Wakefield Artist Continues Block Island Treasure Hunt with Glass Float Project

Activity encourages visitors to explore the locale’s natural beauty while seeking orbs

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There are few adventures more exciting than a treasure hunt – and not all of them are reserved for the plots of movies and books. Block Island is home to its very own type of finders-keepers quest, thanks to a local glassblower.

When Eben Horton was 19, he hid his glass creations on nearby beaches. “I just thought it’d be a fun thing to do that would blow peoples’ minds when they found these things,” Horton says. Fast forward to today – his fun and casual practice has been transformed into The Glass Float
Project, an epic, nationally known scavenger hunt on Block Island.

Horton, who owns The Glass Station Studio and Gallery in Wakefield with his wife, Jennifer Nauck, conceived of The Glass Float Project in 2011. “As an artist, I was definitely a victim of the great recession, being a glass blower,” Horton states, explaining how he had an abundance of free time on his hands. Itching for something to do, he decided to hide glass, just like he’d done when he was a teenager, but on a much larger scale. With a grant from the Rhode Island Council on the Arts, Horton created 150 blown glass orbs, and, with permission from the Block Island Town Council, hid his floats on the island’s paths and beaches. Thus, The Glass Float Project was born.

Now, 11 years later, the project has grown and expanded into a well-known opportunity for locals and travelers alike, even garnering attention from CBS News and The New York Times.

With the help of their studio team, Horton and Nauck create over 550 glass floats each year that they and their volunteers hide on the island. “The Glass Float Project has totally taken on a life of its own. It’s not the only thing we do here, but I feel like it’s the most important because we reach so many people, including those who hear about this project and are booking trips to Block Island specifically to go out hunting,” Nauck says enthusiastically. Hunters get to keep the float they find, and each float is numbered and dated so it can be registered on The Glass Float Project’s website.

The project officially begins the first day of June and ends Columbus Day Weekend, but floats can be found any day of the year. Not all floats are found in a single season because with so many beaches and trails, seekers really need to search to find an orb. After all, the original intention behind the project was to simply encourage people to get outside and enjoy the island’s beauty. According to Nauck, “The thrill of the hunt keeps them looking for new trails and new places. There’s that element of discovery. Even if you aren’t finding a float, you’re discovering parts of the island you wouldn’t normally see.” For those who come away empty-handed, she adds, “It’s not about finding the float; it’s about the journey and being with yourself, your family, or your friends in nature.”

The Block Island Tourism Council helps to cover basic material costs, and the rest of the project is funded by an October raffle hosted by Horton and Nauck’s studio and gallery. As for where the project is headed, Horton intends to maintain the status quo. As he says, “Its identity is Block Island. I like it just the way it is.”

Learn more at TheGlassStationStudio.com

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