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Vt. glassblower finds his niche - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. glassblower finds his niche

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TOWNSHEND, Vt. -

Hermit crabs carry their homes on their backs, often retreating into their shell for protection. But now people can see what nature normally covers up.

"It's sort of thinking out of the box," said Robert DuGrenier. DuGrenier is trying to improve on mother nature, making hand blown glass shells for hermit crabs -- he calls them hermit crab mobile homes.

"They have to have the exact weight, the right spiral," he said. "And if they don't want to move in they're not going to move in, which is really kind of amazing." The glass shells are often lighter than nature's version.  

Hermit crabs shed their shells and need to find bigger ones all the time. DuGrenier is a glass sculptor in Townshend with 30 years experience.  He was working on merging trees with glass, when someone showed him a hermit crab living in a glass bottle. Something clicked and DuGrenier was inspired. "We get orders from all of the world," he said. From aquariums to museums to hermit crab owners, DuGrenier's made over $10,000 shells.

DuGrenier is busy with much more than shells. He fell in love with blown glass when he was 13 -- went to college and grad school to perfect his craft.  His first big break was when he was living in New York City and helped restore the Statue of Liberty flame. Next thing he knew, MTV was calling. "They wanted something in glass. They found me through the American Crafts Council and I've been working with them now for 30 years doing the MTV Music Awards and the Movie Awards," he said.

His name then got out to the perfume industry and he started designing and making bottles.
"Paul Picasso, Calvin Klein, Nautica -- over the years a ton of different things," he said.

He's a top go-to glass designer. Ninety percent of his business comes from commissions -- working on pieces for high end homes, hotels and restaurants all over the world. He installs everything himself.  

As for the crabs, DuGrenier is working with national pet store Petco -- hoping to be on store shelves soon.

"Now that's crab couture," DuGrenier said.

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