In a city as rich in culture, art, and sheer creative talent, snagging the title of Savannah’s Best Visual Artist is something Ronald and Casey Martinez of Hostess City Hot Glass won’t soon forget.
“This was a big surprise for us. A wonderful surprise for us,” said Casey Martinez. “We were in there with so many talented artists. It was with great excitement and, oh, my God, that we even made the list of nominees. Then, to win… we were so excited.
“It’s so cool. We’ve ordered the fancy plaque and we’re going to display it,” her husband, Ronald, agreed.
Hostess City Hot Glass studio is located in downtown Savannah and was founded in 2018 by Martinez.
In addition to the art studio, Hostess City Hot Glass offers chances to do some hands-on work of your own.
“We offer classes for people who’ve never taken glass blowing before, we do large team building events, we do demonstrations, and make glass that’s sold all around town and the country, as well as doing large installations. We just finished an installation for a children’s hospital in Pensacola depicting undersea life in glass to help calm children going into surgery.”
Ronald Martinez grew up outside of Metter, but found his way to the west coast and met his future wife, Casey. “On our first date, Ronald told me he would be going back to Savannah. If I was serious, I needed to be willing to move to Savannah. On a first date!”
It must have stuck because the couple is here and their business is thriving.
“We’ve grown so much in 3 years since Ronald started it,” Casey said. “We’ve grown from a little hole in the wall—garage—to a large, 2,000 square foot space on Montgomery Street.”
Ronald teaches all of the classes, along with Sarah Sabol and two apprentices at the studio.
“How did we find them?” Casey teased. “Believe it or not, they all took a class. That’s how we met them and they are all fabulous.”
Most recently, Hostess City Hot Glass has created a buzz by hiding some of its glass creations throughout the city.
“Yes! People love this. We do a monthly giveaway of our glass. We hide pieces of glass that were made right here in Savannah… in Savannah,” Casey said. “We want to go out and spread a little joy. Ronald went to Forsyth and hid glass all around. We thought it was just a one-time thing, but it has really taken off and we plan on doing it a lot.”
“We had someone message us the other day who visited in town from New England. She had a picture of her mom who had found a piece of the glass and she was just beaming from ear-to-ear,” she shared. “We hid a whole lot of stuff, paperweights, floats, peaches—our hot ticket items—and for the next one, we’re going to be putting out a couple of larger, high-end pieces. We’re also thinking of putting things out in different places in the city. We may go out to Richmond Hill and Tybee.”
Glass blowing was invented by Syrian craftsmen in the first century, B.C, but according to the Martinezes, the process remains mostly the same.
“After nine years, I’ve watched a lot of glass blowing and it’s still fascinating and hypnotic to me,” Casey said. “There’s something primal about playing with fire and something about the way the light catches that’s so beautiful. People say they’re just going to come in the gallery and look for a bit, but they ended up staying for hours watching us work. It really sucks you in. It’s an ancient craft that hasn’t changed over 2,000 years.”
“I could wander into a studio 1,000 years ago and pretty much use the same process and technique,” Ronald said. “Yes, we have technologically advanced temperature control and stuff like that, but this is a craft that has sustained over time. Mostly because the end product is just so beautiful. In some of the processes, you have to relax. The more intense you are, the more it will be reflected in what you’re doing and you have to just let go and ease into it. The more you do that, the more the glass will behave the way you want it to.”
Casey said, “Parents bring their kids, we do birthday parties, and kids are the best glassblowers because they have no fear. They have the sense to know not to touch the super-hot items. But… they are fearless when trying to shape the glass on the table… really concentrating and just doing it. Adults—especially those who are type A—well, you have to relax into it and feel the process.”
“It’s a bit of a therapy session,” Ronald said.
“We have an even mix of locals and visitors taking classes with us,” Casey continued. “We have people from out of town who’ll find us on Trip Advisor or Google, but then we’ll also have people come to take our class who live here and are looking for something fun or different to do. We pull people from all over.”
Ronald explained the process some.
“We start with 2000-degree molten glass that comes out of the furnace with the consistency of honey. Think of it as saltwater taffy. At the end of a blowpipe, you can manipulate it, add color to it, twist it into shapes and molds, make it into a paperweight, or blow it out to be an ornament. Then, we put it into the annealer where it cools over a 24–48-hour period until it becomes hardened glass.”
And now, winning Best Visual Artist, the Martinez greatly appreciated the recognition, particularly in this unique art form.
“We have a sincere and deep appreciation of the support,” Casey said. “To be a small business owner during a pandemic is scary enough, but our business has grown exponentially. It’s because of the support, the word of mouth, and people getting excited about the Savannah hidden glass. We just appreciate Savannah rallying around us and helping us grow.”
Ronald couldn’t agree more. “We’d love for everyone to come to try it out. Ours is a very hands-on process. We want folks to leave not only with an appreciation of a new art form, but also with the accomplishment of ‘Hey, I did that!’ It’s not something we made for you, but you made it for yourself. We appreciate the recognition and the support we’ve had from Savannah.”