You can still find them at the Corning Museum of Glass, in Corning, New York. Remember those white casserole dishes in your mother’s kitchen? The ones with the clear glass lid, and a blue flower on the front? We had those, as well as a set of practically indestructible dishes that never chipped or cracked. Truth be told, I still have a set.
That was Corning way back in the day, but the company has come a long way since then. First off, you’re probably holding a little Corning technology in your hand right now. See that Gorilla Glass on your smartphone? That’s Corning today, and that’s not all. The Corning Museum of Glass pays homage to the history of glass, from the company’s roots in Brooklyn, to its current high-tech line, and in between there is artistry that will take your breath away. Come to Corning, New York, home to wine country and the Finger Lakes, and see for yourself. You’ll be blown away.
Corning: Hands-on Glass Blowing
Believe it or not, amidst rooms full of priceless glass art, the folks at CMOG invite you to try your own hand at glass blowing. This month, it’s all about autumn. Visitors are guided through the process step by step to create their very own glass pumpkins. Think all pumpkins are orange? Think again. As the artist of the hour, you can choose from a rainbow of colors, making your handcrafted pumpkin a true work of art. Here’s a tip: Sign up early as time slots go quickly. If you’d like to try your hand at something a little different, consider making your own glass bead. Made from molten glass and shaped by fire, each finished bead is unique to the artist.
Corning: History of Glass through the Ages
While we are all familiar with dishes and decorative glass, head upstairs at CMOG, look around and find a glass chair. It’s just one example of the dazzling glass to catch the eyes of customers from India in the latter part of the 19th century. Between 1860 and 1920, European manufacturers created elaborate pieces like chandeliers, candelabra, fountains and even furniture like the chair pictured here. These beautiful masterpieces were designed for the palaces of the maharajahs in India. Want to see more? Check out 35 Centuries of Glass Gallery which includes pieces by English glass furniture manufacturer Osler.
Corning: America’s Crystal City
In 1903, glass-making reached new levels in Corning, NY, earning the small town it’s new nickname: The Crystal City. Acknowledged as the premier center for brilliant cut glass in the United States, the city and museum continue to draw glass artists from across the globe. Allow yourself enough time to poke around the first floor of the museum in the retail section, featuring the works of glass artists worldwide.
Corning: Is That Really Glass?
Wander through the galleries and marvel at the vision that went into the pieces on display. A pink chandelier that more closely resembles a beautiful, underwater creature. Row upon row of glass vessels holding water. Stunning, wide-open, minimalist galleries. This isn’t your grandmother’s china cabinet. But the work housed here probably inspired many of the glass pieces on display in china cabinets the world over, including your grandmother’s, and mine too!
Start in Corning: Stay Awhile in the Finger Lakes
The CMOG brought me to town, but there were so many reasons to stay, and not nearly enough time to explore the area in one trip. The charming streets and shops of Corning’s Gaffer District, all within walking distance of the museum. The breweries and wood-fired pizza. The wine. The cheese. The chance to soar over the vineyards, just a few minutes away.
Main Street in Elmira is classically, wonderfully small town. There’s Elmira College, and you can explore the history of Mark Twain, and maybe even find yourself inspired to write as well. It’s deserving of more time and I will most certainly return. This trip, I was lucky enough to have the entire third floor of an 1800’s Victorian home as my base of operation. Hosted by Don and Margaret, the Airbnb property, Sanctuary 1890, was close to everything, providing a glimpse into a time long gone where stunning woodwork was the norm, and a claw-foot soaking tub was an everyday luxury. With a comfortable bed, a stocked kitchen and surrounded by a lovely garden to boot, I felt as though I had stepped back in time.
Finger Lakes = Community First
Something else to notice when you visit, though I will follow up with another post, is the strong community spirit and desire to help each other here in these small communities. The Food Bank of the Southern Tier was named the number one food bank in the United States in 2017. They’ve figured out how to build and sustain hunger-free communities to help the Finger Lakes region thrive. Together. Come back here for more information on voluntourism opportunities in the region, and get set to plan a trip that not only feels good, it does good too.
Finger Lakes: Visit. Repeat. See More.
The Finger Lakes region isn’t a one-stop wonder. There’s history and technology and wine and wind and community. I plan to visit again and again, and each time I’ll get to try something new. Come once, and you’ll make plans to return before you leave. And you may even discover a new friend along the way. Meet fellow intrepid traveler, Shara Allison-Jones. Travel is about seeing new places and experiencing new things, but it’s also about connecting with the folks you meet along the way. And that makes for one sweet ride.