Heart of Glass


Mary Hong Studio Gallery

There’s something wildly therapeutic about turning shards of glass into a very personal piece of art. Although I wasn’t mending a broken heart of glass like Blondie (I’m happily married, but Heart of Glass is a better blog post title), I did experience the enjoyment mosaic glass art can bring during a recent visit to the The Shard Shop in Grayton Beach.


My sister-in-law kindly treated two of my daughters to a class at The Shard Shop as a birthday gift. We took the girls, along with her daughter (my niece/their cousin), to the Shops of Grayton, where you’ll find The Shard Shop next door to Mary Hong Studio Gallery.


Mary Hong Studio Gallery

Mary Hong is a local artist who has been doing shard art, as she calls it, since 1999. Her gallery sells her beautiful creations and also provides inspiration for first-time artists who are going to make their own works of art at The Shard Shop.

Upon arrival, our girls quickly chose their canvases and decided what the subject of their art would be. Each chose an assortment of colorful, multi-textured glass shards to place atop a chalk sketch they’d drawn on the canvas. We helped with cutting some of the larger glass pieces for the girls (safety first!). Craft glue was used to secure some of the pieces while others were placed loosely, all to be permanently set by an epoxy resin coating that The Shard Shop staff pours over your “finished” piece. It was fun to watch the girls create a crab, pineapple and peacock, and we were impressed with how well they turned out the next day when we went to pick up the resin-coated finished products.


While helping the girls with their pieces was fun, my sister-in-law and I wanted to return to The Shard Shop sans children and make our own shard art. Later during our vacation week, we paid our second visit and got to work on making a tree (hers, which I sadly failed to photograph) and a trio of butterflies (mine). Unlike traditional mosaic art, the shard art style is more layered or dimensional. After placing larger pieces of glass from old bottles and dishes on the canvas (or wood plank, in my case), we filled in the design with smaller shards and even some glittery bling (note: not a technical term). The Shard Shop does provide safety goggles and gloves for you to use when you are cutting glass and handling the sharper pieces. There is a safety waiver you have to sign before taking a class – of course there is, there is always a waiver! The instructor we worked with showed us how to cut and sand the edges for a smoother finish so that no one will inadvertently stab themselves while admiring our finished pieces.


While our work might not hold a candle to Mary Hong’s professional pieces, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in The Shard Shop and we each have a handmade souvenir from our 30-A vacation to display in our homes. I would recommend The Shard Shop classes and workshops to anyone who is old enough to safely handle glass (7 is the minimum age for children’s classes). The classes we took were $35 for children and $85 for adults.

This would be a fun destination for a girls’ weekend or girls’ day out. One woman who was in the shop at the same time we visited said she had used shard art as therapy after experiencing some traumatic physical health challenges. Whatever your reason for wanting to do glass art, your creation is sure to be a unique thing of upcycled beauty.

If you’re hungry for lunch before your art class, just walk across the parking lot at Shops of Grayton to Farm Stand, a good spot for farm fresh, organic food. I recently visited Farm Stand and wrote about it in the article, From Farm to Table in Northwest Florida, published by Visit Florida.

Santa Rosa Beach: Art Classes at Gulf Place

If you spend any time in the beach communities along 30A in South Walton County, Florida, you’re sure to find that each has its own personality. In some cases, the variety is reflected in the architecture. Take one look at Seaside, Alys Beach or Rosemary Beach and the distinctions are clear. Further west on 30A, near Destin, the vibe is more eclectic in areas such as Grayton Beach and Blue Mountain Beach.

I hesitate to label any of these communities because each time I visit the area, I discover something new. Perhaps that discoverability, not to mention the natural beauty and small town charm, is what draws visitors back to these areas year after year.

My latest trip down 30A took me to Gulf Place, a mixed-use development in Santa Rosa Beach with condos and retail space, just across from public beach access at the intersection of County Hwy. 393. What I found most intriguing about Gulf Place was not the restaurants or shops, although they are no doubt worth trying, but the space behind the storefronts. That’s where I found a collection of colorful, wooden huts representing the Artists at Gulf Place, where individual artists have come together to offer original works of art, jewelry and gift items for sale.


Far from a souvenir stand, the artists’ space allows shoppers to browse the varied creations and take home a small piece of the local art scene. During designated times, you can also create your own art. Several art classes are offered on a weekly basis. My daughters and I attended a jewelry making session. Choosing from a wide assortment of beads, my girls each created her own unique design. One chose to make a necklace ($20) and the other made a bracelet ($15). My niece opted for a separate project led by another artist, creating bottle cap wind chimes ($10). All the girls enjoyed their crafts, and the time spent was a nice alternative to shopping for the typical trinkets you might find at a tourist trap T-shirt shop.


Other classes offered by the Artists at Gulf Place include tie-dying T-shirts and painting metal flowers. All of the sessions are first come, first serve. Gulf Place and the Artists at Gulf Place regularly publicize the classes and other events via their Facebook pages so it is easy to follow along with what is happening during your visit to the area.


If art is not your thing, Gulf Place regularly hosts live music events. Greg Allman and Junior Marvin are two of the acts to grace the outdoor stage in recent months. A small farmer’s market is set up each Sunday morning. Selection may vary, but on our recent visit local vendors offered fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, grass-fed beef, honey, candles and other crafts.