Before sunrise, Eric Dandurand arrives at his shop and unloads the previous day’s work from the annealing oven — used to slowly cool glass items — before firing up the studio. While waiting for the forges to heat up to 2,000 degrees, he gives the gallery a “once over,” in preparation for visitors.
It’s the start of a new day at Harmony Glassworks, the art gallery, studio and school that Dandurand founded in 2007.
Visitors to the gallery, which occupies buildings that once housed a creamery operation, can find hand-blown glass from world-renowned glass artists, collections of such items as sculpture, jewelry, lighting and ornaments, or sign up for classes.
Sales have grown each year since opening, said Dandurand, who opened a second location in Cambria, Cambria Glassworks, in December 2013. He has eight employees and supports artists by selling their works through the galleries.
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“Opening my studio and gallery to the public seemed like the way to go after dealing with galleries and attending art festivals for many years,” he said.
The journey to get to where Dandurand is now has not been without roadblocks, however.
After living in Europe for four years — a stint in the Basque Country of Spain and apprenticing at Velamsund Glass Studios in Sweden — he returned to the United States, where he worked under Carl Radke of Phoenix Studios for five years.
He built up his own business at art festivals and galleries, opening his first gallery in Cambria in 1999. Within one year, he sold it, only to open up his first studio in Atascadero in 2002. He sold the Atascadero gallery by 2005 and two years later opened Harmony Glassworks.
With Harmony Glassworks, he literally bet his house that it would work, saying that “loans were hard to come by” when he told lenders he wanted to open a glassblowing business.
“I used the equity in my house to finance the venture via a home equity loan,” he recalled. “This was scary to do with twin 4-year-olds, a pile of debt and a dubious economy. I had to believe in myself more than ever in my life. I get emotional thinking about those times, and I have to thank my wife for believing in me, too.”
That dogged determination and love of working with glass now keeps him going.
“One of the things I enjoy most about working with glass is that there are endless challenges, techniques and skills to learn,” he said. “I keep my passion alive by pushing myself and trying new things.”