During the holidays, you can bet you’ll see a candy cane just about anywhere you look. But have you seen blown glass candy canes? I’m thinking you might not have unless, that is, you’ve stopped by Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich., and paid a visit to the Liberty Craftworks Glass Shop. I had the pleasure of doing just that last week during the Village’s annual Holiday Nights celebration when I got to tour the shop and learn more about the Liberty Craftworks Collectors Club.
Some background on the shop… The shop first opened in 1930 and focuses on creating historical blown glass as well as amazing artistic creations that are limited only by the artists’ imaginations. The glass makers currently working in the shop are Marc VandenBerg (who also served as my tour guide), Philip Yamron, Josh Wojick, Matt Cattanach, Grant Mayberry, and Stephen Jacklyn. They’ve all trained, both at school and on the job itself, in places all over the country. Products you see coming out of Greenfield Village’s Glass Shop are heavily influenced by Italian design, which can be seen through their work with Murrini designs. Teamwork is key in the shop, especially when temperatures rocket up to 120 degrees in the summer, thanks to the 2,500-degree-furnaces. As Marc and I talked, he mentioned how much fun working with glass is, and I can see why. For him, he’s got a new challenge every day with each piece of glass he works with. Nothing is impossible. And now for the candy canes… The Glass Shop first started making candy canes in 2004. Each year a new color and design are selected by the glass makers and quickly fly off the trees. The canes became so popular that a club was started the following year in 2005, The Candy Cane Club, now known as the Liberty Craftworks Collectors Club. Members were, and still are, notified when the first batch of canes are ready to buy. Each candy cane is unique and has its own personality. (Which is really the way it should be when it comes to candy, shouldn’t it?) This year alone the club make 4,000-5,000 canes for eager collectors. Not bad for something made out of silica sand, limestone, soda ash, and a dash of metallic oxides for color! The shop also makes ornaments and the popular Candy Cane Bowl. The idea came from the glass makers’ collaboration inside the shop. Each bowl has 15 actual candy cane rods in it. As Marc told me, with a giant tree light the team made behind him, holiday themes are great for team projects and team building. Candy Cane Bowls have been VERY popular this year, doubling their sales from 2010. The Glass Shop is just one of seven historic districts located inside Greenfield Village. What else can you find here?
- Armington & Sims Machine Shop
- Glass Shop
- Gunsolly Carding Mill
- Loranger Gristmill
- Pottery Shop
- Printing Office
- Tin Shop
- Weaving Shop
The next time you visit Greenfield Village, make sure to stop by the Glass Shop. You can see glass makers, like Marc, in action, and even try it yourself. If you don’t live here in the great Mitten state, you can still pick up this year’s candy cane online.