Forever Glass: Preserving Purpose
Sisters Cathy Porter and Bernadette Guimarin are the forces behind Forever Glass, the Placerville-based company taking glass bottles from special events, melting them and then spinning the hot glass to make one-of-a-kind keepsake bowls. Self-taught glass artist, Cathy, and retired USAF veteran and world traveler, Bernadette, also provide job-training and employment for adults on the autism spectrum. “The wedding bowl is the newest tradition in weddings, and we’re creating it using couples' champagne toast bottles,” says Bernadette. “When a couple’s wedding day ends, they have some photos, a dress, a piece of cake, and their memories—we’re giving them an actual piece of their wedding…their first family heirloom.”
HLB: What’s the inspiration behind Forever Glass?
BG: Forever Glass was formed from necessity—the need for a fulfilling life for adults with autism. Finding purpose for a disabled son or daughter is a driving force for parents—one that creates fear and sometimes desperation as they reach their later years. The [reality is], there are very few opportunities available for their adult children after the parents are gone.
HLB: How are you able to foster employment for those with autism?
BG: We’ve spent the past couple of years fine-tuning the employment portion of our company, ensuring each individual has a chance to discover their own talents and skills to take them toward their future goals. We start with the basics and then expose everyone to a variety of tasks to find out what they like, what they’re good at, and how to build a social community with coworkers. It’s a little job coaching and a lot of life coaching, but each one complements the other.
HLB: Once you receive the glass, how is a wedding bowl created?
BG: First, we photograph every set of bottles, along with an order tracking form; next, the bottles are soaked and de-labeled. The glass is then crushed, cleaned, dried, and ready for firing. The glass gets fired at 2,250 degrees for 12 hours. We then pour the hot molten glass into a mold and spin the glass to give it an upward splash, which makes our unique, one-of-a-kind designs. After cooling, we do a quality control check and ready the bowl for shipping. We also keep a small reserve of everyone’s glass—just in case they want something made out of it in the future.
HLB: How did you discover your skill of glass artistry?
CP: I began working with glass over 20 years ago while homeschooling my son. It seemed that using art and a hands-on approach went a long way in lesson plans. Although I’m not an expert in how others with autism would learn in the same situation, it worked for us, and now it works here at Forever Glass. As a parent with a disabled child and a caregiver of a parent with Alzheimer’s, I also use the studio as a means of self-preservation and art therapy. Everyone can use a little quiet time for reflection and rejuvenation.
by Heather L. Becker // Photo by Dante fontana