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Fenton celebrates 100th year

By Connie Cartmell, ccartmell@mariettatimes.com

The Marietta Times

Marietta, Ohio

February 9, 2005

WILLIAMSTOWN - What begins simply enough with a handful of sand and a blast of fire has become pure gold for Fenton Art Glass Co. of Williamstown.

This year, the company celebrates its 100th anniversary, and several events starting with this weekend are being conducted to mark the occasion.
"We've been here three or four times in the last five years, and I always enjoy it," Herbert Middlebrooks, of Trenton, Ga., said. "There are not many handmade things in the world now."

Middlebrooks and his wife, Helon, stop at Fenton whenever they come to the area from Georgia on business.

"My wife collects Fenton glass and today is hunting for a special piece for a friend. I love to go through their plant. I love to watch them make it," Middlebrooks said.

Founded in 1905 by Frank L. and John Fenton in Martins Ferry, Fenton Art Glass Co. celebrates 100 years of glassmaking this year and is now the largest manufacturer of handmade colored glass in the United States,

Middlebrooks said he enjoys just standing in the middle of the Fenton Gift Shop showroom and soaking in all the color and design, displayed in every direction.

"Once you take a factory tour, and see how the glass is made, you appreciate the craftsmanship so much more," Middlebrooks said. "We have five children and make sure we take something back to each one."

Fenton is one of the top tourist draws in the region, offering regular factory tours, glassmaking and decorating workshops, Fenton family "signing" events, and the Fenton Gift Shop at the factory.

"It's a family tradition that lives on," Jena Lane Blair, Fenton centennial group coordinator, said. "We'll celebrate 100 years, a significant anniversary, throughout the year."

Blair said an auction of significant historical pieces and various eBay, QVC, and Lenox exclusives are planned over the centennial year.

Festivities culminate at the Fenton factory July 29 through Aug. 2 with special events, tours, sales, and more.

In addition to the free factory tours, there is a museum at the Williamstown location, with many one-of-a-kind glass pieces.

Dave Fetty, a master glass blower, demonstrated his craft for visitors Tuesday, making a red ruby centennial bell with a hanging heart design.

His face crimson from the heat of the furnace, and his glass, Fetty skillfully pumped steady bursts of air through a long metal tube to the expanding blob of glass on the end.

This is true glass blowing. Fetty, considered one of the best, was with Fenton 41 years, 23 years as a supervisor. His work is highly prized by collectors.

"You just have a few seconds to work with the glass before it cools down," Fetty said. "I retired in '99, but I haven't quit yet."

If you go

What: Decorate your own Fenton ornament - A Fenton centennial event.

When: 10 and 11:30 a.m., 1 and 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Where: Fenton Gift Shops Inc., 420 Caroline Ave., Williamstown.

Who: Open to all ages.

Fee: $25 per person, $20 for groups of 20 or more (ornament and stand included).

For reservations or for more information: (800) 319-7793, Ext. 311, or jena@fentongiftshop.com.


Fenton History

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Fenton Factory Tours

Visitors to Fenton Art Glass will find a spacious Gift Shop and a pleasant museum. Free factory tours (M-F 8:15am to 4:00pm) take small groups of guests right out to the factory floor to see glassmaking "up close and personal." Friendly, knowledgeable tour guides explain all aspects of the operation. The Fenton tour has been ranked among the "top 10" factory tours nationwide by USA Today. In addition we have been named Rand McNally Best of the Road for 2006. For a factory tour schedule, click here. For a map, click here.


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