumpkin patch containing 1,000 glass pumpkins, Brown said.

Unlike other vendors, Brown has removed his work from a cramped table stand and instead lets a vast natural backdrop serve as his booth. Surrounded by actual pumpkin patches that line the highway toward the coast, Brown’s glass patch is a sight to see. Similar to actual pumpkin patches, visitors can browse Brown’s glass patch to find a singular pumpkin that will last for years instead of months.

La Nebbia will offer wine tasting, food and a spiriting atmosphere for visitors to sit and relax amidst an interactive art exhibition.

"Because of where we [are located on State Route] 92 at a winery, it gives people a chance to relax without the congestion that might occur with around 30,000 people at the festival,” Brown said.

Several alternate glass pumpkin vendors travel from afar to attend the festival and turn a profit. However, when the heat of the festival dies down, Brown’s studio continues to stay hot with his year-round classes.  

Denali St. Amand, a teacher at Menlo School, brought her eighth-grade class in to visualize the art they learned about in their Latin class.

"After coming here, they’re completely enchanted and excited and it’s local art which makes it even more exciting. It’s a great experience,” Amand said.

Brown’s patient, relaxed and humorous attitude makes learning simple and joyous for all of his students. Brown’s classes range from $40-$240, depending on desired length of studio time, Brown said. Due to the limited size of the studio, students have the luxury of working one on one with a professional glassblower.

Mary Grimm, 31, took her first class at Brown’s studio. Slightly nervous before starting, Grimm walked away with a grin after making her own glass pumpkin.

Teaching classes is key to maintaining the high cost of running a glass studio. Yet this aspect of his trade has proved to be much more than financially rewarding.

"I actually had no idea I was going to enjoy [teaching] as much as I do,” Brown said.

Brown correlates his instructional capabilities to his other job. As a licensed real estate agent, Brown walks new buyers through a very complex process in territory with which they’re unfamiliar. Teaching glassblowing is the same, Brown said.

When he’s not teaching, Brown makes roughly 10 to 15 pieces a day on his own.

Like many artists, Brown is fueled by commissions. The MGM Hotel in Las Vegas recently commissioned Brown to make more than 100 glass vegetables which it used to create a room divider in a restaurant, Brown said. A new contract calls for 15 large diameter jellyfish that will hang over an Olympic-sized swimming pool, Brown said.

Yet Brown is keen on blowing pumpkins to sell at a renowned festival.

"Pumpkins themselves represent a chance for someone to pick up art at a relatively low cost that’s an American-made craft,” Brown said.

The prices of Brown’s pumpkins range from $10 to $1,000. As patrons meander through the glass patch with more than 1,000 exceptional pumpkins from which to choose, they have an exclusive opportunity to meet the artist.

"We get a chance to talk to everyone that comes. That kind of unique experience, being able to talk directly with the artist, is one of the things that you can’t necessarily get at such a huge event,” Brown said.

Brown’s glass patch and La Nebbia Winery are located on San Mateo Road, directly off State Route 92. The Glass Pumpkin festival will be open Oct. 13-15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information or to sign up for classes call (650) 283-5626.

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