Glass Blowing in the Delta

Glass Blowing on the Delta

Muffinjaw Designs

Freddie Blache of Muffinjaw Designs is a 25 year old musician who found his passion in blowing glass.  Blache will graduate from the University of South Alabama with his Fine Arts Degree in December.  “It’s about performance”, he said as we chatted during the Halloween Bash at Cypress Gift Shop at 5 Rivers Delta on a cold October morning.

Freddie Blache

Freddie had been up early.”I don’t sleep a lot before a show.”  For this October outing, he was set up on the porch of the Cypress gift shop at 5 Rivers. With temperature in the fifties, his small propane fueled furnace nicknamed “Smog” was taking a little more time to get up to its glass melting temperature of twenty-one hundred degrees. “I’m used to working in a shop where it’s a hundred degrees.” He joked about the cold damp temperature as a crowd gathered for a demonstration.

Blowing the glass
Shaping the glass

Freddie began taking classes in 2013 and knew he had found his life’s calling.  “It’s my passion and I believe I will be doing this for the rest of my life.” He began showing his creations at a downtown Mobile Artwalk in 2014 and began public demonstration of glass blowing at South Sounds in 2014.  He was a hit and he continues his demonstrations at each show.  By 2016, he had a number of repeat customers for his pieces and began signing his handmade creations.

Glass bubble
Shaping the glass with wet newspaper

“Muffinjaw” was a term a coined by a classmate of Freddie’s dad, Fred, Sr. when he had swollen cheeks in school due to a tooth infection. Freddie Jr. said, “It’s what we call our cheeks when we puff them out to blow bubbles in the glass.” Muffinjaw Designs is a family affair. Freddie admits he could not make this journey without the support of his wife, Caroline and baby, Eva, as well as his family and friends. They were there supporting him on this cold, damp morning.

Freddie and Caroline 

His Dad, Fred Sr., explained that when Freddie told him he wanted to change his major to glass blowing Senior encouraged him to have a back-up plan, because an artist’s life is never a sure thing.  Freddie took the advice in stride and will give himself a year to make a go of it as a glass artist.  “We are living in the age of glass, it’s all around us and we don’t see it.”

Currently, his handmade pieces sell for between $10 and $40 for the smaller pieces.  Some of the large pieces are a bit higher priced and are sold locally at the following locations: Cypress Gift Shop at 5 Rivers, Ashland Gallery in Midtown, Red Beard’s Outfitters, The Happy Octopus on Dauphin Island and at Haint Blue Brewing in Mobile.

Glass ornaments

Among Freddie’s glass artist influences are Lino Tagliapietra, a Venetian artist who is known for his flare with sculpting molten glass and William Gudenrath. Freddie wants to work on Tagliapietra’s technique in the future.  He also hopes to work with William Gudenrath at the renowned Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York.

Freddie Blache, a self proclaimed “Nerd for Glass” is an up and coming Mobile artist. He is setting the local art scene on fire with one molten glass creation at a time.

Update: Freddie’s thesis exhibit December 4-8, 2017 at the University of South Alabama Visual Arts Gallery.

At Dauphin Island Art Trail

Freddie at work

National Civil War Naval Museum

National Civil War Naval Museum-Columbus, GA

Located along the Chattahoochee River, the National Civil Naval Museum, houses a number of civil war naval relics from both the Confederate and Union sides of the conflict. The first question asked by many of its twenty-five thousand yearly visitors, is ‘Why is a naval museum located in Columbus?” The Chattahoochee River played a key role in the civil war. Although true that it is a long way from a major body of water. In actuality, the Chattahoochee connects with the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola Florida. Columbus was an integral part of the Confederate infrastructure as a construction and manufacturing hub for munitions and uniforms. The last major land battle of the civil war was fought in Columbus and the town was burnt to the ground after the battle.

CSS Jackson
CSS Jackson. The metal work above is how the original ships structure was designed

The CSS Jackson, the largest of the four surviving Ironclads from the Civil War, is ensconced at the museum. Launched at Columbus in December, 1864, it saw no action and was set ablaze and set adrift by Union troops in what is considered to be the last land battle of the Civil War. It burned for two weeks until it sank in the middle of the river.  While the location of the wreck was known, it spent 100 years at the bottom of the Chattahoochee River until 1961 when the raising of the hull began. Even today, the hull still carries the burn marks from 1865. The Columbus Jaycee club played a most important role in the raising of the ship with volunteers and fund raising efforts to raise the ship.

CSS Jackson propeller
CSS Jackson, burn marks on hull

The museum also displays the wreckage of CSS Chattahoochee,   a full scale replica of the USS Water Witch, a replica of the USS Harford’s captain’s cabin, a ships boat from the USS Hartford, a replica of the USS Monitor’s turret and both interior and exterior views of the CSS Albermarle. Many other artifacts have been meticulously preserved and are on display.

CSS Chattahoochee
CSS Albermarle.

The museum houses the largest collection of Civil War related naval flags including ship flags, coastal fort flags and pennants in the county and are prominently display at the museum.

Civil War Flags

The museum offers daily guided tours of museum. Brandon Gilland, an education associate for the museum, is well versed in every aspect of the exhibits.  I also had the pleasure of meeting the museum’s archivist, Jeff Seymour.  I have included a short interview with Jeff from C-span from February, 2015.

The National Civil War Naval Museum it is well worth your time and a visit there will immerse you in moments from the Civil War and United States naval history.