Clear as Glass
That's how artist Kyle Goodwin felt when he found his favorite medium
Nestled in a former gas station on Anastasia Boulevard, glass artist Kyle Goodwin produces everything from the utilitarian — etched glass shower doors — to the creative — foamy ocean wave sculptures.
Under the moniker Goodwin Glassworks, the St. Petersburg native's work can be seen locally from the doors of the St. Augustine Alligator Farm to custom mirrors at Scarlett O'Hara's restaurant and bar. He's also created extensive commissioned pieces for clients all over the world, from England to New Zealand.
About four-and-a-half years ago, Goodwin relocated to St. Augustine from Gainesville to become a full-time artist.
"I need to be by the beach. I knew this town, and I knew it had a good art scene," Goodwin said. "I've been coming to St. Augustine since I was 12."
He's been in his current Anastasia Boulevard location for nearly two years.
Goodwin's foray into full-time glass artist has been in the works for more than two decades. At the age of 19, he had a chance encounter with a man whose hobby was glass art.
"The bug bit me. I was hooked — whatever you want to call it," he said of his first time working with glass.
The process of glass art is intensive and sometimes dangerous. Typically, Goodwin takes a piece of glass — the size and width depends on what he's aiming to create — and either etches or carves the glass with an X-Acto knife and a vinyl stencil.
Next, Goodwin brings the glass piece into a separate room to sandblast it, or he carves it by hand for deeper grooves. He has to wear protective gear because the sand is blown out of a machine by an air compressor. "It can remove your skin if it's going fast enough," he said.
For his wave sculptures, Goodwin takes a flat piece of glass and sandblasts the textures and contours of the wave. He then heats the glass to approximately 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, causing it to soften and become bendable. Each wave takes a minimum of roughly 15 hours for heating and cooling, depending on the shape desired — barrel, A-frame, foamy wave, standard or cresting.
Goodwin's greenhorn days were spent decorating bongs for a smoke shop in Gainesville. Today, his large works command $20,000 or more. He's featured in local galleries such as High Tide Gallery in downtown St. Augustine and First Street Gallery in Neptune Beach.
"I do a lot of out-of-town jobs," said Goodwin of commissioned pieces like a 9-foot-long ceiling piece he did for a 120-foot yacht in Mexico. "I'd estimate that 50 percent of my jobs are for out-of-town customers."
Multifaceted in the genre of glass art, Goodwin is self-taught in sandblasted, etched and carved glass, as well as custom LED lighting and airbrushing. Most of his creations feature water scenes and sea life such as sea turtles, whales, sharks, dolphins and marlins.
And because glass is so expensive to buy in sheets, Goodwin seeks out materials around town — scratched and dinged glass that's virtually worthless to most folks.
Goodwin has been commissioned to create tabletops, shower doors, mirrors, waterfalls, glassware, and backsplashes.
"I draw all of my designs by hand," he said, "while most other glass artists use computer-generated imagery."
Goodwin said he'd like to do more "non-ocean themed work." He's currently working on an art deco etching of a female figure for a shower door commissioned by a customer in England.
Goodwin tries to keep his studio space open to the public, but it's best to call or email him first to check if he'll be around.
"If you have something else to fall on, you will," he said of being persistent enough and working hard enough to be a full-time artist.
When he's not in his studio, Goodwin spends his free time surfing, mountain-biking and traveling.
"One of my goals is to be able to work six weeks and then take two weeks off," Goodwin said. "I'm tied down more, now that this is a functioning business. I don't want to neglect it, but I don't want to neglect my life, either."