THERE IS A CHILDLIKE ENTHUSIASM STILL AT WORK IN NEWT GROVER, EVEN IF HE’S — COUGH, COUGH — ELIGIBLE FOR AARP MEMBERSHIP. HIS ATTITUDE IS A GOOD-NATURED BLEND OF AN OLD SOUL WORKING WITH A MODERN MIND, AND IS FITTING FOR SOMEONE WHOSE COMPANY MOTTO IS: “SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU PLAY WITH FIRE.”
By playing with fire Newt creates stunning, vibrant pieces of glass. Functional pieces like chandeliers and other lighting fixtures. And pure works of sculpture that adorn public and private spaces, adding a “wow” factor to both interiors and exteriors.
There needs to be some enthusiasm when your day starts at 4:00 in the morning, with a shop needing to get prepped for blowing glass a few hours later. The real work won’t happen until after breakfast and maybe some fishing. But then it’s three to four hours of concentrated creating. (Though, at a certain point in life, enthusiasm only carries you so far — afternoon naps have also become part of the schedule).
I must say, my conversation with Newt makes me want to visit his studio in Arizona. Not only so I could watch him play with fire, but also to enjoy his down-to-earth banter and wise observations about life and creativity.
At this point in his career, Newt isn’t too worried about his reputation. He focuses on his work — which is marked by vibrant colors, flowing lines that challenge the “frame” provided by the spaces where his works are to be found, and a sense of whimsy — and lets his name take care of itself.
That doesn’t mean he has no awareness of marketing and the facts of modern artisan life. He says getting a handle on social media is his biggest pain point as a businessman. It’s not exactly an enterprise that comes naturally to a guy who works solo in his studio.
Another modern challenge is competition from abroad, specifically China. There are price pressures arising from the ability of potential customers to order online — though it should be noted that glassworks do need to be packed very carefully to survive transport. And that’s known to not always happen.
But his creations are so effervescent — they just jump out at you and in some cases create a real sense of awe — that it’s hard to believe their equal can be found with an online shopping session.