Island Spotlight: The Glass Float Project
Welcome to a new blog series called Island Spotlight where we focus on one specific thing that makes Block Island wonderful! In this inaugural post, we’ll be shining a light on the Glass Float Project! What started as a hobby from a local glass blower has turned into an international phenomenon attracting float hunters from around the globe as well as coverage from national news agencies.
During an economic downturn in 2011, Eben Horton was having a difficult time selling his glass products. To fill the time, he began to make 150 little, glass fishing floats like those used by fishermen around the world to keep their nets afloat. The hobby turned into an “A-Ha” moment. With a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and permission from the town of New Shoreham, Mr. Horton began to hide the orbs across the island’s vast public spaces. The idea was simple: an opportunity to bring home a piece of handmade art that you found while exploring the island’s natural beauty.
The Project Grows
Jump forward 12 years and the Glass Float Project has become a sensation. Eben, his wife Jennifer Nauck and their team of artisans at The Glass Station in Wakefield, RI now produce 550 orbs to be hidden on the island each year. Each float is numbered and dated according to the year. The first float in the series is always unique. In 2020 it was based on the coronavirus (spikes and all) and in 2021 it was shaped like a buoy. The first batch of orbs are specially colored (in contrast to the usual clear ones) based on the year. There will be 23 unique floats in 2023.
The Hunt is On!
According to Jessica Willi, the Executive Director at the Block Island Tourism Council, around 5,000-10,000 people are looking for an orb in any given year. In fact, people now recognize Eben Horton and his boat and will keep an eye on him just to get a leg up on the super-secret hiding places. To keep the locations a mystery, the Glass Float Project has a team of hiders; those who go out incognito, away from prying eyes, to place the orbs around the island. They’re so good the even Eben doesn’t know where all of them are hidden!
The event has become so popular that a group of seekers has grown over the years. With the self-proclaimed title of “Orbivores” this group of diehard fans come to the island each year in hopes of adding another to their collection. However, they stick to the one rule of the Project: one orb per seeker, per year. While they may search year-round, they always leave any subsequently found orb for other hunters. After all, the discovery is one of the best parts!
There are people who have been looking for an orb for years. However, it is a wide-spread belief that you don’t find the orb but rather the orb finds you. When you’re on the island this year look around. You never know what you might find! And if you do find a float, be sure to register it at blockislandinfo.com/glass-float-project.
For more information on the Glass Float Project, please visit theglassstationstudio.com.
Keep those eyes peeled and Sail Away…