Tucked into a tree line and just a stone’s throw from bustling Brevard Road in Hendersonville is Woodhaven Glass. Inside, Larry Zapf points out all of the bells and whistles that make up his ever-growing passion and profession as an artisan glassblower.
“I started blowing glass in the mid-1990s because I had a very subjective type of job in Manhattan. It was one where if something didn’t go perfectly, it was my fault, no matter what it was,” Zapf reflected. “So, to relieve some of the stress of that, I learned glassblowing. It was a craft where I could say, ‘This is what I made.’ And if I like it, it’s more of an objective type of thing.”
At 75, Zapf leaned back into a chair next to his shop, puffing on a cigar. He sifted through the sands of time to unearth memories of growing up in Queens. His father was an NYPD officer who’d take the youngster to Ebbets Field to see the Brooklyn Dodgers play.
Opened in August 2019, Woodhaven Glass is named after the Queens neighborhood he was raised in. “It’s paying tribute to my heritage and my roots,” Zapf said.
Right around the time he picked up glassblowing, Zapf and his wife decided to leave the Northeast and relocate to Western North Carolina for a fresh start. In 1997, the couple headed for the mountains of Southern Appalachia.
“A friend of mine had moved down here, and we’d come visit from time to time—we really liked this area and decided to call it home,” Zapf said. “Living in Brevard, we enjoy the rural setting, going hiking in DuPont State Forest. There, it’s more of a quiet community within a short distance of Asheville and all of the great things it has going on.”
Putting roots down in WNC, Zapf eventually launched a longtime career with Beverly-Hanks, REALTORSⓇ. And since his retirement a few years back, Zapf steadily turned his passion for glassblowing into a profession, one that has been shaped into Woodhaven Glass.
“In my retirement, I had a choice of either playing golf and not getting paid or blowing glass and getting paid,” Zapf joked. “Blowing glass is something I love doing and learning more about. I’m constantly trying to improve my techniques and my knowledge.”
Standing in front of the fiery opening in the furnace (which ranges from 2,000–2,200 degrees), Zapf twirls his melted glass, this dance with the creative spirit. With focus and grace, what results is a beautiful piece to share with the world. That sense of sharing has also parlayed itself into Zapf teaching others his passion through regular classes and workshops.
“It’s a craft and a learning experience, so you have to practice, practice, practice,” Zapf said. “And you learn from other artists, this constant exchange of ideas. There’s really no one right way to do anything, which means your technique and style is completely unique to you—and that’s the fun of it all.”