In a city so rich in culture, art and creative talent, winning the title of Best Visual Artist in Savannah is something Ronald and Casey Martinez of Hostess City Hot Glass won’t soon forget.

“It was a big surprise for us. A wonderful surprise for us,” said Casey Martinez. “We were there with so many talented artists. It was with great excitement and, oh, my God, that we even made the list of nominees. Then to win…we were so excited.

“That’s so cool. We’ve ordered the fancy plaque and we’re going to display it,” agreed her husband, Ronald.

Hostess City Hot Glass studio is located in downtown Savannah and was founded in 2018 by Martinez.

In addition to the art studio, Hostess City Hot Glass offers the possibility of doing practical work yourself.

“We offer classes for people who have never taken blown glass before, we have big team building events, we do demonstrations and we make glass that is sold all over the city and the country, as well as large facilities. We just completed an installation for a children’s hospital in Pensacola depicting underwater life in glass to help calm children undergoing surgery.

Ronald Martinez grew up outside of Metter, but found his way to the West Coast and met his future wife, Casey. “On our first date, Ronald told me he would move back to Savannah. If I was serious, I had to agree to move to Savannah. On the first date!”

It must have stuck because the couple is there and their business is booming.

“We’ve grown so much in the 3 years since Ronald started it,” Casey said. “We went from a small hole in the wall – a garage – to a large 2,000 square foot space on Montgomery Street.”

Ronald teaches all classes, along with Sarah Sabol and two studio apprentices.

“How did we find them? Casey teased. “Believe it or not, they all took a course. This is how we met them and they are all fabulous.

More recently, Hostess City Hot Glass has created a buzz by hiding some of its glass creations all over town.

“Yes! People love it. We giveaway our glass monthly. We hide pieces of glass that were made right here in Savannah…in Savannah,” Casey said. Ronald went to Forsyth and hid glass all around, we thought it was just a one off thing but it really took off and we plan to do a lot of it.

“The other day someone messaged us visiting us in town from New England. She had a picture of her mom finding a piece of glass and she was beaming from ear to ear. ‘other,” she shared. “We hid a lot of stuff, paperweights, floats, peaches – our standout items – and for the next one we’re going to release a few bigger, higher-end pieces . We are also thinking of taking things out in different places in the city. We may go to Richmond Hill and Tybee.

Glassblowing was invented by Syrian artisans in the first century BC, but according to the Martinezes, the process remains essentially the same.

“After nine years, I’ve watched a lot of blown glass and it’s still fascinating and hypnotic to me,” Casey said. “There is something primordial about playing with fire and something about the way the light captures is so beautiful. People say they’ll just come into the gallery and look around for a bit, but they ended up staying for hours watching us work. It really sucks you in. It’s an ancient craft that hasn’t changed for 2,000 years.

“I could walk into a studio 1,000 years ago and use pretty much the same process and technique,” Ronald said. “Yes, we have technologically advanced temperature control and stuff like that, but it’s a craft that has endured over time. Mostly because the end product is so beautiful. In some processes you have to relax. The more intense you are, the more it will reflect in what you are doing and you just have to let go and get comfortable in it, the more you do this the more the glass will behave the way you want it to.

Casey said: “Parents bring their kids, we throw birthday parties and the kids are the best glassblowers because they’re not scared. They have the sense to know not to touch hot objects. But…they are fearless when they try to shape the glass on the table…really concentrate and do it. Adults, especially Type A ones, well, you have to relax and feel the process.

“It’s a bit of a therapy session,” Ronald said.

“We have an equal mix of locals and visitors taking classes with us,” Casey continued. “We have people from out of town who will find us on Trip Advisor or Google, but we will also have people who come to take our course who live here and are looking for something fun or different to do. We attract people from everywhere.

Ronald explained the process some.

“We start with molten glass at 2000 degrees that comes out of the kiln with the consistency of honey. Think of it like salt water taffy. At the end of a blowpipe, you can manipulate it, add color to it, twist it into shapes and molds, make it into a paperweight, or blow it into an ornament. Then we put it through the annealing where it cools over a period of 24 to 48 hours until it becomes hardened glass.

And now, winning the award for Best Visual Artist, the Martinezes have greatly enjoyed recognition, especially in this unique art form.

“We sincerely and deeply appreciate the support,” Casey said. “Being a small business owner during a pandemic is scary enough, but our business has grown exponentially. It’s because of the support, word of mouth, and people getting excited about Savannah Hidden Glass. We just appreciate Savannah coming around and helping us grow.

Ronald couldn’t agree more. “We would like everyone to come and try it. Our process is very convenient. We want people to walk away not only with an appreciation for a new art form, but also with the fulfillment of “Hey, I made that!” It’s not something we did for you, but you did it for yourself. We appreciate the recognition and support we have received from Savannah.

Briana R. Cross