Little Sandy Glass is an Alabama Maker not afraid of the heat

Little Sandy Glass is an Alabama Maker not afraid of the heat
Heather Hepp of Little Sandy Glass in Tuscaloosa has a burning passion for working with glass. (Mark Sandlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Little Sandy Glass (Tuscaloosa)

The Maker: Heather Hepp

The temperature inside a glass-blowing furnace can reach more than 2,000 degrees, but after years of experience, Heather Hepp is used to the heat.

The talented craftsperson has been turning raw glass into functional and fun items, such as soap dispensers, olive oil bottles and bright red pumpkins, for nearly three decades. “It’s fascinating work, but you have to prepare,” Hepp says. “Before starting to work with the furnace, you’d better hydrate. It can get extremely hot in the studio.”

Joined by her fiancée, Crichton Minges, Hepp runs Little Sandy Glass from a tree-shaded studio near Tuscaloosa. There the duo creates blown-glass artwork they exhibit on their Facebook page and sell at art shows and markets, such as the Tuscaloosa River Market and Market at Pepper Place in Birmingham.

A New York native, Hepp discovered the colorful craft in Idaho, training and then teaching at the Boise Art Glass studio. In Boise, she learned how to heat, bend, weld and wind fragile materials into works of art.

Heather Hepp of Little Sandy Glass is an Alabama Maker fashioning furnace-fired art from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“I was 32 when I started taking classes,” she says. “I had two kids, Gus and Arthur Wright, and during the day while they were in school I went to the studio. I really got into glass blowing — and wanted to do anything I could to stay involved in the craft — so I also went to night school and took welding lessons.”

In addition to learning how to craft glass, Hepp later helped build equipment for another studio’s hot shop. “For a while I worked at a place in the mountains of Idaho,” she says. “We couldn’t just run over to a store for an annealer (a device used to cool hot glass), so we would build our own.”

Hepp met Minges in Boise, and before long he was doing glasswork. Two years ago, the couple moved to Tuscaloosa, his hometown, and built the Little Sandy Glass studio just off Alabama Highway 69 about 10 miles south of town. “Crichton specializes in ‘borosilicate glass’ that takes more intricate torchwork, creating small, technically detailed items,” Hepp explains. “He’s very good at it, but I can’t sit still that long. I don’t do fine art, I consider myself more of a craftsman.”

Together, the couple craft a cornucopia of items ranging from crimson red pumpkins and heart-shaped paperweights to multisphere chandeliers. “When we moved, I wasn’t sure what would sell here,” Hepp says. “But last year our pumpkins did very well — you never can assume what people will like.

“I really enjoy exhibiting at the Tuscaloosa River Market. We’ve made regular customers now, and they show up to see what we have that’s new,” Hepp adds. “There’s just something about sunlight shining through a piece of blown glass. People love that.”

And luckily for them, Hepp’s not afraid to take the heat.

The Product: Blown-glass artwork ranging from olive oil bottles to decorative orbs, pumpkins and marbles.

Take Home: Hand-blown olive oil bottles ($40 and $50) or paperweights ($30)

14282 Old Greensboro Road, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35405


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