Have you ever hand-crafted a piece of glass art? At Dearborn’s Glass Academy, the experience is all about connecting with others while learning new techniques in glass blowing.
On the Ground Dearborn Editorial Assistant Micah Walker and I got the chance to attend one of the Glass Academy’s campfire events, where artists-in-the-making gather around a hot stove to see soft form glass be molded into neat things like a paperweight or decorative flower.
Instructor Jason Schwab teaches about the earthen mineral colors found naturally in the earth, like cobalt blue, gold, and tin. It’s melted down to 2000 degrees -- never less than 900 degrees -- as you spin, twist, pinch, pull and cut into the glass creation.
As Schwab put it, you learn more from others in the group than you do him as you watch each person take a stab at quickly crafting a stunning piece of art to keep forever. The air bubbles trapped inside create different designs, being one of my favorite parts. It means each person’s piece will be different than the next.
As Walker will tell you, it can be a little intimidating, too.
“Attending the Campfire class was my first attempt at glassblowing, and although it seemed like fun, I was a little apprehensive,” she says. “When the instructor was showing the class how to make a paperweight and flower, the finished product came out so beautifully, and I thought I would never be able to make something as good. Plus, being so close to a piece of glass that was at least 800 degrees, I was afraid I was going to burn my hand.”
Glass Academy Instructor Jason Schwab shows students how to mold a paperweight. She warmed right up though, and her purple, blue and white paperweight turned out wonderfully.
“The instructor was beside me the entire time, so I began to relax,” she adds.
Jessica Pietryga was another employee on site, helping to deliver a unique Glass Academy experience. She got involved a year ago as a volunteer and now works at the business, leading classes and guiding students on a tour of the 14,000-square foot facility.
“I love the atmosphere here, it’s so interesting to see glass being made and what it can be made into,” she says. “What the artists come up with is really cool.”
It’s all on display on the gallery side of the studio.
The holidays are celebrated with little glass pine trees, candy canes and snowmen. Glass eggs are crafted for the Eggstravaganza each easter and the spring collection features mushrooms, flowers, and succulents.
“If you’re not good at keeping plants alive, these are perfect for you,” Pietryga jokes. “It’s my kind of plant. They don’t need any water, just a little dusting every once in a while.”
Also on display are glass mugs, which are known to take “five years and 30 minutes to make” -- five years experience to learn and half an hour to create it. A neat collection of Detroit themed glass also rounds out the gallery.
There’s also jewelry and what artists call the “VIP bathroom,” where guests can see unique ways glass can be used to decorate a room.
Lastly, you’ll get to meet Batch, the gallery cat, who surprisingly has never broken anything in her adventures around Glass Academy.
If you’re still undecided, take it from Janet Jaromin, a Belleville resident who came to Dearborn to check out Glass Academy with a friend.
“It’s cool how it happens so quickly; you just get a few seconds to shape each piece,” she says. “Making the flower was awesome, just being able to feel the pull of the glass and being able to create something special out of a blob.”
Glass Academy is located at 25331 Trowbridge St. For more information, visit www.glassacademy.com.