OK, imagine a sugar cone, but made of colorful glass. Now fill the cone with ice. Now imagine it nestled in a woman's cleavage. With us so far? This is the bosom chiller, and it's one of the most popular items the Royal Glass Makers sell at the Michigan Renaissance Festival. Royal Glass Makers' Michelle Plucinsky says her Eureka moment came 11 years ago, during their very first year at the festival, when a customer took a glass paperweight and stuck it in her cleavage on a hot day and poured ice water in it. Necessity, of course, is the mother of invention.
While the name sounds authentic to our ears, Plucinsky says it's a complete invention — they didn't have ice back in the Renaissance, duh. Nevertheless, the accessory has become popular at the festival, thanks perhaps to some of the bawdier women who pour shots in there and get gentleman to drink them.
For some, it's the fest's must-have accessory. "With the girls who are really serious about the Renaissance Festival, they will pick ones that match their outfits," Plucinsky says.
Plucinsky is co-founder of the Furnace Design Studio, which sets up shop at the Renaissance Festival as the more period-appropriate sounding "Royal Glass Makers." Plucinsky says she likes the festival because "nothing makes sense. There's all the rules of business that you can't normally do — you can drink beer outdoors, you can heckle people."
Of the temporary company name change, Plucinsky says it's part of allowing her crew to completely enter the world of the Renaissance Festival. "To be honest, if you're going to have glass making in that time period, you would have to be of royalty to own it," Michelle Plucinsky says. "There were no peasants having glass."
Plucinsky says when they first started attended Renaissance Festivals as a vendor they didn't realize how immersive the experience would be. "It was kind of like we stepped into their world, and it was very fun to figure out," she says. Now her entire crew, who create their wares live on the festival grounds, dresses up in Medieval garb. "There are many styles of clothing you could wear. It took a couple years for us to shake out and find our brand," she says. Plucinsky says her husband, co-founder Chris Nordin, goes a more Barbarian route. "He's got an ogre toe hanging from his belt, and a saber tooth," she says. "The stuff he's gathered over the years is hilarious."
Plucinsky says her main goal is keeping the craft of glass alive. Based in Dearborn, Furnace Design Studio works in the Italian style of glassblowing, a labor-intensive process which requires entire teams lead by a master glassblower. Plucinsky says their bread and butter are mugs and other drinkware, but creating commercial installations and corporate awards are another big part of what they do.
But she delights in the opportunity to enter the strange world of the Renaissance Festival each year. "If you're drinking out of a plastic cup, we do a little spiel — like, 'Oh, that will make you infertile, you can't drink out of plastic, you need glass,'" she says. "We give them a discount, and then we make a spectacle. That's kind of what Renaissance Festival is — it's making fun of people, not in a bad way, but just playing with them." — mt
The Michigan Renaissance Festival is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends and on Labor Day; runs until Sept. 28; 12600 Dixie Highway, Holly; 248-634-5552; michrenfest.com.