It wasn’t that long ago when Alex Dulle watched the glass blowers at Silver Dollar City and found her own creative fire for the art form. Now she’s making glass there as one of the hundreds of professional craftspeople employed by the well-known amusement park near Branson, Missouri.
A dream come true for someone that’s still fairly new to the art form–Dulle’s only been glass blowing for three years after all–but she’s already created a large, permanent installation for Capital Region Medical Center’s new addition.
Dulle was passionate about dance as a student at Helias Catholic High School, but never considered glass blowing as a career.
“I had an affinity for art history but I had no idea that glass blowing was a profession I could actually pursue,” said Dulle, 26. “At that time, I was on the dance team at school, took lessons at Dancer’s Alley and performed in recitals in town.
Her family on her father Paul’s side have deep and historic roots in Jefferson City. More than six generations of Dulle’s have lived in the G.H. Dulle House, built in 1858, and were baptized at St. Peter Catholic Church on Broadway, just west of the Capitol. Her grandfather, Harold Butzer, was in one of the first classes to graduate from St. Peter High School, which became Helias.
Dulle went on to college at Drury University, a liberal arts college in Springfield, Missouri, where her emphasis was on craft-based art and for a time she focused on weaving. Then she made that fateful first visit to Silver Dollar City with her aunt and two cousins. While she enjoyed the potter, blacksmithing and candy-making exhibits, she was transfixed by the glassblowing demonstration.
“I wanted to stay after it was over, and my Aunt was really encouraging, so we asked the glassblowers questions about how they got started,” she said.
“That was during my senior year, and when I should have been doing my capstone project, I was at the glass studio learning about glass blowing,” she said. “Glass blowing is a physical art form and like dance there’s sequence, rhythm and technique involved. It’s not just about the end piece but the entire process that captured me.”
After she graduated in 2013, she looked through a list of schools and decided to go to the Tennessee Technological University (TTU) School of Art, Craft & Design at the Appalachian Center in Cookeville. She received her craft certificate in glass blowing in May.
This will be her second summer at Silver Dollar City, where she’s learned so much from the master craftspeople.
“I love working at Silver Dollar City because I enjoy working with other glass blowers as part of a team,” she said. “There’s three of us that rotate throughout the day and sometimes you’re assisting and other times it’s your project, but you really come to understand their rhythm.”
One of those people is Shawn Watt, a master glass blower at Silver Dollar City, who interviewed and hired Dulle.
“She really stood out as someone that wants to do this so bad and she’s talented and focused,” said Watt, who moved to Branson from North Carolina. “We all have times when we’re learning and after three months last summer she had come a long way and was vastly different in technique.”
“Being an independent artist is very hard so you have to be willing to move to have a career in blowing glass and usually that’s to bigger cities, but Alex definitely loves this craft and shows much promise,” he said.
Jim Wisch, chairman of Capital Region Medical Center, thought so. He contacted Dulle, who he had known through her parents Lisa and Paul, a local dentist, and asked her to make a nature-based piece that promoted healing and calm.
She started the installation called “Ripples” in September and it became her independent study project for one of her classes at school, supervised by Curtiss Brock, her TTU glass professor.
“I was inspired by the ripples, like rain on the surface of water. and I started out with 22 pieces but ended up with 45,” said Dulle.
A very labor intensive process, Dulle used varying shades of blue, green and gray when creating the rondels, flat glass disks.
“I don’t know who said it but there’s a great quote, ‘if you can’t make it big make it blue,” she said.
All glass creations start with a small bubble and with pressure it gets bigger. She decided to add extra rings in the center and opened it up like a big platter.
She finished her creation in December and it was installed at the hospital soon after and a small sampling of her different sized and colored vases and mugs are featured at The Art Bazaar.
“I’m also excited to have completed an installation that I’m satisfied with and grateful for the opportunity to place my work in Jefferson City at the hospital where I can share it with other people.”
“I’m honored to have installed my first piece where I was raised, a place I will always consider home,” she said.