Instructors and Visiting Artists

Explore the “Fire Arts” of glass & metal! Our qualified instructors will guide you through the exciting learning process of working in the fire arts. Learn to blow or cast molten glass, weld and hammer metal, form glass beads over a torch, or create a colorful expression of yourself in our fusing and mosaic studios. Select from a variety of classes or schedule a private experience for your group.  


Water Street Glassworks Instructors 

Eli Zilke, Glassblowing Instructor

Eli Zilke began his glass journey at Water Street Glassworks at the age of 12 when he joined the Fired-Up! Program. It was love at first “gather” and really became more of an obsession. After  a couple years in the program Eli started training as a studio technician and eventually a teaching assistant under Jerry Catania. In 2013 Eli departed Water Street Glassworks to Co-Found Hot Shop Valpo a production glass studio in Northwest Indiana. During this time HSV installed several large architectural installations and supplied over a dozen galleries across the region.

In 2018 Eli returned to Water Street to assume the position of Studio Manager/ Production Designer as well as the core glassblowing instructor. Eli is excited for the re-launch of the Fired-Up program and hopes to launch the passions of new generations of glassblower for years to come.


Tina Tavolacci, Jewelry InstructorTina is an artist, instructor and jewelry mentor for the Fired Up! bead studio. "I love teaching and making art, which is perfect because I am an art teacher in Dowagiac Public Schools. I have three great kids, one cool dog and have lived in and love the area my entire life." Tina offers adult classes at Water Street Glassworks including Torch Fired Enamel and Light Metals for the jewelry studio, specializing in metal finishing techniques and jewelry construction.


Gina Edwards, Flameworking InstructorFor as long as she can remember Gina Edwards has liked to create things.  It wasn't until she discovered the joy of melting glass that she finally felt she could be an artist.   "Glass is such a satisfying and unique media to work with," she says. "There is always a new technique to try, or I'll see something that sparks an idea.  I've been working with glass for 18 years and it continues to inspire and challenge me." Gina has been teaching at Water Street Glassworks for several years.  She has a relaxed and enthusiastic teaching style that she hopes conveys her passion to her students.  "Working with the torches and molten glass can be intimidating at first. I believe my relaxed style helps the student get past that so they can focus on the glass and experience the joy that comes with working with it." Gina has been experimenting with mixed media art pieces - creating with re-purposed wood, metal, paper, and fiber.  She believes that anything has the potential to be an art supply. "But," she says with a laugh, "it almost always comes back to glass."

Gina lives in Sodus with her husband.  She has a glass art studio where she meets with people by appointment. You can find her on Facebook @ Merehawk Designs.


Jewelry Instructor Donna Sauers

My introduction to working with hot glass was the year I was given a glassblowing workshop for Christmas at Fiasco Glass (Jerry and Kathy Catania's glass studio in Glenn MI). I didn't know it at the time, but it was also the event that would eventually lead me to a career change.

You could call it serendipity that I was introduced to an artist who taught lampworking and I found it was a way to create tiny glass gems out of my home studio. That experience led to designing jewelry and creating a line I sell through fine art shows and galleries. I recently started creating sculptures and a new body of work with welded metal, blown glass and casted glass pieces because of classes I took at WSG and the inspiration from fellow artists. I always encourage people to take a new class and try new mediums, because those experiences may impact your work in ways you never imagined.

Jackie Baker, Enameling InstructorJackie Baker started in enameling with a class at Water Street Glassworks with Neil Kraus. Prior to this she had made jewelry for about 15 years, and hoped to incorporate enameling in her business, Dragons Fly Beads. Unlike other glass forms, enameling gives instantaneous results. It is forgiving and one can redo almost anything if the results are disappointing. “I learn something every time I fire my kiln.” Jackie has taken an additional enameling class at OxBow with Veleta Vancza and learned to torch enamel from Tina Tavalocci at Water Street Glassworks.


My love of all things glass began over 20 years ago after taking stained glass instruction in the Kalamazoo and Lansing areas. I continued to experiment with the medium over the years, studying the works of other accomplished mosaic artists, while learning different techniques in design and composition of glass art. I have taught mosaic instruction for several years to children and adults in Plainwell, MI, as well as the Gull Lake Partnership in Bedford, MI.  I love sharing in the excitement my students feel as they take shards of glass and create a beautiful work of art! I now reside in the St Joseph area, continuing my work in my home studio, selling at area art shows, various shops, and private commissions. I am excited to continue my exploration of glass work at Water Street. 


