On my last day of a weeklong stay in Port Aransas, I set off to find a souvenir to remind me of the island until my next visit. While I have a soft spot for kitschy beach-town souvenir shops, one can collect only so many key chains, magnets, and seashell frames.
Port A Glass Studio & Art Gallery is at 600 Cut-Off Rd. #7 in Port Aransas. Call 361/749-6358.
I hoped to find something locally made, preferably a piece of jewelry inspired by the sea. After a quick Google search for Port Aransas artists, I learned about Port A Glass, an art gallery and studio on the island owned by glass artist Sheri Hargrove. Port A Glass occupies a small space in a strip center about four blocks from Alister Street, the town’s bustling main drag. Once I stepped inside, though, I realized that the nondescript exterior belies the explosion of color and texture Hargrove creates inside the shop.
My eyes were first drawn to the shelves displaying gleaming platters and bowls in varying shapes, textures, and sizes. Some were rectangular with overlaid stripes and squares, others were round with circular accents, and others featured swirls of color. A large table near the front showcased accessories, including ponytail rings, hair clips, and decorative pins, each embellished with a single piece of smooth, multihued glass. No two were the same. Behind them, necklace displays presented glossy, medallion-sized pendants in oceanic shades like turquoise, cobalt, and sea green.
As I considered my options, running my fingers over each cool-to-the-touch piece, I struck up a conversation with Hargrove. She is a Texas transplant, she told me, moving here from Minnesota in 2008 to escape the harsh northern winters.
“I’ve been working with heat since high school because I hate the cold so much,” she told me. “I fell in love with all art mediums that change with heat.”
But Hargrove specifically favors glass for its “constant movement,” she said. “Once clay has been fired, it is what it is for the rest of its life. With glass, I can take a hammer to it, break it, melt it, and turn it into something else.”
Visitors can see part of Hargrove’s workspace, a large, flat table scattered with cutting tools and rulers under a large magnifying lens, at the back of her studio. Here, she scores, cuts, and cleanly breaks glass into various shapes and sizes. Her firing kilns, grinders, and saws are located in a room next door. Hargrove also offers glass art classes for adults, mostly in the fall and winter, and independent studio time is available at an hourly rate for experienced glass artists.
When she’s not creating colorful glass pieces, Hargrove volunteers at Friends of the ARK, a Port Aransas nonprofit organization that works to rescue and rehabilitate injured wildlife, including sea turtles and brown pelicans. Hargrove often depicts these creatures in her work.
Hearing her story, I decided I’d not only buy a keepsake for myself but also for friends and family members back home. I considered the vibrant glass garden stakes before deciding on accessories for all recipients. I soon gathered together shimmery ponytail rings and hair pins in mint, pink, sapphire, and indigo.
Then I spied an oblong, aquamarine glass pendant whose center sparkled with glittery flecks of gold. The striking piece hung from a soft black cord with a lobster clasp via a sturdy gold loop affixed to the top. I picked up the sleek pendant and held it around my neck to get a glimpse of its sparkles in a nearby tabletop mirror.
This was dichroic glass, Hargrove told me, explaining that the glass has a primary color (the green) and a secondary, reflective color (the gold). Many of her works are dichroic, I realized. The gold specks in this one reminded me of dazzling shoreline sand when the sun is at its brightest, right when the soft ocean waves roll back out to sea.
“I’m inspired everyday by what I see,” Hargrove said. “I live about a mile from the water, so I’m lucky that I get to hear when the ocean is really ripping. I can sit in my backyard and listen to it. That inspires me more than anything else.”
I purchased the hair accessories for friends and family along with the green and gold pendant for myself. While other pendants caught my eye, with their dichroic pairings of lime and blue, brown and gold, and turquoise and silver, I decided I’d choose a new piece from Port A Glass during each subsequent visit. This way, I can look forward to hearing what inspires Hargrove next year, and I can see the exquisite result in her work.