Small Business

Kansas glass blower designs a career that lets him focus on his art

Glass artist Scott Hartley at his shop,  Infinity Art Glass in Benton.
Glass artist Scott Hartley at his shop, Infinity Art Glass in Benton. The Wichita Eagle

Growing up, Scott Hartley loved science and art. But only the former seemed to offer much of a career – until he discovered glass blowing, that is.

Today, his work is displayed and sold in about 90 galleries around the nation and world.

“The science involved in glass is just crazy,” said Hartley, who owns Infinity Art Glass in Benton. “The chemistry and mixing the glass, adjusting the chemical formula so that it stays fluid when I want it to and also so that it will cool off so I can get the shape I want. The physics involved in it is just unbelievable.”

Hartley earned a degree in biology and education from Southwestern College in Winfield and taught for several years at Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School before deciding to pursue glass blowing full time in 1999. He opened Infinity Art Glass in 2003.

Hartley said his artwork has evolved along with his skills and ambition. When he first started, he made mainly paper weights, Christmas ornaments and other small objects.

“I was making things that I thought people wanted. Business was good but I made a conscious decision after six years, in 2009, that I wanted to start making the pieces that I wanted to make, that I felt like this is what would bring me joy and this is where I wanted my work to go. That was the best decision I ever made.”

His biggest piece to date features 25 intertwined pieces of different colored glass reaching 12 feet high and weighing hundreds of pounds.

“Not only am I making work that I love, but it’s also the work that resonates with people, which is pretty fortunate.”

Hartley loves the history of glass blowing. Although he uses modern furnaces, controlled by a computer and capable of reaching 2,000 degrees, some of the tongs, shears and wood blocks used to shape glass have hardly changed since the dawn of recorded history.

“When it comes down to it, the work done at the glass-blowing bench is the way it was done thousands of years ago.”

Hartley welcomes visitors to watch him work.

“You can sit down 10 feet from me and ask any questions you want. I’ll walk you through the whole thing.”

Hartley still makes some smaller objects and some functional ones, including vessel sinks — which he called “surprisingly durable” — pendant lights and chandeliers. The intertwining of pieces is something he’s known for.

“More and more people are starting to recognize my certain style that I have, which is a great thing. You’re always trying to differentiate yourself.”

Much of the work he does is custom made for home or office owners who want to fill a certain space with one of his pieces.

Hartley’s gallery has evolved, too. It’s located in a former blacksmith shop that dates to the 1930s. Hartley has a photograph showing it as the only building on that stretch of Main Street in Benton. He recently renovated the building and expanded the gallery section.

Hartley said he and his wife, Gwen, who were high school sweethearts in Andover, “love Benton. It’s kind of the way Andover used to be. Everybody knows everybody.”

Gwen is “hugely involved” in the business, he said.

“She doesn’t create art, but she’s the one I bounce ideas off. She has a really good grasp (of glass blowing). More importantly, she runs the gallery, takes care of books, handles the customer calls. She does the important parts which keeps the business going and allows me to create the artwork I love to create.”

Infinity Art Glass

Address: 120 N. Main St., Benton

Phone: 316-778-2115

Owner: Scott Hartley

Website: Infinityartglass.com

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