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Fiery Passion Leads Local Glassblower to Create ‘Covid’  Collectors Club  

Stone & Glass owners James Stone and Carol Rogers with their dog, Ester

Glass artist and entrepreneur, James Stone, has overcome great challenges throughout his career. When he decided to open his first gallery in 2001, the devastating September 11 tragedy occurred days before he opened his doors. He made it through the economic downturn in the early 2000s, and survived an eight-month shut down in 2017, when his neighboring business burned down and forced him to temporarily close.

“That fire was a dress rehearsal,” said Stone, who now owns Stone & Glass, a glass blowing studio and gallery in Escondido. When the unexpected shutdown due to COVID-19 happened in March, Stone and his wife and business partner Carol Rogers quickly had to devise a plan to shift their business in order to find a way to stay afloat.   

“We had a $4,000-a-month energy cost between electricity and propane,” said Stone. “We had to shut that furnace off, and without it, we couldn’t do any work. And I knew if it went on for several months, we wouldn’t have the money to turn it back on.” 

Glass blowing classes, which had been a consistent source of income since Stone was first approached by a representative at Groupon years ago, had to be canceled due to the shutdown.  

At first, Stone said he was reluctant to teach, but has since found it to be very rewarding. “As I started to teach and communicate, I developed a dialogue and I found that I love to teach,” he said. “I enjoy taking someone who has never been exposed to 2,400 degrees and standing them up in front of the furnace and watching them as they very quickly evolve to love the flame.”

Even with the reopening in May, only a few private lessons have been allowed to start again. “Glassblowing for the most part is a team sport,” said Stone. “They call the area where you work in the glass blowing industry the ‘dance floor’ because when you are making glass, it’s a song, it’s music, and you are dancing with your partner. It’s amazing to watch and it’s more amazing to be on the dance floor and be part of it. That’s the experience I try to give my students.”

This intimate work environment has been put on pause. With the loss of revenue, Stone and Rogers had to figure out a new way to create an income. Knowing glassware has always been a consistent sale for their business, Stone and Rogers worked together to develop a plan to create the Stone & Glass Collectors Club

July’s Collectors Club wine glasses are a vibrant "Covid Blue”

Developed in response to COVID-19, this limited-edition, hand-blown drinking glass collection is being offered on a membership basis. Every month, a set of hand-blown, stemless wine glasses or rock glasses will be designed and sent to members. 

Members can choose between a four, six or 12-month subscription, and the glasses are shipped the fourth week of the month. 

July’s limited-edition “Covid Blue” design was an instant hit. “We initially hoped for 20 subscriptions,” Rogers said, explaining that 20 subscriptions would help Stone & Glass reach a net zero profit and keep the business open through the pandemic. She and Stone were pleasantly surprised when, at the launch of the Collectors Club, they more than doubled their expected subscriptions.

The Club is now selling its August glasses, called “Back to the Flame.” Its lower base of cobalt blue waves swim into a warm, golden yellow top with bursts of rich red, copper, and titanium flames floating above the blue waves. 

August’s “Back to the Flame” Collectors Club wine glasses contain a striking mixture of primary colors

All pieces in the Collectors Club have two distinct marks. First, they are branded with Stone’s unique coined-sized signature stamp he brands on all of his pieces. In addition, all the glasses in the Collectors Club are signed and dated by Stone with a special diamond tool he uses to etch into the bottom of the glass. 

With the success of the Collectors Club, Stone and Rogers are planning to create additional pieces to complement the series and memorialize the pandemic through art. 

“The Covid Blue won’t go away,” Stone said. “In future months, we may make vases or plates in the Covid Blue and make a very limited number available to patrons and the public.”

Stone and Rogers said they are grateful to the patrons and customers who have helped them pivot their business during this difficult time. They are hopeful that this will help them survive and continue to make quality glass art in the future. “Glass is a form of energy and everything in our existence is just a slightly different manifestation of the energy and because of that, because glass is such an intense energy, it’s absolutely magical,” Stone said. “I want to share the magic of glass with as many people as I can for as long as I can.”

Stone & Glass is located at 629 W. Grand Avenue in Escondido. The gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday from 11 a.m - 6 p.m. For more information call 760-294-7447.

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