“Glass is full of magic,” Patrick Frost told me as he and his wife Carrie began the tour of their Mantua, Ohio, home with an introduction to their impressive collection of glass pieces from around the world.
As Patrick carefully handled one of the handmade glass objects, he explained that it was created by a master glassblower he’d trained with years before. The glassblower was very old, but after 60 years practicing his craft, he still loved his art, because he believed in the magic of glass.
Patrick said that he too is enchanted by the way glass moves, interacts with light, and almost mesmerizes. The Frosts continued to tell the stories behind many of the pieces in the collection (which takes up an entire wall and then some in their living room), and it became clear that both Patrick and Carrie are sincerely passionate about every part of the glassmaking process—from the first drops of molten material, through firing and turning and blowing, all the way up to opening the oven and seeing the cooled, finished piece for the first time.
As enthusiastically as the Frosts spoke about glass, their love of the process and material itself came through even more when it was time to get hands-on. After showing my travel buddy NéQuana and me their home (but before the tour of Mantua—a vibrant village with just over 1000 residents), the Frosts took us out to their studio and gave us a step-by-step looks at how they make some of their most popular products. And, as if the tutorial wasn’t enough to convince us that the process really is something special, that afternoon they let us actually try making magic ourselves.
In the spacious–and very warm–studio with furnaces blazing and torches flickering, NéQuana and I each had a turn giving glassmaking a go. (Yes, it is as fun as it looks.)
Watching the Frosts at work and then getting to handle a hot pipe and my own ball of molten goo was truly one of those I can’t believe this is actually my job experiences. And while I know that reading this post isn’t quite the same as being there, I hope you’re able to feel a little of that glass magic as you read on.
What are your most essential tools?
Patrick: Endurance, creativity, perseverance, teamwork, and community.
*Editor’s note: Check out our 2015 interview with the Frosts to learn more about the human element required for the kind of glasswork they produce. According to Patrick, “There are things that can only be done by hand that a machine cannot replicate and that is what makes it special.”
The Frosts also sent us this video they produced showing a behind-the-scenes look at how they make our exclusive Pot of Gold Glass
Where do you find inspiration within this space?
Patrick: Inspiration comes from all around: taking work out of the oven, surprise elements, nature, from within, and collaboration.
Carrie: I get inspired when I watch people who have never worked with glass before. It’s inspiring to see what they do. It’s always something wacky, but in a good way.
Where does downtime fit into a day in the studio?
P: Downtime? I don’t think we ever can stop thinking about Frost Glass. Even when you are done working it is still rolling around back there. We’re doing more to pursue downtime now, though, because when you work too many days in a row, you make silly mistakes. When we started, downtime wasn’t an option. Now, we can take a break and come back better and able to make great work.
C: When we can, we go to the farm. It’s not just to take a break, because we love what we do, but sometimes we really need some time to recharge.
What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
P: When we were first starting every lesson was a tough one. They are pretty much unavoidable. I think most people mistake tough lessons for failures and miss the opportunity to pay attention and evolve their business. The only way to survive is to be constantly learning and evolving.
What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
C: When you have faith that things will work out then you can overcome seemingly impossible feats. You have to overcome your reluctance to step out of your comfort zone and take major leaps in life with only faith to keep you up. Sometimes it can feel like if you were to look down you could fall. You think of all the bad things that would happen if you did and it becomes a downward cycle–so you have to keep looking up and ahead to reach your goals!
P: Usually the first thing you do when presented with a problem is try to find a way to avoid solving it, to avoid danger. When you find that you have persevered, it is against many obstacles and challenges. You have to ignore doubt.
*Editor’s note: While we haven’t known the Frosts for quite five years, we have been working for them a while. We first met Patrick and Carrie back in 2013, when they won our Glass Design Challenge.
How do you set and accomplish goals for yourselves?
P: One of the things we are thankful for is our community. Without their support we could not have made the leap into having our own studio. We receive great local support and have been board members on a local non-profit dedicated to the revitalization of our town. For example, a recent leap of faith for us has been to decide to open a small showroom and office on main street. I think it will be a great addition to the neighborhood, turning an unused office space into a place where people can rediscover magic!
Artists can see past problems by coming up with creative solutions. They can also see the value in places and objects that may be hidden by hard work and cleanup. This is why artisans can be valuable tools for transforming a community. Art has the power to communicate on a different level, think about how people are influenced by design, branding, the look of their automobiles. Before there were words there was art.
How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
P: It is sometimes hard to stop and reflect on accomplishments because we are always thinking ahead to solving the next problem. It is a common mistake of entrepreneurs, to bypass celebrating their accomplishments. Usually in the first five years you are working so hard and risking everything you have and can get your hands on. You should try to set measurable goals for the day, and take the time to give yourself credit for completing complex challenges and learning along the way. It will add to your quality of life.
What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
C: “Don’t worry, be happy!”
Maybe you had a bad day, but is that really going to affect your whole life? Probably not.
What are some new skills you are trying to acquire?
P: Acquiring a better balance between work and everything else.
C: Scheduling things better to manage our different responsibilities.
How do you recharge your creativity?
C: Go to the Farm! Take our dog Jeffrey on a long walk. Reflect on the fact that we are small manufacturing company in the USA.
Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
P: Sometimes Carrie will be thinking of a song and I will start singing it – or we will find ourselves triggered by each other’s thoughts. I guess you could say it plays a major part.
C: When one of us gets an idea for some new design, the other one will come up with a completely different way to make it, which usually leads to a new and better design from the original idea!