BELFAST, Maine — It was the throw of a dart that introduced Brian Frus and his household to Maine from Florida final 12 months, nevertheless it was the colourful midcoast arts group that helped them mould a brand new dwelling.
That’s simply high-quality with Frus, 43, knowledgeable glass artist and educator whose exuberance for his artwork is matched by his enthusiasm for educating.
“I’m arriving in a spot the place I’m an unknown,” he stated. “For myself as a creator, I wish to be rediscovered on this group. It’s vital for me to make work and make a mark and change into a identified entity.”
He’s doing that in Belfast. Final month, Frus and his spouse, Stephanie Natale, 39, opened Mainely Gallery & Studio on Searsport Avenue in Belfast. They provide group lessons in glassmaking, host artist lecture collection, invite artist residencies, function a restaurant and maintain reveals. It’s a busy, eventful place, which is how they prefer it.
Clockwise from left: Brian Frus (proper), glass artist and teacher, works with two of his college students, Anna Homola and Tillman Crane (background) throughout a glass blowing class at Waterfall Arts Glassworks in Belfast on Thursday; A glass pitcher is put into the glory gap, a sizzling chamber used to reheat glass to make it malleable once more, at Waterfall Arts Glassworks in Belfast; Brian Frus, who teaches glass blowing lessons, works with Tillman Crane as he rolls the recent glass on a metal floor at Waterfall Arts Glassworks. Credit score: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
“It’s a really versatile area. It’s greater than only a retailer,” Natale, the gallery director stated. “Creation, group and commerce — these are our vital pillars.”
Frus can also be educating and renting area at Waterfall Arts, a group artwork middle that final summer time opened Waterfall Arts Glassworks within the basement area previously referred to as the “Fallout Shelter.”
That’s the place he was on a steamy morning final week. The 1,000-square-foot glass studio is the primary full-time, community-based public entry glassblowing facility in Maine. It additionally would be the greenest glass studio within the nation, Frus believes, as a result of the furnaces are heated by electrical energy and biofuel as a substitute of fossil fuels. The biofuel is waste vegetable oil donated by native eating places.
It’s there that the magic of glassmaking occurs. On that morning, he and two college students targeted on the work of alchemy earlier than them: reworking white-hot molten glass into one thing else totally.
The three moved rapidly however fastidiously across the two furnaces, one in all which burned at greater than 2,000 levels, as they labored collectively to form and sculpt the liquid glass because it cooled. The top end result was a pitcher — practical artwork that was made one-of-a-kind due to the ripples and slumps it bore as a mark of its journey by warmth.
“As a working course of, glass is not like something I’ve ever achieved or tried or labored with ever earlier than. It’s akin to sculpting lava,” Frus stated. “It’s magical, it’s molten, it’s intimidating and intense. It’s humbling. It’s this choreographed dance with fireplace, and my companion, glass, is kind of alive. It retains me on my toes.”
Clockwise from left: Colourful glass rods within the studio at Waterfall Arts Glassworks in Belfast; Brian Frus, a glass artist and teacher who lately relocated to Belfast, heats and stretches glass in his studio, Mainely Gallery & Studio on Searsport Avenue in Belfast; Brian Frus provides instruction to Ann Homola as she blows into molten glass utilizing her blow pipe whereas rotating it to provide the glass form and measurement. Homola began taking glass blowing lessons with Frus in August at Waterfall Arts Glassworks in Belfast and stated she enjoys the problem. Credit score: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
It’s clear that Frus loves that dance and is joyful to share it with devoted glass-blowing college students like Ann Homola of Previous City, who began studying to make glass at Waterfall Arts final summer time.
“It’s actually difficult,” she stated. “There’s a gazillion issues to think about. It’s form of alchemy — you’re taking this blob of glass and might make it into something.”
Homola, who has made ingesting glasses, vases, pitchers and extra, stated that the method forces you to pay attention and actually be within the second.
“To assume that I could make this, I blow my very own thoughts,” she stated of her glass creations. “You’ll be able to take lots of satisfaction.”
