Image: Sophie McNeil Wolf

by Jamie Dickson

The poet and artist William Blake said that his writing sought to align the “contrary states of the human soul.” He was trying to achieve balance between the chaotic and orderly, the earthly and ephemeral.

While most of us grasp in vain at this balance, Fondrenite Andy Young, owner of Pearl River Glass Studios, has come pretty close. A professional glass artist by trade, Young also busies himself in his impressive home garden. He can also be seen wielding a paintbrush, tinkering on his piano or writing. Just when an onlooker starts to think that he’s moving in a dozen different directions at once, he’ll retort that all of this–the art, the music, the writing, the gardening–is delicately but firmly connected.

After graduating from Louisiana State University in 1975, Young was offered a job at a large East Coast firm as a landscape architect. Following his gut, he turned the job down and, months later, opened up Pearl River Glass Studio.

Initially, he was drawn to glass as an artistic medium because of its history, specifically its role in church stained glass. “It’s been around for a while,” Young jokes. Yet his passion is quite serious. “Glass can be the most expressive of the artistic media,” he says firmly, “and my dream is for Pearl River Glass Studio to be proficient at all different aspects of flat glass artwork.”

And, indeed, they are. A quick tour of the studio on Millsaps Avenue in Midtown reveals this deep devotion. Traditional lead-paned stained glass has its own space, in which windows are created or restored for churches both in and beyond the state’s borders. Another building houses pressed-glass projects for more modern tastes.

Image: Frank Farmer

Young’s studio was recently given the opportunity to restore the windows in the Governor’s office at the Mississippi State Capitol building that, by Young’s estimation, have been there since 1910. “Think of what they’ve witnessed!” Young says. Yet, history is “poetically juxtaposed” with the modern century in his studio. His business owns a water-jet cutter, which produces over 50,000 pounds of pressure to cut glass up to a foot thick. The glass kilns are computer controlled to ensure proper heating, curing, and cooling of projects. Old and new. Contrary states.

These contrary states are what drive Young’s other passions, too: an avid gardener, Young finds flexibility in the dirt that he simply can’t achieve with glass’ rigidity. His Fondren home is surrounded by an impressive garden, about which his enthusiasm blooms. “I’ve got some asparagus that I’m really excited about!”

While his passions may seem scattered, he keeps them close–literally. Young insists on living no more than five minutes away from the studio. “Commuting is a waste,” he says.

In what little free time he has, Young paints and hopes to publish a book serving as a model for those interested in “creative business enterprises.” And here are those contrary states again: gardening is slow, glass is delicate, writing is contemplative, but they seem to fuel Andy Young’s boundless energy.