Making Art Work – 12.12.12: A Clear Story – AO Glass Works

By Lin Stone
Photos courtesy of AO Glass

Tove Ohlander and Rich Arentzen of Burlington’s AO Glass Works on Pine Street hold alight the blown glass ornaments they make to help support social causes.

Their craft is traditional, but their approach to its place in the world is not. According to glassblowing artists and business partners Tove Ohlander and Rich Arentzen, owners of AO Glass, the best art should not be relegated to passive position of decorative dust collector, but it should actively participate in making the world a better, more beautiful place. The launch of AO’s 12.12.12 art glass campaign clearly serves that mission. The couple has designed 12 small glass objects that reflect critical environmental and humanitarian issues and they have collaborated with 12 nonprofit organizations to donate 12 percent of profits from the sale of these items to the partnering organizations.

Benefits the Intervale Center

Ohlander learned her craft in her homeland at Sweden’s Orrefors Technical Glass School, an area well known for its fine Swedish blown glass. Ohlander frequently uses a highly skilled Swedish decorative technique developed in the 1920s known as graal. With this technique, the glass is blown twice: it is made with a color overlay that is cut, etched, or sandblasted with decoration, and heated again in the furnace for fluidity before it is encased in clear glass and polished. This technique allows for an additional layer of graphic images and artistic personalized expressions.

The couple originally had a glass blowing studio in Norway, but Arentzen enticed Ohlander to move the family to Vermont, where he initially worked with Burlington’s Alan Goldfarb and made fine Italian style wine glasses. Later an opportunity arose at 416 Pine Street, and the couple opened AO’s glass-blowing studio.

Benefits Vermont Family Network

Prompted by her younger sister who worked for the Swedish EPA, Ohlander had been challenged to come up with a philanthropic campaign that could serve as a model for other small start-up businesses and non-profit organizations.

Ohlander’s aha! moment occurred when she first considered, “Why are there [only] caps, t-shirts, and mugs with logos of the organization at every fundraising event? There are many talented craftmakers out there who can make inexpensive objects and who want to make things that could help organizations raise money too.” Thus began AO Glass Works’ 12.12.12 campaign. Ohlander concluded, “We can design art that can help to address the environmental and humanitarian issues of today and contribute through our art to building a better world too.”

Benefits Local Motion

AO Glass forged partnerships with several non-profit organizations and designed a line of modestly priced glass ornaments befitting the mission and image of each organization. AO’s socially invested art presently benefits Food4Farmers, Vermont Beekeepers, Polar Bears International, Special Olympics Vermont, Intervale Center, Local Motion, Vermont Family Network, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth, and the Vermont Family Network, Bat Conservation International, and the Make a Wish Foundation.

Visit AO Glassblowing studio and store on Pine Street in Burlington, take a class, or book an evening out for a glass-blowing demonstration and buy a little something. It could do a world of good.
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Benefits Vermont Beekeepers Association

Benefits Bat Conservation International

Benefits Lake Champlain International

Benefits the Vermont Natural Resource Council

Benefits Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youths

Benefits Special Olympics Vermont