Have you ever wanted to learn how to work with glass to make something unique?

There is now a place where you can do that in South Walton.

Long-time local and experienced glassblower Russ Gilbert has opened Gilbert Glassworks on County Road 393S.

"I have twice as much work as I need, but I wanted a good place to work," Gilbert told The Sun.

Gilbert owns two galleries that carry his pieces of glasswork art, as well as that of others from across the nation. He opened his original location, Fusion Art Gallery, at Seaside 20 years ago and he has a second location at Grand Boulevard.

Gilbert started out as a journeyman carpenter and worked heavy construction in addition to owning a farm north of Chipley.

When he sold the farm, he taught the new owner how to farm. He recalled walking in the new owners' home one night and finding them at the kitchen table with torches making things out of glass.

"I taught him to farm and he taught me to work with glass," Gilbert said with a laugh.

He started out making novelty items like you see at the mall and at the beach and worked from kiosks in the summer selling them. Then he began selling at galleries. He did well at both venues and trained as a glassblower at Corning Museum of Glass and at Penland in North Carolina.

Every year when Gilbert and his wife went to Seaside for their anniversary he thought, "If anyone was going to open a gallery, it would be here."

When he finally did open his gallery in Seaside it was one of the first and few.

"We've come a long way," said Gilbert. "We were here at the right time and in the right place. There are not as many people collecting art glass now, but it's what I do and enjoy."

The location on 393 will not be a "drop in and make your own piece of artwork" type of place, said Gilbert. It will be a place for him to work, and it will offer a place for him to offer occasional demonstrations, private classes, and group workshops on technique, fusing, furnace and flame work for adults. A variety of glasswork techniques will be offered for beginners as well as advanced studies.

"It will be a different vibe like a private studio," he said.

Gilbert will have an apprentice at the studio -- Brittany Deslonde, a flame worker who was formerly an artist at Gulf Place.

"She wants to help me. I have a lot to teach and she wants to learn," said Gilbert.

Gilbert plans to host demonstrations in the fall and when he does, he will draw glassworkers from all over the country who excel in their field.

For more information, email russ@fusionartglass.com, visit the website at gilbertglassworks.com, or call 231-5405.