'Pumpkins -- are you kidding me?'

Fall glass sales are coming up at Paly and Palo Alto Art Center

The enduring craze for glass pumpkins is something of an enigma to local glassblowers.

"The whole pumpkin phenomenon started probably about 1998 -- and it just turned into an entity of its own," said glass artist and Palo Alto High School art teacher Steve Ferrera.

Around that time, Ferrera was proprietor of the studio Fourth Street Glass in Berkeley. He assumed the pumpkin craze would run its course.

"Back in the early 2000s I'd say, 'This has to be it -- eventually everybody's going to have enough pumpkins. And then more pumpkins would sell that year and then the next year," Ferrera said.

"We did a lot of pumpkins and sold them at random places like Gump's, museum gift stores -- everybody loves the pumpkin."

Why pumpkins?

"First, it's such a cool shape," he said. "Glass is beautiful as it is already, and then you have these colors, the pumpkin shape, the curly pumpkin stem -- it's a really nice piece of art that's also somewhat seasonal.

"Every artist has their own colors and techniques, and to just walk out and see thousands of glass pumpkins is pretty unique," he added, referring to such shows as the Palo Alto Art Center's annual Great Glass Pumpkin Patch.

Some people were skeptical glass pumpkins would take off.

"At first I thought, 'Pumpkins -- are you kidding me?" said glass artist Dave Camner, who launched Paly's glass studio in 2001 and retired from full-time teaching last year.

"But then I'd see the delight of people at the pumpkin patch; people just love those things. I bought into it and started making them and selling them."

Camner, who's blown thousands of glass pumpkins, saw it as a way to raise funds for the Paly program, which was then in start-up mode.

"Students would be off to college and come back during the summer and still wanted to blow glass, so I'd say, 'OK, well, we've got to make pumpkins in the morning, and then you can do whatever you want in the afternoon.'

"I'd get guys coming back for three or four years and get new kids involved. There were always a few high school kids hanging around," Camner said. "I'd put a lot of time in as well. I was on vacation, but I enjoyed dong it and had to do it to make the program run. So that's kind of how we financed the program."

This month, Paly's Big Fiery Arts Glass Sale, benefiting the glass program, will include live demos and food trucks. It will be held on the Paly campus near Haymarket Theatre Sept. 13 and Sept. 20 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.

To cover their bases, the young artists this year are also offering -- in addition to pumpkins -- glass pears, apples, seashells, acorns, reindeer, slugs and snails.

The Palo Alto Art Center Sale (the Great Glass Pumpkin Patch) -- returning this year to the remodeled art center at 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto -- will be Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pre-sale exhibition hours will be Tuesday through Thursday, Sept. 24 to 26, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday, Sept. 27, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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