San Marcos – It is time to heat things up. How else are you supposed to make incredible pieces of glass art? That’s how they do things at Wimberley Glassworks in San Marcos. That’s were you can find vases, paperweights, and even some really big plates. The most interesting part of this place is the person that makes most of this stuff.
“Well, do you want the history of glass or what?,” owner Tim DeJong said. “Okay. In the beginning, not that much history,” he joked.
Tim DeJong is very young at heart, especially when it comes to his fragile form of art.
“That’s called wagging the noodle, it’s a technical term,” Tim said.
Everyday, you’ll find him at the Wimberley Glassworks creating incredible pieces of art that take some serious heat and some serious skills to shape.
“This is clear glass at 2110 degrees Fahrenheit,” Tim said. “At this temperature, it moves like honey. If I stop turning the pipe, it’s gonna drip right off the end like honey would off a spoon.”
Since 1992, he’s called Wimberley home. It’s a far cry from his birthplace of some crazy place called Canada.
“Born in Saskatoon, but I got here as soon as I could,” Tim said.
The son of a Methodist minister, Tim’s family moved to the East coast where he got a bug for the arts early on.
“Yeah, yeah,” Tim said. “I went to art school, every parent’s nightmare.”
When it came to college, Tim had other ideas. Ideas his college educated father clearly didn’t agree with. Tim’s father was the first in his family to get a college degree, so he put Tim to the test and it made him into the man he is today.
”He knew what life was like without a college education, whereas I didn’t,” Tim said. “The next day he gave me $300 cash and a one way ticket to Seattle and he said ‘Work your way home. If you don’t wanna go to college, we’ll talk,’” Tim said. “He didn’t tell me until three weeks before he passed away that he cried coming all the way back from the airport because he never thought I’d take him up in the challenge, but once I did, he couldn’t back down. Four and a half months, it took. Yep, I went through the $300 in four days and thought I was being thrifty. Ended up on the street. I actually hitchhiked all the way down the California coast and across to Austin, lived under the Congress Avenue Bridge for six weeks, I still pick up change walking across AGB’s parking lot because I can’t just leave it there. It was really the best thing the guy ever did for me. It taught me where absolute bottom was, but most importantly how far can you push it until you fall, but if I fell it was no big deal, I knew how to get out.”
Once Tim made it back to the East coast, he had a calling to come back to Texas.
“I was just like what in God’s name am I doing in Philadelphia?,” Time said. “And I looked at real estate all week, found a nice little piece of property, and moved in 11 months.”
When he started his glassworks gallery in the early 90’s, Tim didn’t exactly break the bank.
“I opened up my first full year of business, i grossed $2000,” Time said. “Not netted, grossed. Most people would have closed the doors and walked away. I was like well, this isn’t working, so I closed it during the week. I went to Austin, I fixed houses during the week, and came down, blew glass on the weekend.”
With perseverance and surrounding himself with other artists who shared his passion and shared their knowledge, Tim took his business to places he never imagined including the corporate world.
“We have a plethora of pieces in Houston and Dallas, and we also have in L.A. and Baltimore,” Tim said. “We also decided to do one here, right here in our own entryway. If you look up here, you can see that we have 224 ribbons of glass.”
The first time Tim dipped his foot into making gargantuan glass for the corporate world, it almost broke him. Fortunately, the friendly Texas business he frantically worked for saw the finished product and Tim’s fortitude in his fine work.
“The first commercial piece I did, I had to make three of these 14 foot diameter chandeliers,” Tim said. “I’d never really bid a job like this, I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I bid $200000 on these three chandeliers, I thought I was just gonna make out like a bandit. Well, they cost me $295000 to build. I remortgaged the house and I borrowed from everyone I knew because I had to keep my word. My contract was that long, that’s my word. Without your word, you’re nothing. The owner of the building comes up to me and he looks at me and he- ‘Now I have a feeling you under bid this. I have a feeling you under bid it a lot.’ I was like yeah. He goes, ‘Invoice me the difference.’ And I cried. Literally, I bawled on the spot. It took me about five minutes to get myself together. He goes, ‘The reason why we’re doing this is we want you to succeed because we wanna hire you again.’ And I’m telling you, there’s not a place on this planet that that’s gonna happen other than Texas.”
The colorful pieces in Tim’s gallery are also a part of this incredible story. The hot, labor intensive work yields such amazing beauty, but it all started somewhere.
“The first piece I ever made is in the front entry,” Tim said. “Yeah. It’s in a little silver frame, it’s about this big, it’s got my 1979 college ID above it, which is really funny, and a little quote underneath it that says ‘Every dream starts somewhere.’ When my mom passed away three years ago, I found it rolling around in her nightstand, and I took it out and I went, I know where this needs to go. And I stuck it out there because people walk in here and they don’t realize, everyone’s first piece is butt ugly.”
Luckily, there are lots of pretty pieces to choose from making Wimberley Glassworks an beautiful stop on the Texas Bucket List.
“There are so many quality artisans in this valley that I personally think, I say ‘Wimberley makes and the world takes,’” Tim said.