The artistic concept of fire and ice is a constant theme in Corning. Few locations demonstrate that as well at the Vitrix Hot Glass Studio in the Gaffer District.
Brothers Tom and Bob Kelly grew up watching glassblowing in their hometown and worked in some of the shops on Market Street. Tom (left), the artist, and Bob, the business manager, ended up owning Vitrix in 1997 after a lot of study with the prior owner.
The front half of the shop is an explosion of color in glass, all sizes and shapes of dazzle. The rear of the display area features a working glassblowing station, where shoppers can watch gaffers demonstrate their talents. To feel the heat and watch the molten glass take shape, and then turn around to admire the shelves of completed artistry, is a unique shopping experience. Bob Kelly says the combination works.
"Customers can talk with the glassblowers, ask their questions, and learn about the process that created what they have in their hand. It makes it more of an experience."
Creations from the Vitrix Studio are featured in galleries and stores across the country, and the business is proud to showcase some local artists. Every piece is signed and dated, which is really important when it comes to the snowmen, which are the most popular item at Vitrix and, at this time of year, the Kelly Brothers cannot keep up with the demand. The celebration of Sparkle brings brisk business, with the Christ Church Bell Ringers providing a festive soundtrack and the hot wassail from the Kelly punchbowl supplying the warmth.
There are five siblings in the Kelly clan, all of whom stayed local. Bob admits that not all brothers could run a business together, but he and Tom each excel at the different skills needed to keep Vitrix humming. "He does the artistic stuff, I handle the business stuff, and it all works out. Our family is close. We see each other often."
The gallery/shop has succeeded with a strong product diversification. Bob says there is truly something for everyone, especially during the holidays.
"We have the high-end gallery pieces for collectors. We have lower-cost ornaments. All of it is made with the same skill and pride."
Vitrix is also known for their specialty sculpture, the Heechee. The design for it came from a science fiction book owned by the store's founder. Hard to describe, but very pretty to look at!