boy blowing in metal tube with hot glass on the end
Rick Mills shows Owen what happens when air is blown into heated glass.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in partnership with Make-A-Wish Hawaiʻi® granted 10-year-old Owen from North Dakota his wish to see his hand-drawn turtle come to life as a glass sculpture in Hawaiʻi.

using a blow torch to make a glass turtle
Rick Mills crafting the glass turtle. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Smith Photography)
group shot of people smiling
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Smith Photography)

Owen, who suffers from a nervous system disorder, spent a week on Oʻahu and an afternoon in UH Mānoa’s glass studio with parents Brian and Amanda, 12-year-old sister Madison and 18-year-old brother Carter.

Owen loves marine life and uses art to help him through the difficult times of battling his disorder. When he found out he would be spending time in UH Mānoa’s glass studio with Rick Mills, a professor in the Department of Art and Art History, Owen decided to draw a picture of a turtle that they could build together out of glass.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mills and his students taught Owen the process of glass blowing. Owen watched Mills transform his hand-drawn turtle into a lifelike sculpture, down to every last line on the turtle’s shell, using blow torches and furnaces to heat and sculpt the glass.

“I was pleased to be a part of such a great event and to work with my students to create a special glass sculpture for Owen,” said Mills. “Glass making requires a team effort and community, to not only create glass pieces, but to operate a glass studio. The feeling of good will and cooperation in the studio that day was palpable with everyone working together, and I’m certain the turtle is imbued with these feelings.”

At the end of the day, Owen named his glass turtle “Rick,” after Professor Mills. When the turtle finishes cooling in the glass studio, it will be mailed to Owen on a special metal display.

—By Sarah Hendrix

a glass sculpture of a turtle
The finished glass turtle.