by Barry Goodrich
It was 16 years ago that Mike Kaplan took a chance on opening an art studio at 2421 Bridge Avenue in Ohio City. It was a much different landscape at that time, before the influx of new merchants that would transform the area into an economically viable neighborhood.
That business was the Glass Bubble Project, which Kaplan co-owns with Chris McGillicutty. “I was very reluctant at first,” said Kaplan about the location of the shop. “There really wasn’t a lot here but my cousin Jason Wein owned the building next door and he talked me into it.”
Today, the studio housed in a renovated garage with a kiln fashioned from an old oil drum has developed into a thriving haven for several artists as well as an educational facility for those interested in the art of blown glass. Specializing in creative works of art from recycled metal and hand-blown glass, work from the Glass Bubble Project appears in several commercial buildings as well as private homes throughout the country.
The company calls its sturdy artwork “Clevetion Glass,” the opposite of the fragile Venetian glass from Italy. By scavenging through antique stores and scrap yards, artists have been able to create objects that are both serviceable and eye-catching.
The Glass Bubble Project has provided bar lighting for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and restaurant Dante. The studio is also known for its ceiling sculptures from repurposed auto glass, glass cabinet doors and copper and glass chandeliers. The studio also produces hand-blown glass sconces, vases and bowls as well as pendant lighting, tables and floor lamps.
Kaplan first became interested in the art of blown glass while at Kent State University, where he took a course in the subject. “I just thought it was the coolest thing,” he said. “We’ve built all our own equipment here from scratch and have made artwork from recycled metals, wood and glass.”
On Saturdays, the Glass Bubble Project holds glass blowing demonstrations. Individual and group classes are offered by appointment in addition to children’s classes and welding classes. “This is something that most people have never seen before,” said Kaplan. “When they see that glowing, gooey thing they say I want to play with that.”
Beginners are brought along slowly but often catch on quickly to glass blowing techniques. “Even the ones who are scared at first end up loving it,” said Kaplan, whose studio is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Sundays.
For more information call 216.696.7043.