It’s not every day that people get to see 2,100-degree molten glass being transformed into art — not unless they take a trip to One Eared Cow in Columbia.
One Eared Cow is a glassblowing business that started out of a barn in the middle of a cotton field in Bishopville, South Carolina, 30 years ago. Since 1991, it has moved back to Columbia to grow its family business.
Currently, One Eared Cow makes vases, bowls, sculptures, ornaments, chandeliers all out of glass. Everything in its gallery is for sale to the public, but it also makes custom pieces, and the company ships pieces nationwide.
“We are blocks from where we learned how to do [glass blowing], which I think is pretty cool,” gallery manager Katrina Lockart said.
Lockart and her husband and owner Tom Lockart were both students at USC, which is where they first learned how to glass blow.
According to Katrina, Tom took about four semesters of glassblowing instruction before graduating and taught himself the rest of what he knows. The glassblowing program at USC ended the year he graduated.
“I've been doing it, probably, going on 34 years. Even after this long, it still has a mesmerizing feel to it,” Tom Lockart said.
Tom Lockart said even though glassblowing is "frustrating" and there are a lot of things that could go wrong, the art is always rewarding.
“There's no place like this in Columbia, or I would say even in the state, that you can go and sit down and watch people work with 2,100 degree molten glass and bend it and shape it around and actually purchase that product that they're making,” glassblower Ryan Crabtree said.
Crabtree started as an apprentice at One Eared Cow straight out of college and has been working there since 2005. He said he likes working with glass because of how challenging it is and that each piece gets better than the last.
“It’s the next thing that's gonna be the best thing because now we have that much more knowledge of how to do whatever needs to be done,” Tom Lockart said.
Lockart said One Eared Cow does things that other glassblowers don’t: It always tries new things instead of sticking to “a few niche things.”
Crabtree said they get to be creative, and the fun part of glass blowing is seeing what new ideas they can come up with — if they’re doing the same thing all day, it's not as fun.
“Everything you buy is one of a kind. There’s nothing else out there like it,” Crabtree said.
Katrina Lockart said because of the nature of glassblowing, no two pieces will turn out the same.
Even with the originality these glass pieces hold, affordability is still important to the business. Crabtree said other handblown glass companies, especially on the West Coast, might charge you three times what the price would be at One Eared Cow.
“We’re not an art gallery where you walk in and everything's 15, 20, 30 thousand dollars,” Tom Lockart said.
Lockart said this is what makes his customers return and buy more things.
“Come watch them work. You'll get an appreciation for what the glass is, you'll get an appreciation for how difficult it is,” Katrina Lockart said.