Heidi Martin Stained Glass Visiting Artist

As a little girl I remember a beautiful stained glass piece that hung in the kitchen window above the dinner table. My mom had purchased it at an antique store and was told it had come out of a Firestone estate in Ohio. It was that window that sparked my love for stained glass. All of the colors, textures and shapes were absolutely gorgeous in the sunlight and filled the kitchen with a kaleidoscope of colors. While attending Western Michigan University to become a teacher, I learned stained glass from a neighbor artist. Since that time, I have been creating and selling stained glass pieces at artisan fairs, and teaching beginning stained glass for the Berrien County Partnership Homeschool Network. My two passions came together when I was hired to teach children the art of stained glass.


Visiting Artists


Robin Kittleson, Kiln Fused Glass, Visiting ArtistA professional studio artist for over 20 years Robin focuses on creating artwork that is unique and beautiful, yet always functional.

Pulling from a graphic design background, she mixes a love for color, texture, and patterns with technically advanced kilnforming printmaking, and coldworking techniques to create one-of-a-kind pieces.

Robin has a BFA from Washington University in St. Louis with additional studies completed under many leaders in the glass industry.

She teaches both graphic design and kilnforming technique classes throughout the Midwest.


Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, I worked in a stainless steel foundry that manufactured cutting equipment for the food processing industry. I was a welder with several certifications, and an artist with a passion for photography. I graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Fine Arts and intended to use my welding skills to create sculptures, but life got busy and that plan was put on hold, once I started working in the foundry. My plans changed again when I decided to leave my career to stay home and raise a family.

Taking a step back from my professional career gave me the opportunity to reevaluate where I wanted to go in life and it was during this time that I discovered glassblowing. After I took my first class, I had a renewed interest in the arts and immersed myself in this medium. I enjoy working with metal and glass because of the way they are manipulated and shaped with heat. I'm playing with fire, and it's exciting, and fun, and thrilling. Art should light a fire inside you, and this is exactly what working with metal and glass does for me.

Fred Rogers, Creative Blacksmithing Instructor


John Ryszka, Flameworking Visiting ArtistJohn Ryskza II began working with glass at Vincennes University, where he took Scientific and Decorative Glass Blowing as an elective. During that same time, John saw an exhibit by an artist whose work included sculptures with incorporated neon lights. John says he couldn’t stay out of the gallery and would make detours in his schedule just to catch a few more glimpses of the moody, aura-involving art. This exhibit, together with the scientific glassblowing class, had such an impact on him that he decided to study neon instead of graphic art.  

John enrolled in the National Neon Institute in Benicia, CA, where the love of glass would take hold of his life. In Benicia, John immersed himself in glass. He studied neon and flameworking, started fusing glass, and frequently visited the glassblowing studios to watch and to learn. In 2003, John moved to Phoenix, AZ, to become a fulltime neon tube bender at Neon Nightscapes. He has continued his studies at the Mesa Art Center, the Sonoran Glass Art Academy, J Street Glass, and most recently in Murano, Italy. In 2007, John began teaching at J Street Glass. John now owns and runs Glass Phoenix.



Matthew Urban attended the Philadelphia College of Art and Design, where he studied industrial design and glass. After completing his BFA, he worked at the Tyler School of Art, and the Philadelphia College of Art and Design. Urban has been a production assistant for Michael Schunke at Nine Iron Studio, and Tom Farbanish at Certified Glass, as well as an artist-in residence, instructor, and gaffer with The Corning Museum of Glass, and a staff member at Pilchuck Glass School. Urban has studied and worked in studios around the world with numerous master glassmakers including: Lino Tagliapietra, Pino Signoretti, Dino Rosin, Gianni Toso, Elio Quarisa, Checco Ongaro, Davide Fuin, and Davide Salvadore.

In May 2007, he completed his Master's degree at Illinois State University in Glass/Sculpture. In 2010, he built his own artist studio, focused on creating an ultra-low carbon footprint. Urban uses only recycled glass for all his functional and sculptural work. He is the owner of Furnace Urbini Glass Works, which he opened in 1999.

Matt will be working in our studios creating traditional and non-traditional cane work. We are thrilled to have Matt share his talent with our community.  



I focus on representing the natural in my work and find myself focused on floral designs. Utilizing a torch, I melt clear and colored glass rods with which I bring life into a small piece of glass. I work mainly in borosilicate glass which has amazing properties in clarity, strength, and function. I have been working with a technique described as a compression, which allows me to compose beautiful florals with depth, clarity, and precision. As I continue working with this technique, I learn more ways to build as well as increase the complexity of the design ,while always striving for a more precise and immaculate finish. I continue to develop my studio and utilize more time working and expanding my understanding of glass. I have no doubt that I will always find new barriers to break.

We welcome Seth to the WSG studios for a new class: Get It Hotter: Pendents in Borosilicate Glass.