Orbix Hot Glass, Fort Payne
A love of hand-blown glass and free-spirited rock climbing combined to create Orbix Hot Glass, one of Alabama’s most fascinating studios and galleries.
The Makers: Cal and Christy Breed
Cal grew up in Florence dreaming of becoming a marine biologist. But that changed when he got to Auburn University. “I switched to art and discovered glass blowing,” he says.
The young artist also met Christy, a Birmingham native, while living on the Plains. “We both love rock climbing and met doing that,” Christy says.
The couple married and moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Cal shaped his glass-blowing skills at Ohio State University.
After working with glass artists in Seattle and Illinois, he decided to return home, opening his studio in 2002.
“We came to Fort Payne because the area is so scenic – and it’s a great place for rock climbing,” Christy says. Just off a Lookout Mountain road about 14 miles south of Fort Payne, their sun-filled Orbix Hot Glass studio and gallery attracts visitors from around the country.
Assisted by three other artists, Cal creates hand blown, rainbow-hued pitchers, tumblers, vases, bottles, wine carafes, wall pieces, and more. In a nod to his alma mater, he even offers a “Samford Hall Collection” of orange-and-blue glass collectibles.
“Because of the heat, it’s unusual to see glass blowing in Alabama,” Cal says. “We’re one of the few places in the state where you can see glass artists at work.”
And the working artists are happy to see those walk-in customers, since the economy has forced Cal and Christy to be versatile as well as visible. “Originally, we were going to be a wholesale business,” Christy explains. “But the recession changed all of that. We started relying more on people coming to the studio, and most of our sales now come from word-of-mouth and our website.”
It also helps that the studio is located in such an attractive and attraction-filled part of the state, not far from the country music collections of the Alabama National Fan Club and Museum, and the unspoiled beauty of DeSoto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve.
“The folks in Fort Payne have done a lot to promote this area, and we’ve benefited from that,” Christy says. “We love living here, especially just a few miles from the Preserve. It has some of the best rock climbing in the South.”
The Product: Christmas favorites are glass “diamond eggs” and candy cane ornaments. Year-round, more functional art creations – pitchers, bowls, bottles, vases, paperweights and other items – are popular.
Orbix Hot Glass, 3869 County Road 275, Fort Payne AL 35967
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Take Home: Fleur tumbler $38 or $456 for a set of 12
Mini raisin bottle for $95
Alabama Makers explores the artisans, crafts people, carpenters, cooks, bakers, blacksmiths, designers and others making original and extraordinary items in our state. If you know an Alabama Maker, let us know at [email protected].