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Oak Street in the town of Magnolia Springs
Cindy McCrory/Blue Room Photography

“OK, who wants to go first?” he says, scanning a suddenly timid audience after setting his demo vase aside to cool.

Uh, me? Creating an attractive glass globe with the help of a nationally renowned glass artist may not have been on my bucket list before arriving on this coast. But good things are happening here. Unexpected things. Suddenly, it’s right at the top of that list. Thank you again, Lower Alabama.

“I’ll go,” I say.

Cornman hands me a long, heavy steel blowpipe and directs me to the furnace to gather a blob of molten glass, and as I complete this task, I experience what it’s like to stand in front of a 2,100-degree heat source. It’s shocking, like warming your hands beside a live volcano. I can’t imagine doing this over and over again. But that’s what glass artists do — and Sam Cornman clearly loves what he does.

“You have about 60 seconds with the glass before you need to reheat it to keep it workable,” he tells me. My minute expires in a snap, and I’m directed to an even hotter (2,300 degrees) work chamber called “the glory hole.” Another tooth-melting blast confirms that I’ll never be much of a glass artist in this lifetime.

“You’re doing great,” says Cornman, directing me back to the steel worktable where, between cozy furnace visits, we roll and mold and shape and twist and stretch and contort what was once a blob into something actually kind of nice. Something I will take home, carefully place in a conspicuous spot and wait for my kids to ask — “What’s that?”

“Oh, that? That’s a little something I made on the Gulf of Alabama.”

“The Gulf of Alabama?”

“Yes,” I’ll say. “The Gulf of Alabama. Don’t tell me you didn’t know about it.”

JORDAN RANE writes regularly for American Way, the Los Angeles Times and CNNGo. Shortly after returning from Alabama, he was attacked by a mockingbird in his backyard.