Hughes Glass: Studio 13

Meet Ronnie Hughes of Hughes Glass, studio number 11 on our tour. Our final studio spotlight ends on a powerful note with Ronnie‘s amazing talent, skill, and passion for creating wildflowers in both clear and colored glass. To start, Ronnie was born and raised in West Jefferson, North Carolina. Having moved away a few times, the beauty of the mountains always drew him back. He and his wife, Chris, both animal lovers (cats particularly) found the countryside of Alleghany County to be a safe haven for their animal family and an inspiring setting for Ronnie‘s artwork.

Glassblowing was not the original plan for Ronnie. Graduating with a BA in psychology from Wake Forest in 1976, his plan was to get a Master’s degree and become a counselor. However, after taking a summer job for a friends glass gallery, The Public Glassblower, Ronnie was totally hooked. Grad school took

Borosilicate “hard” glass is Ronnie‘s medium. At his workbench, there is a large bench torch and two smaller hand torches all propane and oxygen fed. Heating the glass to 2000- 2500°F it becomes very pliable allowing him to shape the glass into accurate looking wildflowers. He uses colored glass to highlight the blossoms and clear glass for his signature free formed bases and the remaining flower structures. His wildflower sculptures “stand entirely on their own in continuous glass, a more challenging and time-consuming process.”When asked who has motivated and inspired him, Ronnie is quick to list his top glass artists… Paul Stankard of New Jersey, Lucio Bubacco of Murano, Italy, and the father/son team Leopoldo and Rudolph Blaschka of Germany creators of the “Harvard Glass.”When you step into Ronnie‘s home gallery and studio, you instantly feel the passion he has for both the wildflowers he re-creates in glass and the glass art world in general.

To me, art is about tickling a nerve, provoking a thought, but it’s especially about creating an emotion.“ -Ronnie Hughs

Pottery by Jes: Studio 12

Meet Jessie Smith of Pottery by Jes, studio number 10 on our tour. Born and raised in Alleghany County, Jessie has a deep love and appreciation for the mountains and the locals that make up the fabric of our community. After being away for a year in photography school, Jes returned home as soon as she could. Realizing that photography was not her career path,she knew that doing something creative was meant to be. With her parents encouragement, an apprenticeship was set up with Mangum Pottery in 2010. By April 2011, Jes held her first Open House naming her business Pottery by Jes and “the rest is history.” Jes celebrates 10 years in business this year so how coincidental is it that she is number 10 on our tour! Come by Jessie’s studio during our October tours and celebrate her 10 years of creating beautiful functional pottery.

“Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness”-Anni Albers

Nature is a strong design element in Jessie‘s pottery. She loves to incorporate textures, trees, vines, leaves, indentations and other accents to make her work distinct. She strives to represent the beauty of these mountains using clay and glazes.As you step into Jessie’s clay studio you will see, as she describes it, organized chaos with wheel pieces and slab work covering the tables and shelves in various stages of production. Her sweet dog , Arlo , may wander in to greet you… and typically many genres of music will be playing in the background.One of the rewards for Jessie is to hear from customers how they use her pottery. Some customers use their pottery daily and others have special spots picked out for their pieces to be used as decoration. To know that a bowl, a mug, a platter, a casserole will be a treasure in someone’s home or part of a memory cooking and spending time with family is what keeps Jessie vibrant and inspired as she creates each piece of pottery.

Pottery Place: Studio 11

Meet Tina Duffey and Sarah Harper of The Pottery Place, studio number 9 on our tour. These two lovely ladies are bona fide Mudbugs! Sarah is a native of Alleghany County, the Piney Creek community to be precise. She began her pottery journey years ago with Bet Mangum and Appalachian State University. She has a passion for throwing on the wheel. When she first shared some of her pottery with Tina, her cousin, that’s when Tina caught the bug! Tina, an army brat growing up, moved to Alleghany after retiring from Samford University in Birmingham Alabama as a chemistry professor. Hand building techniques are her specialty. Tina and Sarah are “right sure” that together they have 75 years of experience playing in the mud!

“…My heart has always been here.” -Tina Duffey

When asked the question “Why art?” Tina answers matter-of-factly “Why not? It balances the left brain analytical thinking of a chemist and a nurse.” Tina’s career has been in chemistry and Sarah’s has been in nursing. Working in Clay gives them a chance to explore the right brain creative side. As you walk into the two-story family farmhouse on the north side of Sparta, you are filled with a sense of home. Pottery, antiques, and beautiful handmade quilts fill each room. The studio is situated on the kitchen side of the house and accommodates wheel throwing, hand building, glazing, and firing. Come visit The Pottery Place and perhaps catch Tina and Sarah exploring their creative side!

Will Fernandez: Studio 9

Meet Will Fernandez studio number 7 on the tour. Originally from Las Villas, Cuba. His love for the mountains, rivers, and small town living brought him to Alleghany County. As a young child, his skills of drawing and sculpting were apparent. After a career in commercial art, at the age of 40 he promoted himself to strictly fine art. Will is an impressionist painter as well as a sculptor working with wood, stone, paper mache, and mostly raku clay. He enjoys making human form and a large variety of animals. His focus is mainly on movement, vigor and often humor.

While visiting Will’s work space you can likely catch him raku firing… a firing process that he enjoys showing his guests, and watching their reactions. As he takes the glowing hot sculptures out of the kiln, he then places them in sawdust where they burst into flames. He loves the response from his guests as they view this process for the first time

“it is easy to say ‘follow your dream’, but dreams can be extremely costly in too many ways to mention…but once in a great great while…” -Will Fernendez

Studio Roxie: Studio 10


Meet Stewart Royall studio number 8 on our tour. Not only is Stewart a native of Alleghany County, he is 5th generation! Stewart has loved photography from a very young age and knows this county like the back of his hand. From his portraits to his landscapes, Stewart instinctively captures the stunning scenery of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the New River, and the many breathtaking waterfalls that lay hidden in this landscape. Leave it to him to find the perfect location where the lighting is just right, the backdrop fits the occasion, and perhaps some local folklore to add to the story.

Stewart’s studio goes beyond four walls. He is always on the go with bridal / wedding photo shoots, sports team action shots, senior portraits, family memories and more. If it’s not a human event, it’s mother nature that keeps him busy! Each season in these mountains creates a new canvas for his work like the vibrant colors of fall foliage and the quiet solitude of a winter storm. Studio Roxie is located just off of Main Street in Sparta and it’s open year-round. Visit Stewart‘s studio and find a piece of Alleghany beauty to hang in your home.

“Don’t forget to turn around…good photos behind you.”- Stewart

Carolina Farm Table: Studio 8

Meet Devin Ulery of Carolina Farm Table, Studio number 6 on our tour. Growing up in his father’s workshop in Alleghany County, Devin has been working and using tools of his trade since he was 10 years old. He built his first table at 17. Devin and his wife Anna feel the Mountains of NC are their home. Though they love to travel, their home here in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a wonderful place to raise their two daughters.

Carolina Farm Table uses new and reclaimed wood, mostly domestic hardwoods to create custom built solid wood style dining tables. By hand plaining many of their tables they create a look that a machine cannot produce. This is an art form all its own.