GLASS FEATURE

Gina “Boots” Gaffner

Gina “Boots” Gaffner

Lampworker Gina Gaffner loves to garden, and glass collectors are enjoying the fruits and vegetables of her labor.  

 

“I’m inspired by bright colors, and fruits and vegetables are vibrant and fresh, and they make you feel really good,” says Gaffner, better known as “Boots” to her 25,000 Instagram followers. “It’s amazing how little seeds turn into flowers and fruit, and I have a lot of fun figuring out how to translate that transformation with glass. They’re some of the most basic shapes, but also challenging to get exactly right because you don’t want people to mistake an apple for a tomato.” 

 

Based in Austin, Texas, Gaffner was looking for a career change, after waiting tables for many years, when she saw a Craigslist posting for a flameworking job. The job description didn’t implicitly state that it would be about making pipes, but Gaffner landed what turned out to be a paid apprenticeship at a local glass studio. Over the next eight months she learned how to how use the torch, spin glass, and the fundamentals of functional glass art. With her newfound experience, she built a studio with some glass artist friends, and they made and sold pipes to shops in the local area. 
 
The fruits and veggie idea sprouted organically. Gaffner was chilling in front of the television one day, watching the cooking channel, when a carrot came on the screen. If you can use an apple as a pipe, she thought, why not a carrot.  
 
“I made a huge glass carrot; bigger than anything you’d find in the produce section at the grocery store,” she says. “It was challenging to perfect the color because back then orange wasn’t a color you really worked with — I had to experiment with putting white frit inside of amber white and pulling it down to lighten it up.” 

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Luckily, Gaffner quickly realized that fruits and vegetables come in a cornucopia of colors. 

 
Smoke shops gobbled up the carrots (no pun intended) and before long requests were coming in for apples, peppers, turnips, beets, radishes, avocados, strawberries, zucchini, squash, kiwis, watermelon and even leafy greens.  

 

“I’ve had a farmer’s market of glass ever since,” she says. 

 

Some of Gaffner’s most unique pieces feature cross sections, such as a bell pepper where you can see the seeds inside or a lemon slice revealing the juicy wedges. 
 
“I’ve only scratched the surface with cutting up the fruits and vegetables,” Gaffner says. “I was so excited when I figured out how to do a banana slice! I left a banana sitting on my bench and would look at it every day to see how it was aging so that I could make a set of bananas all the way from green to brown.” 

 

When it comes to snacking, strawberries are Gaffner’s favorite fruit, and in the vegetable category, it’s a tie between Brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. Every visit to the farmer’s market yields a harvest of flavors and ideas. 

 

“There are so many directions to go. . . I have a whole buffet from which to pick.” 

 
 

 

Instagram @glassbyboots 

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