Students create handmade art during CAB’s glassblowing event

By Beth Casteel

The room is decorated with glass sculptures everywhere you look. There was a cool breeze coming from the entrance of the room that helped you cool down from the heat inside and the rooster named Morty, that lives in the shop, walked around the visitors with a pep in his step.

Inside this little room, the atmosphere was pleasant and the workers were inviting. There was a buzz of excitement coming from the students as they watched Mike Kaplan, owner of The Glass Bubble Project, begin to show the eager guests how to create a Christmas ornament made of glass.

After going through the procedures on how to create one of these delicate pieces of work, each student got the opportunity to make their own. For Nicole Merlino, the Viking Ventures chair for the Campus Activities Board, this event was something that a lot of students in recent years seemed to enjoy, and she wanted to continue the tradition.

“We’ve done glassblowing for the past two years, and it seems really successful.” Merlino said. “A lot of people like to go and do it [since] it’s something different.”

With many students enjoying this event, Merlino knew this was something that she wanted to do as one of her activities. For the Viking Ventures chair, she has to find different events that aren’t on campus for students to explore what there is to offer in Cleveland.

So far, Merlino has been able to find fun and different activities to bring students outside of campus and into some of the most interesting places that Cleveland and surrounding areas, have to offer. Keeping a diverse selection of events for students to choose from, she has planned events ranging from a fall festival to archery lessons.

Focused on finding activities off campus, she begins her planning process in mid-June. She breaks out her calendar and begins to coordinate events that not only work for her schedule, but the company’s schedule as well. With glassblowing, she was able to secure the same location that CAB has used in years prior.

The business that CAB has gone through for the past three years is called The Glass Bubble Project, a glass blowing and welding shop, located in a little corner of Ohio City. The owner, Mike Kaplan, has been doing this for 19 years.

The glass work that he and the other employees at the company help guests create can vary depending on what exactly they are signing up for. With a variety of classes there is always something going on in this little studio.

According to Cindy, one of the employees at the Bubble Project, there is always something to do. With customers that come in and watch as glass sculptures are being made to workshops that happen during the day, the room is always lively with new faces.

Through CAB, the event only cost 15 dollars but to take classes outside of CAB, the prices can range anywhere from 40 to more than 100 dollars.

For classes, much like the one that students attended during CAB’s event on Nov. 11, there are a set of rules that one must follow when participating in glass blowing. One of the first things that they mentioned when going into the studio was to put long hair up with a hair tie. In addition to this, they wanted students to take any heavy jackets off.

After following the things you should note section of the class, where he explained things you should pay attention to when doing handling the glass and poles, students were then able to watch Kaplan as he walked through the steps that students would soon be taking when making their own ornaments.

With a few witty remarks here and there, he introduced himself, taking the time to talk to the group finding out names and majors, it was finally time for students to create their own Christmas ornament.

During the session, only two students were able to go at the same time. To keep the crowd of people limited to a smaller number, the students broke off into two groups. One group would stay while the other went to Mitchell’s Ice Cream next door to get a sweet treat and wait their turn at trying their hand at glass blowing.

After grabbing a pair of gloves and glasses, if you weren’t already wearing a pair, the process actually begins when you meet with the employee helping you create your ornament. First introducing themselves, they then helped the students decide what colors they wanted to choose. The reason the employee had the students pre-pick the colors they would be using is because some people can panic when they have the metal pipe in their hands, so having that color already picked out can help people focus on the other things they have to do.

Once the color is picked out from the table that held an assortment of different colored glass pieces, the students would then have to get a metal pipe and blow through the mouthpiece attached to make sure there was nothing inside. Once checked, they then went over to one of the glory holes to heat up the metal pipe.

After the pipe is heated, the student would then go to the main oven where the melted glass was kept. The most important thing that the employee stressed was to constantly keep the metal pipe going in a circular motion. Once the pipe was into the melted glass, it was critical to maintain that turning.

The student then had to go and dip their metal pipe into the bowl of whatever glass shard they wanted their ornament to be. Still turning the pipe to make sure the melted glass stayed in place, the next step was to go back to the glory hole to further heat up the glass.

When the students started to get a defined shape, they then had to blow into the end of the pipe to form a little bubble inside of the glass. After getting the bubble, students would then go back to heat up their piece.

Once they got the shape they wanted to form, they then had to go to a bench to further shape their ornament. The shaping process included more blowing into the pipe, further creating the shape of their ornament by using tools like wooden paddles and tweezers.

Repeating the cycle over and over again, the students would then put their finished ornament into a cooling oven where it would be kept over the next couple of days. Once cooled, the employees at the bubble project will polish the ornaments and do any last minute touch-ups before Merlino then picks them up.

For Merlino, this was another successful event that she can officially check off of her list. With a Christmas ornament waiting for them to get on Thursday, everyone left the Glass Bubble Project with a smile on their faces and ice cream in their stomachs.