Frus is conversant in that feeling. He fell for the artwork type as a highschool pupil when he went to a weekend glass blowing workshop together with his dad. They each beloved it, and finally introduced his youthful brother with them to workshops and lessons. For Frus, working with glass felt extra like a calling than a pastime. So when he went to varsity at Jacksonville College in Florida, he majored in glass artwork.
“I used to be on the prime age that I used to be discovering one thing that aligned with lots of my pursuits,” he stated. “I by no means, ever considered doing anything.”
After getting his grasp’s diploma in high-quality arts, he labored as a glass studio supervisor, visiting professor after which the director of schooling at UrbanGlass in New York Metropolis, a nonprofit public glass studio. In 2010, Jacksonville College employed him to be an artwork professor and finally he oversaw the glass artwork program there.
For Frus, it was a reasonably dreamy gig. However in 2021, he and his spouse and their two youngsters Penelope Hazard, 9, and Juniper Wild, 6, determined to make a change. They wished to go elsewhere and determined to go away the specifics as much as likelihood.
“I threw a dart at a map of the U.S.,” Natale stated. “I aimed for New England. We ended up in Ellsworth.”
Clockwise from left: Ann Homola shears the mouth of the pitcher she is making in one in all her glass blowing lessons with Brian Frus at Waterfall Arts Glassworks; Brian Frus instructs Ann Homola as she rolls molten glass on a flat metallic slab throughout a glass blowing class; Brian Frus, a glass artist from Florida, lately relocated to Belfast together with his spouse and kids and are already energetic locally. Together with their new studio on Searsport Avenue in Belfast referred to as Mainely Gallery & Studio, Frus is educating individuals how one can blow glass at Waterfall Arts. Credit score: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
Final fall, they moved north to the Hancock County group, the place their youngsters skilled their first winter whereas the household discovered how they could match greatest into Maine.
“As soon as we bought up right here, we found Belfast. It’s a spot the place we began to have alternatives,” Frus stated.
One such alternative introduced itself at Mainely Pottery, a venerable pottery studio and gallery that for a few years had been run by husband-and-wife crew Jamie Oates and Jeannette Faunce. After Oates, a potter, died within the spring of 2021, his spouse determined she didn’t wish to hold the enterprise going with out him.
“We actually wandered in a day earlier than it closed,” Natale stated.
She and Frus favored what they noticed and determined the area could be an ideal match for a glass studio and artwork gallery of their very own.
They purchased the property from Faunce this spring, filling the sunshine, vivid area with their power, concepts and artwork. The gallery’s present present, “Brian Frus: Made You Look,” options 30 of his works, together with “River Desk,” a large, 14-foot sculpture representing a river’s journey from freshwater to saltwater. There are tall grasses and cattails, sleek fish and delicate lily pads and flowers — all fabricated from glass. It took about eight months to finish when he created it for a 2015 exhibition on the Cummer Museum of Artwork in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I say it was a labor of affection. It took an terrible lot of labor, pushed by an terrible lot of affection,” Frus stated.
From left: Ann Homola is speaking glass blowing lessons with artist and teacher Brian Frus at Waterfall Arts Glassworks; Brian Frus, a glass artist and teacher who lately relocated to Belfast, talks about his piece referred to as River Desk in his studio, Mainely Gallery & Studio, on Searsport Avenue in Belfast. Credit score: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
He and Natale are excited to point out it, and the opposite works, to Mainers and guests who may occur by the gallery. It’s the primary time that “River Desk” has been considered since its Florida debut. Up to now, response to it has been gratifying. It’s the type of artwork that makes individuals cease and take their time as they take up the small print and surprises, just like the tiny glass snails climbing up the reeds and roots rising from the river.
Frus hopes that curiosity about glass artwork will gentle a spark in individuals, who might go on to strive their hand at Waterfall Arts Glassworks or on the lessons and workshops he’ll train at his studio. He is aware of effectively how a spark can develop into a fireplace, how glass can catch you and never allow you to go.
“I really feel actually alive now in my profession, as a result of there’s new issues occurring,” he stated.