History of Rosetree

07 Jul

Rosetree Glass Studio, Inc. was founded in 1993 with a goal of making quality, affordable, beautiful, handmade blown glass objects. Every piece is individually made to give each its own unique character. Due to the nature of glassblowing, no two pieces are ever exactly alike.

At Rosetree we melt our own glass from raw materials to give us the clearest glass available for studio use. An extensive color palette is achieved through the addition of color glass chips and powders to the clear glass.The glass is then treated with a solution of rare and precious metals to produce the beautiful, multi-colored, iridescent effects. Rosetree Glass is found throughout the United States in fine craft shops, galleries, museum shops, and specialty stores.Our beautiful creations have been purchased as corporate gifts for major corporations, including White Westinghouse and Gibson.

If you’re in the New Orleans area, we’d love to have you visit us! Rosetree Glass Studio is located in historic Algiers Point, just across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter. We have maps and instructions on how to find us via either the bridge or ferry on our Visit Us page. The ferry is $2 each way for pedestrians (make sure that you have correct change) Come see glassblowers at work, and take a look around our real, live gallery.

History of Rosetree Studio and Gallery

When I split from my partner and a thriving glassblowing studio to be out on my own, one area in New Orleans was my only choice in relocating. Algiers Point, an historic neighborhood just a short ferry ride across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter, offered proximity to a large city, but with the closeness of a neighborhood of older homes that were being rehabilitated by caring owners.

One building a vintage Art Deco movie theater, caught my interest. The perfect location for my studio, it offered space – 6,000 square feet – high ceilings and room enough for a gallery. The major drawback was that it had been vacant for 10 years and was in extreme disrepair. With enough capital to start a new business, but not enough to take on such a big renovation project, I set up Rosetree Glass Studio in rented space two blocks up the street from the theater in an old lawnmower repair shop.

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Over the next few years, I passed the theater quite often, daydreaming of how I would use the space. As luck and hard work would have it, business grew to a point at which the 1,600 square foot former lawnmower repair shop was getting very cramped. During this time, my wife, Brenda, and I drove around the area looking for a building suitable for our needs and in better shape than the theater. We found two other properties that could have worked and put in bids on them, but neither deal worked out. The theater had always been in the back of my mind, so I started to put some serious thought into its rehabilitation.

Although I had had experience running a business, the construction, real estate, contractors and all that accompany a project of this scale were pretty new to me. After selecting contractors, getting architect drawings, talking endlessly with both my banker and my real estate agent, and negotiating with the owner, we decided to buy the building. We closed on March 22, 1996. The building that we had dreamed about was finally ours – and then, reality set in!

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After cleaning out all the debris, we found the damage to be more extensive than we originally had thought. More than 50 percent of the roof was severely damaged (you could see the sky), and the floors and ceilings were a mess. The good news was that while working, we discovered the original terrazzo stairs and lobby – still intact. The bad news was that the work that had already been done up to that point had to be removed in order to restore the lobby. My original thought had been simply to make the building functional, and worry about the upgrading later. After finding the terrazzo, however, everything changed. We decided to build a large gallery and a viewing room in addition to the blowing studio.

As work progressed, we ran into more than our fair share of setbacks, including our general contractor having a heart attack, and our roofer disappearing for two weeks (and resurfacing in St. Louis), rain for an entire week after the roof was taken off, a handicap ramp that went through three changes so that it wouldn’t take up all of our studio space, and a plumber who did not understand the needs of a glassblowing studio. We worked our way through all of these problems and started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

At the very start of this project, I already had an idea of what I wanted to do for the grand opening. In New Orleans, we have festivals and parades for everything from gumbo to strawberries. Since we would have to move the furnace two blocks on a forklift, I thought, “Why not have that forklift lead a parade with a brass band and second-line dancing?” We named the event “Glass Fest.” The idea was received with great encouragement from the Algiers Point neighborhood.

 

We set the date for the opening for early August, but then had to move it back when we realized that the permits and inspections could not be done in time. Even though we had postponed the date for three weeks, we still had to sweat through the fire marshal’s inspection and the plumbing inspection on the day before the opening.

August 24th finally arrived. Our parade started at the old studio (two blocks away). With the brass band leading the way, my wife and I, and our children, Marcy and Max, second-lined in front of the forklift, which carried the glassblowing furnace. Following behind was a large number of friends, neighbors and people who had read about the event in the newspaper or seen the preview of the studio on a local television station. By the time the parade reached the new studio, there were more than 250 people outside the building awaiting the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Glass Fest was a great success.

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As I sit and write this a month later, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come, and the potential for where we can go. We’ve learned a lot along the way – both good and bad. On the whole, we are very proud of what we have accomplished. But we can’t rest on our laurels – we’ve got a lot of orders to fill!