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Christmas spirit restored for local glass artist


Reno glass artist Jessica Schimpf wasn’t expecting to celebrate Christmas in July this year, especially after the heartbreak and devastation she said she and her family have experienced in 2020. Then she got a call from Paula Hart, who found Schimpf’s business, Mantra Glass Art, on Google.

Hart is the mother of the actress Melissa Joan Hart and was scouting locations for an upcoming Lifetime TV Christmas movie in which the junior Hart was set to star.

“I asked her what set us apart from other studios, and she said our photos and press were really amazing; she thought we were perfect for the job,” Schimpf said. That job was to serve as a filming location for “Dear Christmas” and train Hart’s co-star, actor Jason Priestley, on the basics and safety of glass blowing.

Priestley’s character in the film is part-time glass blowing artist and full-time firefighter Jack.

It took Schimpf about 24 hours to prep her Fourth Street studio for the July film shoot. She wasn’t as sure how long it would take to train Priestley, but that wouldn’t turn out to matter. One of the production crew members suggested Schimpf act in the movie herself, serving as Jack’s assistant.

“If you know me personally, you know I’m a very introverted and shy person normally,” Schimpf said. “I’ve never thought about this being a possibility!”

In addition to taking a role as the glass art assistant, Schimpf also did all of the glass work in the movie. Close-up shots of Jack working with glass in the film are actually edited bits of Schimpf’s hands at work, transformed with movie magic to look like much larger male hands.

Working with molten 2100-degree glass on camera and in close proximity to so many people turned out to be more intense for Schimpf than acting in a movie.

Mantra Glass Art owner and lead glass blower Jessica Schimpf in “Dear Christmas” with actor Jason Priestley. Image: Lifetime TV

“It was exciting and really scary because I was working literally inches away from their very expensive cameras and 35 of their assistants, their director, camera men and multiple actors,” she said. “The second they said shoot I put my entire heart and soul into it which was the best experience I’ve ever had blowing glass. I was extremely anxious and could barely breathe in the heat, and by the time we got to shooting my scenes it was 2-3 a.m. You can imagine what that kind of pressure feels like!”

Schimpf said the experience was surreal as well, having watched both Hart and Priestley on TV in “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Beverly Hills 90210,” respectively.

“Here are the lead actors in my studio hanging out with my fiancé Alex and I like it was another ordinary day,” she said. She added that she made a connection with Priestley that she’ll never forget, talking about her artistry and how she got into glass art.

Of the opportunity to act in a movie and open her studio for a film crew, Schimpf said she’d definitely do it again, but that it was likely a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

“It helped me forget about everything for a moment and helped me see my potential again,” she said. “I can truly say, this experience brought back my Christmas spirit and I cannot wait to share the film with our incredible Reno-Tahoe community.”

Melissa Joan Hart and Jason Priestley filming “Dear Christmas” at Reno’s Mantra Glass Art studio. Image: Lifetime TV

“Dear Christmas” features Melissa Joan Hart acting as Natalie Morgan who is an author and host of a popular podcast, Holiday Love, which shares true stories of holiday romance with its listeners. While to the outside world and her listeners everywhere see Natalie is an expert on romance, she’s never truly experienced a romance of her own.

As Natalie prepares to embark on a promotional tour for her new book, she stops back home to spend Christmas with her family and to celebrate her parent’s 50th anniversary. She unexpectedly begins to experience her own holiday romance as sparks ignite with local firefighter and part time glass blowing artist Jack (Jason Priestley).

Lifetime TV will air the film Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. EST and PST and will continue to air it throughout the holiday season.More information about Schimpf and Mantra Glass Art are at https://www.mantraglassart.com/

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.